November is National Pet Diabetes Awareness Month, and it’s important because many families are unaware their pet can develop this disease. If Fluffy or Fido is lethargic or excessively thirsty or hungry, urinates frequently, or has experienced unexplained weight loss, a trip to our clinic is highly recommended.
While there’s no known cure for this serious, life-threatening condition, diabetes can be managed with insulin injections, diet modification, and careful blood monitoring.
Diabetes is a condition caused by a deficiency of insulin which controls the delivery of glucose (a type of sugar) to body tissues and cells where it’s used as energy. High levels of glucose can accumulate in the blood and overflow into the urine, drawing large amounts of water with it so pets will drink more water and urinate more frequently. If there’s not enough energy for the cells to function normally, muscle tissue and fat are converted to sugar by the liver which can cause weight loss and a decrease in activity. A diabetes diagnosis is confirmed by our doctors with simple blood and urine testing. Diabetes can occur in pets of any age but is typically seen in middle-aged to senior dogs and cats, especially those who are overweight.
If test results confirm your pet is diabetic, our doctors will prescribe a type of insulin and the amount to be given by subcutaneous injection every 12 hours after a meal is eaten. Frequent in-hospital monitoring of insulin levels is required after an initial dose is prescribed to determine if glucose levels are normal or if the insulin dose needs to be adjusted. You’ll drop off your pet in the morning and our veterinary care team will weigh your pet and monitor glucose levels throughout the day. A doctor will review the results with you late that afternoon, including any changes to the type or amount of insulin needed. Typically, this is done weekly until the patient is well regulated or the readings are no longer exceptionally high. Once regulated, a glucose curve will be performed every 6-12 months depending upon your pet’s thirst, urination, and weight.
In addition to insulin injections to control their glucose levels, diabetic dogs and cats require lifelong treatment with special diets and daily exercise. Treatment recommendations will be specifically tailored for your pet, so patience is important as you and your four-legged friend adjust to the new medication and special diet. It’s especially important to make sure you are administering the correct amount of insulin every 12 hours after a meal to ensure your pet doesn’t experience low blood sugar levels. Signs of low blood sugar levels include loss of appetite, weakness and tremors or seizures. If your pet experiences any of these clinical signs, please call BRVC immediately during regular business hours or call the closest emergency veterinary hospital if our clinic is closed.
Annual (or semi-annual for senior pets) exams are the key to early detection of this disease and with ongoing veterinary care, at-home insulin injections, and a special diet, diabetic patients can live long and healthy lives. For more information about diabetes, please call us at 630-598-0600.