By: Dr. Nicole Blithe
As we approach World Diabetes Day, I can’t help but to think of our pet friends that have this disease. My cat, Doc, is a diabetic feline. I diagnosed him right before Memorial Day…….3 days before we were supposed to go away for the long weekend. Our other cat, Pitti Po, had just crossed over the rainbow bridge days before and I remember thinking “Jodi will finally have a healthy cat to care for while we are away and will only need to come and care for him once a day”. I had noticed larger clumps of urine in the litter box for a few weeks but attributed that to Pitti being on prednisone. Before we left, I checked Doc’s urine late one night. There was glucose in his urine. This meant that the big clumps were from him being diabetic. So much for Jodi caring for a healthy cat………
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin. Insulin is needed to open up the channels so that sugar (glucose) can be used by the body. Without insulin, carbohydrates can not be broken down. Clinical signs of diabetes in cats and dogs are increased thirst (filling up the water dish constantly), increased urination (dogs may ask to go out more, urinate larger amounts while cats may have bigger clumps of urine in the litter pan), increased appetite, and weight loss. Diagnosis is usually based on clinical signs, increased blood sugar and sugar in the urine. We need to rule out other diseases like concurrent infections (dental disease and urinary tract infections are very common concurrent infections) and endocrine diseases that can make diabetes difficult to control. Some patients that are in advanced state of diabetes, called diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA, need intense hospitalization and treatment.
Most diabetic pets are insulin dependent. This means that they need injections of insulin every 12 hours. Our goal with insulin therapy is to control clinical signs of high blood sugar, not to keep our pets in a tight range like humans. Once pets are stable, we can expect to see a decrease in their drinking, urinating and an increase in their appetite and weight. Diet changes are helpful for these pets.
I am happy to say that Doc is doing well. He is on a special diabetic diet for cats and has been in remission (meaning he doesn’t need insulin right now) since August. I do check his blood sugar and perform a urine strip test for sugar in his urine about once a week. This is not the normal outcome for most cats, but with early diagnosis, aggressive treatment and great pet parent compliance, it is possible.
Please feel free to contact the office with any further questions!