Diabetes in animals

This week I decided to review a topic, which is very well known as a human medical problem but is actually very common in animals as well – Diabetes mellitus.

Diabetes mellitus is a condition manifested by high blood sugar due to insufficient production of Insulin (type 1 Diabetes) or because Insulin resistency, where the body secretes sufficient amount of Insulin but the body’s cells do not respond to the Insulin. (Type 2 Diabetes). Type 2 Diabetes is common in overweight patients. But lets go back a bit and understand the role of sugar and it’s metabolism in the body. Sugar or in its medical term- Glucose is a source of energy for the body. Even the smallest body function depend on glucose. Actually for the nerve system, glucose serves as a sole source of energy. The body can’t function normally without glucose.

When an animal eats, the glucose from the food is absorbed to the blood. The Pancreas produces and secretes an hormone by the name of  Insulin that shifts the glucose from the blood to the body’s tissues and cells for energy utilization. In case of Insulin deficiency or when the tissues are not responding to the Insulin, high blood glucose (Hyperglycemia) will occur, so glucose level in the blood is high but the body is unable to use it for its needs. Diabetes is a serious condition with a potential life threatening outcome. However, diabetes can be treated and controlled, and many pets with the disease survive and thrive

The most common symptoms of Diabetes are – loss of weight despite normal/increased appetite and excessive thirst and urination. In severe cases the body will try to produce energy from its fat tissue, in advanced stages this process leads to production of toxic substances that are called Ketone Bodies, this condition is called Diabetes Keto Acidosis. This condition is life threatening and requires intensive medical intervention. In severe cases of Diabetes the animal will show- depression, weakness, wobbliness and even seizures or coma.

Another possible outcome of Diabetes is Cataract which is changes in the shape of the lenses of the eyes, resulting in vision impairment.

Like diabetes in humans, diabetes amongst animals needs to be closely managed in order for your pet to live a longer, healthier life. Management concentrates on keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal. The treatment is focused on daily Insulin supplementation and a special diet for Diabetic patients.

The cause for diabetes is not fully understood. You can try to prevent Diabetes in your pet by becoming aware of the risk factors for diabetes in animals and making appropriate lifestyle changes such as feeding it a good quality diet, exercise your pet and maintaining normal body weight.

Consult your veterinarian about ways to prevent or early detect Diabetes in your pet, so you and your pet will enjoy many more years of good health together.