What is diabetes mellitus?

This is a condition where the body cannot absorb sugar effectively due to a problem with insulin. Insulin is the major hormone involved in absorbing sugar from a meal. Diabetes results when there is not enough insulin made (type II diabetes) or the pancreas does not have enough cells to make insulin (type I diabetes). Dogs tend to get type I diabetes where cats get type II. Diabetes typically occurs in middle-aged to older patients.

What are the clinical signs of diabetes?

Increased thirst & drinking, weight loss despite an increased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea

How is diabetes diagnosed?

There is no one test to diagnose diabetes; typically a combination of high blood sugar, glucose in the urine and high fructosamine. Fructosamine tells the history of sugar at home over the past 2-3 weeks, similar to A1-C in people.

How is diabetes treated?

Supplementation of insulin is required in both dogs and cats; this is usually given as an injection twice daily with a meal. Prescription diets help regulate the disease; cats needing high protein, low carb and dogs needing low fat and high fiber.

What happens if diabetes is not treated or not well controlled on insulin?

When the blood sugar is chronically high the body has no way to use it for energy without insulin. Due to this, the body makes an alternative energy source called ketones. This results in a life-threatening disease called Diabetic ketoacidosis as ketones are toxic to the body. Immediate hospitalization and aggressive treatment is required to resolve the process.

What is the prognosis for diabetes?

Once regulated, most patients live normal lives; all patients will require regular labwork and fructosamine checks throughout their life to maintain good diabetic health. If cats are very well regulated quickly they can actually go into remission and potentially be cured of their diabetes. Weight loss is a major component for a cat to achieve remission. Concurrent illnesses or problems can make diabetes management more difficult, but in general they can be balanced in conjunction with their diabetic needs.