While many of us have a friend or family member with Diabetes Mellitus, it is less commonly known that dogs and cats can also develop this disease. Diabetes is associated with the poor production or uptake of the hormone insulin which controls blood glucose or sugar levels. In pets the disease is typically seen in middle aged to older pets that are overweight and so is most similar to Type 2 diabetes in humans. The clinical signs are initially increased thirst and urination. Pets then tend to lose weight and become lethargic. Cataracts may form in the eyes causing blindness.
Without medical intervention pets will deteriorate and may lapse into a diabetic coma. Your vet can perform simple blood and urine tests to check for high sugar levels and rule out other illnesses. Diabetes in dogs is not a curable disease, but is generally well managed with twice daily insulin injections, a strict medical diet and regular blood glucose monitoring. Older overweight cats are at high risk of developing diabetes. Treatment is commenced with twice daily insulin injections however some cats can then actually go into remission. With proper dietary management these cats may not need ongoing injections. Hopefully a cure for diabetes for both people and pets will be found in the near future.