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Diabetes Effects Dogs and Cats

Diabetes is a well-known disease in veterinary medicine that is defined as a deficiency in insulin that makes it difficult for the body to regulate energy metabolism. There are two types of diabetes, commonly referred to as type I and type II.  In type I, sometimes called insulin-dependent diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make insulin. This is a permanent condition that generally results from damage to the pancreas. In type II, also known as insulin-independent diabetes, the pancreas is making insulin but not enough to meet the demands of the tissues. This is also known as insulin resistance. Type II diabetes is associated with obesity, hormone abnormalities and steroid use, though animals with type II can go back into remission with proper treatment and diet.

Dogs usually get type I diabetes and rarely get type II diabetes, while cats can get either type I or type II. Diabetes in dogs and cats can occur at any age. However, diabetic dogs are typically diagnosed at 7 to 10 years of age, and most diabetic cats are older than 6 years of age. Diabetes occurs in female dogs twice as often as male dogs and certain breeds of dogs may be predisposed to diabetes, such as Australian terriers, Beagles, Samoyeds and Keeshonds.

Obesity is a significant risk factor for development of diabetes. As dogs and cats age, they may also develop other diseases that can result in diabetes or could significantly affect their response to treatment for diabetes, including thyroid disorders, adrenal disorders, pancreatitis, heart disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infections and skin infections. The long-term use of medications containing corticosteroids is also a risk factor for diabetes.

Noticing the early signs of diabetes is the most important step in taking care of your pet. If you see any of the following signs, your pet should be examined by a veterinarian. Early clinical signs of diabetes include excessive water drinking, increased urination, weight loss, decreased or increased appetite, cloudy eyes (especially in dogs) and chronic or recurring infections in the skin and urinary tract. The earlier the diagnosis, the better chance your pet may have for a longer and healthier life.

Why are so many pets developing diabetes currently and how can we prevent it from developing in our pets? The general idea amongst holistic veterinarians is that inflammation develops in the pancreas due to hypersecreting digestive enzymes and insulin into the pet’s digestive tract to break down commercial, processed pet foods that are high in sugars and grains. The canine pancreas is designed to digest mainly protein along with a small amount of starch found in plant material, while felines are obligate carnivores who are designed to digest mainly a diet rich in protein.

Unfortunately for dogs and cats, today’s diet is far from the above. If a dog or cat eats a high-carbohydrate, processed or even grain-free kibble, the pancreas gets stressed and inflamed. This inflammation leads to the destruction of pancreatic beta cells that makes insulin and the formation of antibodies against the pancreatic tissue, thus leading to the destruction of pancreatic tissue, and finally, diabetes. The best way to prevent or treat a diabetic pet is to seek an experienced holistic veterinarian through The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), who will guide you in the steps to regulate a diabetic patient, through proper dosing of insulin, routine blood screening tests, species appropriate diet, and potentially use supplements, acupuncture, homeopathy and chiropractic to treat the patient.

Sarah Urban, DVM, provides office visits, therapy and rehabilitation at Always Helpful Veterinary Services, located at 305 Nottingham Rd., Nottingham. For more information, call 717-529-0526 or visit AlwaysHelpfulVeterinaryServices.com

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