Last week I talked about the many reasons affecting and causing non-compliance with respect to pet owners failing to medicate their pets properly.
Certainly, the more pet owners understand about their pet’s disease or condition helps them become more likely to medicate their pets properly. Often, if a pet owner does not understand the details of the disease process, they fail to follow their veterinarian’s recommendation for treatment.
diabetes are extremely complicated. There is no question that it is the veterinarian’s responsibility and duty to educate clients about their pet’s illnesses. However, the more complicated the disease, the more difficult it can sometimes be for pet owners to completely understand what their pet is experiencing.
I know that I have at least touched on the topic of diabetes in the past, but I feel compelled to better explain the disease process since it is so complicated and sometimes difficult to understand. Basically, there are two different kinds of diabetes, diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus. However, diabetes mellitus is the most common type affecting dogs and cats.
Simply put, diabetes is a failure of the pancreas to regulate blood sugar. The pancreas is a small but vital organ located near the stomach that has two basic functions. It produces enzymes that help with digestion and it produces the hormone insulin that is responsible for making glucose, or sugar, enter into tissue cells from the blood. With diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin to push the glucose from the blood into the tissue cells. Therefore, the diabetic patient has an elevation of blood glucose, or sugar.
Most commonly, diabetes affects dogs and cats are more than 5-years-old. The disease process is extremely complicated and may ultimately prove fatal. Without enough insulin in the body, the tissue cells become starved for a source of energy. Then, the body starts to break down fat and protein stored in the body leading to weight loss even though they continue to eat well.
The most common signs of diabetes are drinking excessively, urinating excessively and weight loss. Other symptoms begin to occur when they go untreated for a period of time. Your pet may stop eating and drinking altogether which leads to an emergency crisis. This condition called ketoacidosis is very serious and has been brought on by not treating the diabetes. At this point, your pet would require hospitalization for several days and would be considered critical.
Diagnosis of diabetes is fairly straight forward. Glucose will be present in your pet’s urine. A very quick and simple blood test will show an elevation of glucose in the blood. The blood glucose level will be affected if your pet has recently eaten. Stress at the time of obtaining the blood sample can cause false elevations of blood sugar. However, usually your veterinarian is able to determine false elevations because true diabetics have an extremely high level in addition to the clinical signs.
Treatment for diabetes requires the pet owner to have a personal and financial commitment to properly regulate their pet’s condition. Initial costs may be very expensive, but maintenance costs are usually minimal. However, there is always a possibility for complications which causes significant financial commitment.
Unfortunately, oral medications that can be very effective for people with diabetes do not work for dogs and cats. Therefore, insulin injections must be given, usually twice a day, to regulate a pet with diabetes. Prescription diets for your pet can make treating their diabetes much more effective. These diets are comparable to a person with diabetes that eats a regimented diet. If you restrict the amount of sugar your pet eats, then their body requires less insulin.
Handling of insulin is very important. It must be kept refrigerated and used before the expiration date. Also, it will settle out in the bottom of the bottle, so be sure not to shake the bottle up. You must mix it up very gently by rolling it back and forth. Vigorous shaking will break down the insulin and render it ineffective.
Ideally, if your pet eats the exact same amount and type of food every day, then their body will require the same amount of insulin each day. Exercise uses up sugar so that it is also ideal for your pet to remain on a strict exercise plan. Your pet should eat twice a day, or each time they receive their insulin. As a matter of fact, if your pet does not feel well and does not eat, it is not recommended to give their insulin at that time.
Giving too much insulin or giving insulin without eating can lead to hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia can be very serious causing weakness, disorientation and possibly seizures. Therefore, at least for a short period of time, it would be better for your pet to have elevated blood sugar than too low blood sugar. When in doubt, it would be better to err on the side of caution and not give insulin if you don’t think your pet has eaten anything.
If in doubt, ask your veterinarian before administering insulin. Certainly, if you don’t quite understand the disease process, follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully.
Diabetes is a complicated disease and no one is expected to understand the entire disease process.
If your pet shows any signs of diabetes, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure your pet lives a long, healthy and happy life.
The Pet Corner