Diabetes is a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood.
What causes diabetes to develop?
Diabetes is considered to be a multifactorial disease, meaning that a number of different factors contribute to its development. Factors which have been linked with the development of diabetes include:
- Immune-mediated disease – This is currently thought to be the leading cause of diabetes in dogs and involves the body’s immune system destroying the insulin-producing cells located in the pancreas
- Pancreatitis – Chronic pancreatitis can lead to destruction of the insulin-producing cells within the pancreas
- Exposure to excessive levels of certain hormones (e.g. progesterone, cortisol, growth hormone etc.) can lead to insulin resistance whereby normal levels of insulin are produced, but the body no longer responds appropriately to this insulin
Symptoms of diabetes
- Increased thirst
- Urinating large volumes of unconcentrated urine
- Increased frequency of urination
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Cloudiness within the eyes (cataract formation)
- Sudden blindness
- Vomiting and diarrhoea may be seen if your pet is also suffering from pancreatitis
How do we diagnose diabetes?
Diabetes is most commonly diagnosed by taking bloods from your pet and analysing a sample of their urine. Other tests may be required to test for pancreatitis or any concurrent diseases which may be causing insulin resistance.
How is diabetes treated?
Diabetes, in general, is an incurable condition that requires life-long treatment. The mainstay of treatment is insulin therapy. Typically, owners will need to inject insulin into their pet once or twice per day. Your vet may also recommend some dietary changes to assist in controlling the blood glucose levels of your pet or even weight loss.
Your pet will require hospitalisation from time to time so that vets can perform a ‘blood glucose curve’. This test involves serially measuring an animal’s blood glucose levels after they have been given insulin so that the optimal dose of insulin for that particular animal is found. Once the optimal dose is found, fewer blood glucose curves need to be performed.
Additional treatments may be required if your pet has pancreatitis or another hormonal condition which has led to the development of diabetes.