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Your dog or cat has recently been drinking excessively and your vet finds that he has symptoms of diabetes mellitus (DM), rest assured. This condition is easy to treat. About 1 out of 200 pets suffers from this hormonal (endocrine) disease affecting dogs, cats and humans. DS occurs mainly in adult animals. Basically, the DS is an imbalance of the sugar cycle (glucose) of our companion who can no longer regulate his blood sugar (amount of sugar in the blood) properly and thus suffers from a lack of insulin. DS develop gradually. If untreated, it can have serious consequences on your pet’s welfare and greatly reduce its life expectancy. However, when the diagnosis is early, the setting up of an effective treatment makes it possible to correct a number of symptoms.


Origins, Causes and Consequences

The origin of DM comes from several factors, such as genetic predispositions, hormonal cycles (in dogs) or obesity (in cats). In addition, taking medications such as corticosteroids can increase your risk. The hormone responsible for regulating the level of sugar in the body is called insulin. This hormone allows the body to maintain a normal sugar level. The latter is produced by pancreatic cells located near the intestines. The two main causes of DS are a diseased pancreas that does not produce enough insulin and body cells that can no longer transform (synthesize) insulin. It is the excess of sugar in circulation and in the tissues that end up harming the health. So with a pancreas that cannot make enough insulin or cells that cannot absorb insulin, too high glucose levels in the bloodstream (hyperglycemia) upset the body.


DS in  Dogs

Any middle-aged or older dog can one day be touched by the DM. On the other hand, unsterilized females are more at risk of being infected. Also some breeds seem to know an increased risk of DM:

  • Beagle
  • Cairn terrier
  • Poodle
  • English Cocker
  • Doberman
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Dwarf Pinscher
  • Keeshond                                        
  • Teckels
  • West Highland White Terrier (Westie)

In addition to increased thirst symptoms, diabetic cataracts are regularly found in dogs with DM. Diabetic cataracts occur because the excess sugar in the blood eventually clogs certain small vessels of the retina into the eye causing destruction of retinal areas. Because these retinal areas are destroyed, the eye will naturally develop other replacement vessels that are abnormal. These are likely to bleed and thus lower the vision to complete blindness.


DS in Cats

All cats, male or female, regardless of age and race, are at risk of developing diabetes mellitus. The disease is more common in older, chronically obese cats, but especially castrated males. A higher frequency of DM was observed in Burmese cats. The long-term complications of DM are mainly hind limb weakness. Indeed, a high and prolonged concentration of glucose in the blood of the cat causes an alteration of the nerves. This deterioration causes a weakness and a neuromuscular handicap manifesting itself especially on the hind legs of the diabetic cat. Consequence, it cannot jump, it walks with difficulty: it is said that it is plantigrade. This symptom is not painful and can disappear thanks to a suitable treatment.


Treatment: Insulin Injections

To control the DM, one insulin injections and regular checks of the sugar level in the blood of our animal. It is possible that we go to give a special diet for some candidates. Subcutaneous injections are easy to do and safe. To get there, we prepare in a small syringe a precise dose to suit the needs of our animal. This syringe is provided with a very small needle adapted to the injection. Before injecting, expelled air into the syringe by tapping the body of the syringe and then gently pushing on the plunger. We install our animal in a quiet place. If necessary, another person can maintain the animal, flatter, reassure and reward him, while insulin is being injected. A fold of skin is gently pinched between the fingers while pulling the skin outward. Injections are done either on the back near the shoulder blades or on the flank. The needle is then stitched in the peeled skin, parallel to the fold of skin. The piston is then pressed without moving the needle, to inject the contents of the syringe. Then gently remove the needle. Well, that’s it! In practice, it is very simple and not at all painful. By optimally controlling glucose levels in the blood, long-term complications of DM can be minimized.

So if your pet is drinking and puffing heavily, losing weight, looking tired, walking on his heels, seeing less well, consult your veterinarian to eliminate the likelihood of a DM. By examining your pet and analyzing his blood sugar level, the veterinarian will quickly tell you whether your pet has diabetes mellitus or not.

B.A.A. and animal health technician-T.S. AT.


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