Posts Tagged ‘pet diabetes’

Diabetes Mellitus In Cats and Dogs: A General Understanding

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Early detection of diabetes mellitus

The increase in diabetes mellitus in cats and dogs mirrors the increase in people; it can be serious and is on the rise. Because of this, we recommend an annual physical examination to address any early warning signs.  With early detection we can increase the chances of the most favorable outcome. When we test for diabetes mellitus we recommend a physical examination, a simple blood test, and urinalysis.

Pancreas and it’s role in diabetes mellitus

To understand diabetes, let’s start with a brief understanding of the pancreas and one of its main functions. The pancreas has several functions, but we will focus on the role of insulin production.

The pancreas produces insulin and regulates blood glucose levels. Glucose, as well as sucrose and fructose, are carbohydrates (we often refer to them as simple sugars).

Dog ultra-sound pancreas

Normal dog pancreas ultra-sound

Cat ultra-sound pancreas

Normal cat pancreas ultra-sound

A normal pancreas should produce insulin as a response to increasing glucose in the blood (after a meal, for example) or when the body recognizes that the cells need glucose. The insulin then regulates the flux of glucose out of the blood stream and into cells.  This is a very important cellular function. Without insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells and provide the energy they need. Without cellular glucose, the body thinks it is starving and searches for an alternate energy source. This sets off a cascade of protein (muscle) and fat breakdown within the body as an alternate energy source.  This in turn leads to harmful metabolic by-products such as ketones formation and weight loss.  This occurs while there is an abundance of glucose in the body just waiting to be used as energy, but it is unable to be utilized.

feline weight loss and diabetes

An increase in appetite coupled with weight loss might be an indicator of illness. Dr. Leslie weighing a feline patient.

Clinical signs including increased appetite may appear even though the pet is losing weight and experiencing muscle breakdown. Next the glucose is so abundant in the blood stream that the kidneys are unable to filter it entirely. Glucose spills over into the urine, bringing water with it, resulting in increased urine production and a secondary increased thirst to make up for the increased urine losses.Therefore pets will drink more water than usual and urinate more than usual.

It is our goal that pet owners recognize the abnormal signs early. Earlier detection means better outcomes!  By the time a pet has reached the life threatening advanced stage of diabetes it has become very lethargic and severely anorexic.  Once an animal reaches this stage, treatment and management are much more difficult.

Types of pet diabetes

Many of you have probably heard, or read about or even known somebody with type 1 ( juvenile onset) or type II  (adult onset) diabetes mellitus. Dogs and cats develop these types of diabetes as well. Many subtypes are being recognized, but for our discussion, we will only briefly discuss these types.

Type 1 is also known as insulin dependent diabetes. In these cases, the pancreas produces decreased insulin or no insulin at all. Type II can also be referred to as non-insulin dependent (although insulin may be needed for the management of this disease). In Type II diabetes the pancreas produces insulin,  but it is either insufficient amounts or the insulin is unable to enter the cell at the receptor level.

 Insulin dependent – typically dogs

In our four legged friends, dogs are typically considered to have insulin dependent diabetes, or Type I, and it is frequently seen in conjunction or secondary to other diseases.  The majority of cats have non-insulin dependent diabetes or Type II.

Diabetes in Dogs

canine diabetes annual examination

Dr. Carlson examining a patient with Diabetes Mellitus.

As opposed to the majority of cats, dogs are generally considered to have Type I diabetes or “latent autoimmune diabetes.” In these cases, the pancreatic beta cells are not producing insulin. In addition to the decreased insulin production by the pancreas, these patients frequently present with underlying causes of insulin resistance secondary to other disease processes.  Some of these underlying diseases include: hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), pancreatitis, pancreatic exocrine insufficiency, obesity, any systemic inflammatory disease, severe dental disease, steroid usage, thyroid disease, acromegaly (growth hormone abnormality) and chronic diseases such as kidney disease. These patients will require insulin and addressing each of the associated abnormalities to manage their diabetes.

Diabetes in Cats

cat diabetes risks

Diabetes risk factors include: obesity, eating a high carbohydrate diet, feeding free choice dry food, orange coat color and an age of 8-12 years.

The risk factors for developing diabetes mellituss in a cat include obesity, eating a high carbohydrate diet (most commercially available dry foods), feeding free choice dry food, orange coat color, and an age of 8-12 years.The pathophysiology of diabetes mellitus in a cat is associated with obesity, deficiency of an enzyme glucokinase and genetics. We will briefly discuss each since they are important in the prevention and management of diabetes mellitus in cats.

Obesity is the major contributing factor in the development of diabetes mellitus in cats. Fat cells produce hormones that predispose a patient to diabetes mellitus.  These hormones play a complex role in the body and start a cascading process of negative changes. The hormones produced by excess fat cells decrease the utilization of glucose, decrease insulin production by the pancreas, decrease insulin response, increase insulin receptor resistance at the cellular level, increase inflammatory mediators and increase steroid receptors at the cellular level. All of these changes favor developing diabetes mellitus.  Please be cognizant that over feeding your cat predisposes them to obesity and diabetes.

Diet is a second risk factor for developing diabetes in cats. All cats are deficient in an important enzyme glucokinase that allows the removal of the ingested glucose (sugars) from the blood stream following a meal, and the conversion of these sugars to a usable storage form within the body. Therefore, the commercially available high carbohydrate dry food diets are not an ideal diet for cats. Since cats are carnivores, their insulin production is not based upon a glucose stimulus as in dogs but, rather on a protein stimulus. Talk with us about the best diet for your cat; our discussion might extend the length of your cat’s healthy life.

Genetics is the final contributing factor in the formation of diabetes mellitus. Some cats produce and deposit excessive amyloid in the cells of the pancreas where insulin is produced damaging the pancreas.  This is an inherited trait; cats that produce this extra amyloid are genetically predisposed to developing diabetes.

Certainly many of the same diseases that predispose dogs to developing diabetes mellitus may also complicate the management in cats.  These include pancreatitis, a growth hormone abnormality, dental disease, any inflammatory disease, thyroid disease and others.

Diseased cat pancreas ultra sound

Abnormal cat pancreas ultra-sound

In many instances, the management of diabetes mellitus in cats consists of a diet change and weight management. Frequently we will advise a high protein, low carbohydrate diet +/- insulin supplementation. However, in cats there is a chance that the pancreatic cells can recover and regain their normal function over time.  When this occurs, cats are considered to be in a diabetic remission.

Early identification and prevention of diabetes mellitus is paramount

It is the goal of our team to recognize associated risk factors and the “pre-diabetic” or carbohydrate intolerant patient prior to the development of diabetes.

human treats are can be harmful to pets

Avoid giving pets human treats to aid general health and wellness.

Two of the most important actions a pet owner can take to prevent diabetes are to keep your pet’s weight within a normal range and have annual physical examinations.  Although we may show our love by giving our pets treats or excessive food,  please remember that excess weight is bad for them. Please speak to one of our doctors if you have any questions or concerns about diabetes, the most ideal diet or if you are are noticing any increased urination, increased thirst, weight loss or increased appetite with your pet. We recommend every pet be evaluated at least annually so we can recognize any disease process early and give our patients the best chance at a favorable outcome and treatment.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

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Carlson Animal Hospital, Oak Park, IL 708.383.3606