DIABETES MELLITUS IN DOGS
There are two types of diabetes,
which can affect both humans and animals: Diabetes Insipidus and
Diabetes Mellitus. The most common form in animals is Diabetes
Mellitus, also known as 'sugar diabetes'.
SYMPTOMS OF DIABETES MELLITUS
Symptoms include: excessive thirst,
increased urination, increased appetite, loss of weight, lethargy
WHAT IS IT?
Diabetes Mellitus occurs when (a)
the pancreas doesn't produce enough of the hormone insulin (perhaps
due to damaged cells) or (b) when there is insulin but the body
is unable to use it properly.
Glucose is the energy source derived
from food. Usually it travels in the blood to body cells, where
it is utilised. If there is a lack of insulin the glucose cannot
enter the cells and accumulates in the blood. The body then burns
fat for energy instead of glucose; hence the common associated
WHO IS AT RISK?
Older, obese animals are more at
risk. In dogs the age of onset is about 7 years.
In dogs, breeds such as Miniture
poodles and Cairn terriers are more likely to develop diabetes.
Research suggests that there is a
higher incidence of male cats with diabetes and female dogs. Unspayed
bitches are subject to large variations in blood-glucose levels,
especially when in season.
Hormonal imbalances and long term
use of certain medications may also lead to diabetes.
MANAGING THE PROBLEM
Diabetes cannot be cured, but the
symptoms can be managed by controlling the blood-glucose level
so that it remains as 'normal' as possible.
Semi-moist foods should be avoided
for cats and dogs. They contain fructose (a simple sugar) which
they cannot metabolise. This can cause dramatic variations in
the blood-glucose levels; it may even lead to renal (kidney) damage.
Foods high in fat should be avoided
as they may lead to other related health problems.
Exercise should be constant from
day to day as variations in your pet's activity level can affect
the blood-glucose level.
Depending on the stage of diabetes
the owner may have to inject their pet daily with insulin. We
recommend injecting twice a day. Your vet will be able to advise
you on injections, although common mistakes include: not inserting
the needle far enough in (causing insulin to leak out) and not
removing air bubbles from the syringe before injecting.
As well as injecting, owners may
be asked by their vets to keep a chart of body weights, monitor
their pets body condition, urine glucose and ketone levels (a
ketone is a type of acid found in the blood if your pet does not
have enough insulin, ideally none should be present).
Food should be offered just before
injecting with insulin, however there is some debate on this and
other vets may recommend feeding after injecting so that the effect
of the insulin on the body is at full peak.
Small frequent meals are more beneficial
for dogs and cats e.g. about 6 per day.
ADVANTAGES OF HIGH FIBRE DIETS
Fibre helps to slow the absorption
rate of food so there is not a peak in the glucose level immediately
Many pets with diabetes are also
overweight; a high fibre diet helps with weight loss.
Complex carbohydrates e.g. oats are
better than simple ones as they are also digested at a slower
Nettles, garlic, onion (in small
doses), fenugreek, olive bark, olive root and haricot bean pods.
NB these should be used in conjunction
with conventional management for diabetes mellitus, not on their
pet health problems
John Burns Pet Health