Humans aren’t the only animals battling obesity. A recent survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) revealed that more than 50% of dogs and cats in American households are considered obese or overweight. That means that approximately 80 million pets are at risk for weight-related disorders – including diabetes mellitus. In fact, diabetes affects 1 in every 160 dogs, and about 1 in every 400 cats in the United States.
Rosalie Anderson noticed her dog, Mickey Wee Beastie, wasn’t interested in eating, and his intake of water had increased. His urine seemed clearer than is normal. Mickey’s veterinarian, Dr. Tim Ireland, was on vacation, so Anderson called Encanto Pet Clinic to set up an appointment for the following week after his return. “I told the symptoms to Liz [Encanto’s receptionist],” says Anderson. “She told me that she highly recommended that I get him in right now, and not to wait until the next week. The fact that I followed her advice and scheduled him in for an appointment the following day probably saved his life. That is how quickly this all happened and how sick he was in just a week.”
The term for the illness is diabetes mellitus (mellitus means “honey sweet” in Latin). Dr. Ireland explains that diabetes involves a deficiency of cells in the pancreas that secret insulin due to inflammation, infection or degeneration. When the body cannot produce enough insulin to metabolize food for energy (Type 1), or when the body fails to use insulin properly (Type 2), the animal develops diabetes.
Usual symptoms include:
• Increased thirst (polydipsia)
• Increased urination (polyuria)
• Ravenous appetite
• Weight loss
• Lethargy or weakness
• Change in gait or style of walking – veterinarians refer to this as diabetic neuropathy.
• Dogs may develop cataracts.
• Cat’s litter box is full of urine and requires more changes.
Dogs usually have Type 1 diabetes, and most cats develop Type 2 diabetes. If diabetes is suspected, your veterinarian will draw blood and collect urine specimens from your pet. Tests are performed to measure glucose levels and detect ketones (acids) and protein in the urine. Other tests will look for increased liver enzymes, elevated white blood cells, low blood phosphorus levels, and elevated triglycerides. Diabetes is typically seen in older animals, and some breeds of dogs appear to be predisposed to diabetes. A database of over 6,000 diabetic dogs from 24 veterinary schools in North America revealed that some breeds, including the Miniature Schnauzer, Bichon Frise, Miniature poodle, Samoyed and Cairn Terrier as having an increased risk. Other databases suggest a decreased risk among German Shepherds, Boxers, and Golden Retrievers.
So a diagnosis of diabetes has been made – what happens now? For both dogs and cats, insulin is the treatment of choice, says Dr. Ireland. “A urinalysis will identify ketosis – toxins in the blood which require a more intense therapy. Long term treatment involves diet, increased fiber, control of dental disease and other infections.”
To date, oral hypoglycemic agents used to treat diabetes in humans has not been effective in dogs, but research is continuing. Insulin dosage is calculated for the individual dog or cat, and can be started at home. After about a week of treatment, the veterinarian will need to see your pet to do a blood glucose curve (a series of blood tests done over a 12 to 24 hour period).
After a week of treatment, the dog is brought back to the clinic and a blood glucose curve (a series of blood sugar tests drawn over 12 to 24 hours) is obtained to see when the blood glucose peaks and hits its lows. Refinements are then made in the dosage and timing of the injections. How to prepare and inject the insulin will be explained to you by your veterinarian. You may be asked to monitor urine glucose levels by collecting urine samples and using a test strip (a small piece of paper that indicates the glucose levels in urine).
Encanto Pet Clinic uses AlphaTRAK Test Strips with the AlphaTRAK Blood Glucose Monitor to measure glucose in the blood. A test strip is inserted into the meter and a code is selected for dog or cat. The veterinarian or technician touches the edge of the edge of the test strip to a sample drop of blood, and the meter will indicate when it has the correct sample amount. Results are displayed and stored in the meter.
Proper treatment and monitoring of glucose levels can allow your pet to continue a quality life. But, says Dr. Ireland, prevention of diabetes is even more important. He offers this advice:
• Catch it early – talk to the staff and veterinarians at Encanto Pet Clinic if you see any changes or symptoms as listed above.
• Be smart about your feeding routine. Keep your pet on a nutritionally complete diet, and limit treats that are high in sugar content. Monitor your pet’s weight – feel free to bring your pet to the clinic for a regular weigh-in.
• Use steroids with caution – cats could be at risk for steroid induced diabetes.
“Mickey is getting his interest for life back, but this is going to be a long process,” says Anderson. “I would like others to know not to wait, not even a day, to get your pet to a vet when you observe these sorts of changes. Tell your friends what is happening – their friendship and sympathy will help you get through this.”
If you are noticing any changes in your pet’s behavior, please contact the staff at Encanto Pet Clinic. We are here to help you.