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Diabetes on the rise in pets too

Living

TOUGH LOVE Go easy on the treats and avoid giving scraps – even at Christmas.

Ask the Vet

Esther Van Luipen

Diabetes in pets is becoming more and more common, just like it is in humans. Diabetes (mellitus) is a complex disease caused by either a lack of the hormone insulin or an inadequate response to insulin by the cells of the body.
The cells of the body need glucose for energy. Glucose is brought into the cells by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Without insulin the cells can’t absorb and use the glucose.
When an animal is diabetic, there is a lack of insulin, which means the cells of the body cannot be fed with energy-giving glucose. Because the cells are not being fed with glucose, the body thinks that it is starving, and it starts to break down proteins, starches and fat. However, in the meantime, there is plenty glucose in the blood stream – it’s just not getting absorbed. This leads to an excess of glucose in the blood.
Normally, kidneys sieve all the glucose out of the blood for use as fuel for the body, but in the case of diabetes: There is such a surplus of glucose that the kidneys can’t cope, and they let the glucose escape through the urine. Glucose is able to draw water with it into the urine, causing excess urine production and excess thirst to keep up with the fluid loss. In dogs, sugars can also enter the lens of the eye causing rapid cataract formation.
Thus the main clinical signs of diabetes mellitus are excessive eating, excessive drinking, excessive urination, weight loss, glucose in the urine, and (in dogs) cataracts. If your pet has these clinical signs, your vet can make a diagnosis by doing a blood test. Not every dog or cat is the same, so it will take some time and sometimes several blood tests to regulate your pet and to make sure the correct amount of insulin is given.
Once the diagnosis of diabetes has been made you’ll need to inject your pet once or twice daily with insulin. In humans, some types of diabetes can be treated with tablets, but unfortunately this rarely ever works for pets.
What can you do to prevent your pet becoming diabetic? Unfortunately, some dogs or cats are genetically predisposed and there’s nothing you can do. But there are a few steps you can take to manage or reduce the severity of your pet’s symptoms.
Go for regular checkups and go to your vet if you notice any change in your pet’s behaviour, appetite, thirst or urination to make sure it’s not a sign of a diabetes. Hormone fluctuations can increase a dog’s risk of developing diabetes, so if you have a female dog, get her spayed.
Exercise helps regulate blood-sugar levels and reduce weight gain, this can help preventing diabetes or manage the disease. Ensuring their diet is low in simple carbohydrates will help keep his blood-sugar levels more stable. Go easy on the treats and avoid giving scraps – even at Christmas time! It is ok to give gently cooked vegetables, because the fibres in them will help regulate blood sugar fluctuations. Maybe a few of those left over brussel sprouts?

Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. She can be contacted at 094 9373955 or at living@mayonews.ie.

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