Diabetes is a very serious condition for your cat or dog. A bright spot to the diagnosis is that diabetes can be managed and controlled. Your pet’s life expectancy will not necessarily be decreased, and with proper treatment, your cat or dog’s quality of life may be similar to that of pets who are not diabetic.
Diagnosing the Disease
Treatment begins with a visit to the veterinarian to determine the cause of your pet’s symptoms. Diabetes can look a lot like other diseases, such as hypothyroidism, based purely on the main symptoms, so vets will test both your pet’s blood and urine for elevated levels of sugar. Your vet will also perform a full physical and ask questions about some of the symptoms your pet has experienced.
A successful treatment plan will control and manage your pet’s glucose levels. If your pet has extreme symptoms, she may need to be hospitalized for a brief period to determine the correct amount of insulin. Getting your pet to a stable weight is also quite important -- while obese pets are more prone to the condition, losing weight is common at the onset of diabetes.
The amount of insulin your pet will require is not entirely dependent on weight, and varies from pet to pet, so figuring out the correct amount will require a bit of tweaking and experimentation. Once the appropriate amounts of insulin are determined, you’ll be in charge of administering the appropriate dose at home, as well as monitoring your pet’s glucose levels.
Managing Diabetes at Home
Post-diagnosis, and after the correct levels of insulin have been determined, your at-home responsibility will be managing your pet’s diet and glucose levels. Most pets will require a twice-a-day injection of insulin, which is given through a subcutaneous shot, just below the pet’s skin, but above the muscle. Getting used to administering this shot might be a challenge, but it can quickly grow routine for both you and your pet.
In order to prevent spikes and dips to glucose levels, food should be given at the same times as the shots; if your pet has been eating through the free food method, you’ll likely have to switch to a more regimented feeding schedule or perhaps a special dog prescription or cat prescription food. Diet plays an important role in diabetes management; the most current thinking on diabetes is that a low carbohydrate, high protein diet is the best strategy. Any adjustments to your pet’s food can have a significant impact on insulin levels, so whatever you feed your dog or cat, make sure to be consistent. Avoid giving unexpected treats or extra meals.
Oral Medications for Diabetes
Some oral medications are available, and can be used for short-term treatment of diabetes in cats with Type II diabetes. The most common medication is glypzide, which is an option only if the pet is still creating some insulin. Treating diabetic cats with oral medications is often associated with a wide variety of side effects. In general, using oral medications to treat diabetes has fallen out of favor.
As well as providing your pet with a consistent diet and daily insulin, it’s also important to be attentive to your pet’s habits. Cat owners should watch the litter box to see if cats are over- or under-urinating. Dog owners should be particularly mindful of cataract formation which is common even when dogs are receiving insulin. Glucose levels can also be checked at home to ensure that cats and dogs are receiving an appropriate amount of insulin. Talk to your vet if you think adjustments are necessary.
While it doesn’t happen to dogs, after long-term treatment, some cats will go into a remission-like state, where the diabetes isn’t detectable, and can be managed with diet alone. It’s best not to think of this state as your pet being cured, but rather as a stable state, since the diabetes can easily become detectable again either by chance or without sufficient dietary maintenance.