Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a health problem that is not only being seen increasingly in the human population, but in our pets as well. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed endocrine disorders today in small animals.
What is Diabetes Mellitus?
Diabetes mellitus is a medical disorder caused by an absolute or relative insulin deficiency. Insulin is a hormone responsible for maintaining safe blood glucose levels. Animals affected by diabetes mellitus have excessively high quantity of glucose (e.g. sugar) in their bloodstream.
Who is predisposed to this disease?
Dogs: DM is most frequently seen in middle-aged dogs (7 to 9 years), with the majority of cases being seen in entire female dogs. Spayed females are less likely to be affected. Breeds with a higher than average occurrence of DM are the Keeshond, Hungarian puli, Miniature pinscher, and the Cairn terrier.
Cats: Middle-aged to older cats (8 to 13 years), male neutered cats, and Burmese cats are over-represented for DM.
What are the signs of Diabetes Mellitus?
Clinical signs will vary amongst animals, but the most frequently seen are:
• Increased water intake (pet may start drinking from sink, toilet, pools)
• Increased urination
• Increased appetite
• Weight loss (typically obesity with recent loss)
How is Diabetes Mellitus Diagnosed?
The symptoms of diabetes are also seen in a number of other diseases, so it is necessary for your pet to be examined by a veterinary surgeon. Your veterinarian will diagnose the disease based on the clinical signs exhibited by your pet, a physical exam, one or multiple blood samples, and a urine sample. In some cases repeated testing is necessary to diagnose DM.
Diabetes is a treatable disease and many animals will go on to have a normal life span. Initial treatment relies on stabilising sick patients so that they may be safely treated at home. Your veterinarian may then recommend a treatment regimen that includes:
• Dietary management
• Weight reduction
• Home monitoring and record keeping
• Insulin therapy
• Veterinary check-ups
How Can I Prevent My Pet from Developing Diabetes Mellitus?
The best method of prevention is to avoid or correct obesity in your pet through dietary management and plenty of exercise. Neutering female dogs that are not being used for breeding is also recommended. Also, avoid any unnecessary use of steroids.
If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s health always contact a veterinary surgeon.