November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes Mellitus is a medical condition that affects humans as well as pets. In healthy animals, a hormone normally produced by the body, insulin, is used to control sugar levels in the blood stream. Diabetics are unable to metabolize and appropriately process sugars, glucose, that they ingest in their diet. Therefore, diabetic animals experience high blood glucose values when not treated.
Diabetic cats often have “insulin resistance” in which their bodies still produce insulin but they do not produce high enough quantities of insulin for their bodies to effectively use the hormone. Diabetes in cats is similar to Type 2 diabetes in humans and is strongly associated with obesity in cats. Many diabetic cats require insulin injections, but some cats can be maintained with low carbohydrate diets and weight loss.
Diabetic dogs have an “insulin dependent” version of the disease. Dogs with diabetes do not produce insulin at all. Therefore, these dogs must receive insulin injections every day. Diabetes in dogs is similar to Type 1 diabetes in humans in which children and young adults are most commonly afflicted (“Juvenile Diabetes”).
Signs of diabetes pets include excessive thirst, excessive urination, and weight loss. If not identified in a timely manner, pets can have life-threatening complications associated with diabetes. Therefore, if you notice any of the symptoms in your pet, please discuss blood monitoring with your veterinarian.