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Most of us have heard of diabetes mellitus. It's a condition where the pancreas produces either less of the hormone insulin than it should, or no insulin at all. We need insulin to utilise glucose for energy and maintain stable blood glucose levels in the body. When we don't produce enough insulin, blood glucose levels will rise and the body will have to use other forms of energy, such as breaking down the fats in the body.
However, you may be surprised to hear that Tiddles and Rover can also be diabetic.
Absolutely. Cats and dogs also need the hormone insulin to utilise glucose and give them the energy for those long walks and chasing mice. With either a lack of insulin, or no insulin at all, your pet is classed as diabetic and will require treatment, just the same as humans.
Cats and diabetes
It's estimated that between 0.5% and 2% of cats suffer Diabetes Mellitus, however this is probably an underestimation. The most common type of Diabetes in cats is Type 2 Diabetes (this is where there is impaired insulin production along with a reduced sensitivity to insulin).
What causes feline diabetes?
We know that your moggy hasn't been downing cola drinks and stuffing her furry face with sweets (and if she has: naughty Tiddles!), so what causes feline diabetes?
Just like human Type 2 Diabetes, being overweight is known to be a factor in feline diabetes, as obesity makes the body less sensitive to insulin. However, as with human Type 2 Diabetes, weight isn't the whole story. Thin cats may also develop diabetes (so, please, don't assume your cat can't be diabetic if she's slim!).
Age is a known contributory factor, with older cats being more likely to develop diabetes than younger cats. There may be a genetic link. Certain health conditions, such as hyperthyroidism and pancreatitis make it more likely that a cat will develop diabetes, as does the use of medications such as corticosteroids.
Dogs and diabetes
Approximately one in 200 dogs has diabetes. The most common type of canine Diabetes is Type 1 (the insulin-dependent form, where the pancreas no longer produces any insulin).
Which dogs are prone to canine diabetes?
As with feline diabetes, being overweight is a commonly cited cause of canine diabetes. Overweight females run a particular risk of developing diabetes between the ages of 6 and 9 years-old.
Certain health conditions, including: autoimmune conditions, and pancreatitis contribute to the development of the disease, as does certain medications, genetics, and abnormal protein deposits in the pancreas.
Certain breeds are also more likely to develop canine diabetes, with standard and miniature schnauzers, dachshunds, samoyeds, poodles, Australian terriers, and keeshonds at particular risk. Golden Retrievers are also at particular risk of developing Juvenile Diabetes.
The treatment of feline and canine diabetes varies depending on the cause of the diabetes and your pet's general health:
- Dietary management: Helping your pet maintaining a healthy weight will be an important part of treatment. Ensure you feed your pet a healthy amount; ensure they get daily exercise (by walking your dog or playing with your cat). Your pet may benefit from a low-carb, high-protein diet. Ask your vet's advice.
- Oral medication: Many of the drugs used to control diabetes in humans are toxic to pets or simply don't work. However some oral hypoglycaemics (drugs that lower blood glucose) have been used in small doses, through their use in controversial. However, for cats who won't accept injections, they may be an option.
- Insulin injections: Most cats and dogs will need to have insulin injected once or twice a day. The injection is usually given at the scruff of the neck. Your vet will show you how to do this. Practising on an orange may help you build confidence.