Diabetes in our Pets

The phone call from an owner when their pet develops diabetes usually goes something like this… “I’m worried about Bess – she’s drinking heaps and heaps of water, and seems to have a huge appetite. She’s also tired and lazing around a lot.”

There are lots of reasons why our pets might drink more water and diabetes mellitus is just one of them. The first stage with a patient like Bess is some detective work to get to the bottom of the problem.

We will arrange for our mobile vet to visit so we can chat more about Bess’s recent health and do a full clinical examination. We will also need to do blood and urine tests to check for a number of conditions. If the problem is diabetes we’ll find abnormally high levels of sugar in the blood and urine.

In some cases pet’s like Bess are very sick by the time we see them because the blood sugar has reached dangerously high levels in the blood. In this case we’ll need to admit the patient to hospital for intensive treatment to re-hydrate the body and stabilize the blood sugar.

What causes Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus (Type 1) occurs when the pets pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Insulin is the hormone that puts energy from food into the cells of the body. The result of not storing the energy away is that it gets wasted and lost in the urine which makes the pet thirsty, hungry and tired.

Diabetes most often occurs in middle age to older dogs and cats, but we also see it in young animals. Certain conditions predispose your dog or cat to developing diabetes. Animals that are overweight or female dogs which are not de-sexed are more prone to the disease. Diabetes can also be caused by the use of corticosteroid medication.

Currently the only way to treat type 1 diabetes is with regular insulin injections. Injections are usually given twice daily. If the condition is not treated the pet will get very sick.

Lots of owners worry about whether they will cope with giving their pet injections. The reality is that the needle is so fine that most patients don’t even notice it! Our mobile vets spend heaps of time with you explaining how to give the injections and how to ensure your pet can live a normal, healthy and happy life despite their diabetes.

Case study

“Hello Kitty” is a 13 year old beautiful male burmese cat, who lives with his loving brother and sister Ferris and Honnemein, and his doting human family. Like the scenarios described above, Hello started drinking and weeing a lot and had a huge appetite, and one day he became very flat and sick, started to vomit and stopped eating completely.

This was when I was called to his home, and found that he had diabetes, which had progressed to the life threatening stage called ketoacidosis. Hello was hospitalised in an intensive care facility where he spent a few days getting fluids and medications, and luckily for him he made a full recovery.

Hello’s mum was very relieved and took him back home to start his twice daily insulin injections. We kept a close watch on him and he was generally doing fine, but as sometimes happens with these cats he had a relapse.

This time he showed a classic type of response to increasingly uncontrolled diabetes where he couldn’t use his back legs properly and was walking in almost a crouched state with his ankles touching the ground. Fortunately this made the diagnosis a little easier and we quickly got him back on track again with some careful adjustments of his insulin while in hospital for a few days, and now he is back to his beautiful loving self with his gorgeous family.

In Hello’s case he will probably need the insulin injections for life with close monitoring of his blood glucose, but some cats can be lucky and in fact go into remission which means no further insulin injections are required, especially if the diabetes is diagnosed early.

So be sure to give me a call as soon as you notice anything that is different for your cat, even if you think it may be nothing.

How Can I Help Your Pet?