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    Diabetes in Pets  

Is your pet drinking a lot of water? Eating a lot but losing weight? Having to urinate frequently? If so, the problem could be diabetes mellitus or "sugar diabetes," a condition that's quite common in dogs and cats.

The literal translation of diabetes is "sweet urine," because dogs and cats with this disease have glucose (sugar) in their urine. This happens as a result of a series of abnormalities in the way the animal metabolizes sugars in the diet.

Insulin and Glucose
Insulin is an important hormone in the body that's produced in the pancreas. Without enough insulin or when it isn't working properly, the glucose in the bloodstream cannot enter the cells, where it is needed for energy and cell repair. Instead, blood glucose reaches abnormally high levels. And since the cells aren't receiving enough glucose, they send the body a message that not enough energy is present and that the body is basically starving. That's why one of the main symptoms of diabetes mellitus is an increase in appetite. Even though more food is consumed, the body loses weight because the nutrients aren't entering the cells.

At the same time, the kidneys, which are the body's filtration system, are overwhelmed by the massive amounts of glucose in the blood. The kidneys allow this excess glucose to exit the body with the urine ("sweet urine"). Trying to dilute the amount of glucose in the urine, the kidneys produce more and more urine, causing accidents in the house and/or a soaked litter box. And producing all of this extra urine causes a feeling of dehydration, a thirsty pet and lots more water being consumed.

As the disease progresses, dogs and cats become more susceptible to infections, especially of the skin and urinary tract. Dogs can also develop cataracts and lose vision. And if diabetes is left untreated, another toxin (called ketones) can build up in the blood. When this happens, the animal can rapidly slip into a diabetic coma and die.

Treatment of diabetes is twice daily insulin injections for dogs and once or twice daily for cats. The injections are not hard to give and most owners can easily be trained to do them. The most critical measures you can take to ensure successful treatment are regular checkups, careful monitoring of weight and blood glucose levels and keeping a constant schedule of insulin injections and feedings.

Managing diabetes is not hard but it is time-consuming. Sometimes a family member or perhaps a kindly neighbor can be trained to give the injections as well. Once taking care of a diabetic dog or cat becomes routine, people tend to forget the initial struggles. Having a healthier, happier pet is a great reward for that bit of extra work.

This article is provided as a general overview of the topic. Always consult your veterinarian for specific information related to diseases or medical care for pets. Information provided by Best Friends Animal Society.

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