Diabetes possible in pets

By DR. FRED SELF / Guest Columnist

Many people are surprised to hear that their pets suffer from a condition such as diabetes mellitus. In humans we are told regularly that diabetes comes from over eating. If you are overweight you are, or will be, diabetic. That is not an accurate assumption.

Many risk factors are involved in becoming diabetic. Being overweight is a risk factor but not a guarantee that diabetes will follow. Being overweight is not a requirement for diabetes in our pets either.

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that has two possible causes. The condition results in the pet’s body not being able to use the glucose it absorbs from food. Glucose, a type of sugar, is the main source of energy for the body. When it cannot be used, it is stored or flushed from the body. Instead of using glucose, the body is forced to use fat and protein for energy. A less efficient energy source.

The two possible causes of diabetes are a lack of insulin production or the inability of the body to respond to insulin. In the cases where insulin is not produced, pets can be given insulin. The insulin allows for the body to use the glucose taken in with meals. In the case of the body’s unwillingness to respond to insulin, insulin can still be used but must be combined with other therapy.

The most common signs or symptoms seen with diabetes are increased water intake and urinary output. Other symptoms can be muscle loss and weight loss. As the pet’s body starves from a lack of glucose, it breaks down stored fat and protein in muscles to use for energy. While it is common for diabetic pets to be well-fleshed, they may also look thin and scruffy.

Dogs that are, or become, diabetic will likely be diabetic for the remainder of their lives. Cats, however, can be transient diabetics. It is possible that a diabetic cat can begin to respond to its own insulin again. As a result, diabetic cats must be closely watched to ensure that they no longer receive insulin therapy if their body goes through this transition. In fact cats whose diabetes is transient may switch between diabetic and not diabetic multiple times.

Just as with humans, diabetes mellitus can be well controlled in our pets. If you have or suspect that you have a pet who is diabetic have its glucose levels checked. Insulin therapy can provide your pet with a long, healthy life.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian with Shelbiana Animal Clinic in Columbiana, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach him at 669-7717.