What is ketoacidosis? Information on diabetes mellitus in cats and dogs.

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  1. What is Diabetes?
  2. What Causes Diabetes?
  3. Diagnosing Diabetes
  4. Help for Diabetes
  5. More Information on Diabetes

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that not only affects humans, but can affect your beloved cat or dog as well. In fact, the disease affects approximately 1 in 400 cats and dogs and recent studies have shown that the condition is becoming even more common in cats.

Diabetes in your cat or dog occurs when their body no longer produces sufficient insulin or when produced insulin is not effectively used. Insulin is an important hormone secreted by the pancreas to break down glucose or sugar in the blood and make it available to every cell in the body. When insulin levels are low the body’s cells are deprived of essential sustenance and the cells are likely to change or even die.

Without treatment, diabetes causes other serious health concerns such as blindness, muscle weakness, malnutrition, ketoacidosis, and dehydration and can eventually lead to coma and death. The good news is that Diabetes is treatable and it does not have to affect your pet’s quality of life or shorten their life-span.

Symptoms of Diabetes

The symptoms of diabetes often come on gradually over a few weeks or months so it is fairly common for it to go unnoticed for a while. Symptoms to watch out for in your pet include:

  • Excessive thirst and increased water consumption
  • Increased urination
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Marked increase or decrease in appetite
  • Weakness of the rear legs
  • General lethargy
  • Poor condition of the skin and coat
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Increased susceptibility to bacterial infection
  • Blindness
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney failure

What Causes Diabetes?

The exact causes of diabetes are not clearly understood. There do, however, seem to be a number of factors involved in the onset of the condition such as genetic factors, diet, obesity, age, and a history of injury or illness. Illnesses such as pancreatitis or immune-related conditions can cause diabetes, as can any illness or injury that damages the pancreatic cells.

Diagnosing Diabetes

If you suspect that your pet may have diabetes or if the above mentioned symptoms are familiar, then it is essential that you take your pet the vet for a thorough examination. Your pet’s veterinarian will need to perform some blood tests and urine analyses to determine if diabetes can be diagnosed, and to rule out any other conditions.

These tests will also help determine what type of diabetes your pet has and what as a result what treatment and regulations may be necessary. Early detection will allow for the best possible treatment and can go a long way in preventing permanent nerve damage, and increasing the chances of remission in cats.

Help for Diabetes

Diabetes is a life-threatening disease that can be fatal if left untreated; however with treatment it is possible for your pet to live a perfectly normal life, and in cats, treatment can lead to a full remission. Whether you chose conventional or natural treatment methods or even both, all treatments of diabetes should include a healthy diet.

Conventional Treatments

Oral Medication – while pharmaceutical oral medications are often effective when treating humans, they tend to be far less effective in pets. Drugs such as Glipizide work by stimulating the functioning pancreas to produce more insulin. This type of treatment has shown small success in cats; however studies have also revealed that these medications can cause further pancreatic damage as well as liver damage.

Insulin Injections – Insulin injections are the most common form of treatment for diabetes. The methods of injecting insulin and the dosages will differ between cats and dogs, and will also be determined by the severity of your pet’s condition. Your veterinarian will be able to advise what options would be most appropriate for your pet. Remember that the early stages of treatment may require multiple blood and urine tests and dosage alterations before you get the correct treatment plan.


A healthy and often strict diet is an essential part of your pet’s diabetes treatment, and in some cases, a change in diet is the only necessary treatment to control blood sugar-levels. A low-carbohydrate diet, which is commonly recommended for diabetic cats, will help to reduce the amount of insulin your pet will need and it will help to keep blood-sugar levels stable.

Fats and proteins are more suitable as they are metabolized into blood-sugar at a slower rate than carbohydrates, thus reducing the sugar highs often experienced after meal times. The diet most often recommended for diabetic dogs is a low-fat, moderate-carb, and high-fiber diet.

More Information on Diabetes

Tips to help your diabetic pet
  • Along with an appropriate diet your diabetic pet should eat at the same time each day at least twice a day, or smaller amounts at multiple intervals. Many pets have timed feedings according to their insulin shots so ask your veterinarian to advise what feeding schedule will be most appropriate.
  • Female diabetic pets should be spayed as soon as possible to avoid any complications of the insulin reacting with the female hormones secreted by the ovaries.
  • Remember to take your diabetic pet for regular check-ups and monitor their blood-sugar closely as changes in the condition may occur and treatment may need to be altered.
  • Exercise is important for your diabetic pet, but make sure it is constant and regular. High activity will affect your pet’s insulin levels and over-doing it can lead to a sudden drop in blood-sugar levels so this should be avoided. Remember that if your pet is on insulin, the amount of insulin needed will change according to activity levels so consistency is the key word here.
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