Diabetes is a very complicated disease. You can find a great deal of information
on the web, but my goal in this article is to describe it as simply as I can to help
you best maintain your pet at home. It conveys the information I give to my
clients when they go home with a newly diagnosed diabetic pet. At the end of the
article, I have listed some websites that have a much more in-depth and detailed
discussion of this disease.
Diabetes (type 1 in animals) is an issue of decreased function of the pancreas
(beta cells) to produce insulin. When your pet does not have enough insulin,
glucose cannot move out of the blood into the cells. The brain can ONLY use
glucose. If your pet does not have glucose for the brain, the body will make
ketones (ketoacidosis) to try to help the brain function.
There are three crises when dealing with diabetes: low blood sugar, high blood
sugar, and ketoacidosis.
Low blood sugar occurs when you have given too much insulin and there is not
enough glucose in the blood. This can lead to diabetic or insulin shock. If your
pet is acting blind, drunk, weak, quiet, or neurological, he requires vet attention
right away. He needs to get his blood sugar back up ,which, at times, must be
done in the hospital with IV fluids and dextrose. If this is not treated, the animal
can have a seizure and die. When your animal is acting in the above mentioned
way, you must always give heavy sugar water, kayo Syrup, or any high sugar
liquid. If your pet is willing to eat, you need to feed him. If you have a glucometer
at home, you should take a blood sugar level reading.
High blood sugar has the same clinical signs that were present when your pet
was first diagnosed and must be treated in the same way.
In an animal with high blood sugar (diabetes), you will see clinical signs of
drinking a lot, eating a lot, urinating a lot, and weight loss. If your pet has these
clinical signs, you should have regular bloodwork ( CBC/ Chem). a fructosamine
level, and a urine sample done by your vet. You need these tests to determine if
your pet has diabetes, and, if he was controlled at one time, why he is no longer
Ketoacidosis occurs when an animal has had high blood sugar long enough for
the body to produce ketones. Often times the animal is very sick and needs to
be hospitalized and regulated very carefully. This is a state you want to avoid at
Animals with diabetes will have a lower immune system defense, which makes
them more susceptible to infection. They will have infections more often. If
diabetic animals have an infection, it will change the insulin regulation. It is very
important for you to watch them closely and treat infections quickly. The number
one infection is a bladder/ urinary tract infection. I also commonly see skin
infections, pancreatitis, GI issues, and respiratory infections. Dogs will also get
cataracts when the sugar moves into the lens if they are not controlled
(regulated). Cats’ eyes are different, and they do not get cataracts the way a dog
A diabetic pet is a great deal of work and requires owner compliance. The
number one reason for death in diabetic pets is lack of proper owner compliance.
It is a frustrating disease, at times, and it is often expensive to treat and maintain
a diabetic animal. As an owner, there is a great deal of responsibility when caring
for a diabetic pet, and one such responsibility is to make sure you never do any
harm in your treatment of him.
These are my five basic rules when taking a diabetic pet home.
You must watch him closely. If he is acting drunk, weak, blind, or
lethargic, you DO NOT give him insulin.
You get a blood glucose level (BG). If it is lower than 58, your pet has
hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). (BG should be 60-120 in a normal dog.) You
should then give sugar water or kayo syrup, and feed him.
Call you vet right away, or take your pet in to be seen by a vet in an emergency.
If you are giving the insulin, and your pet moves, or you think you miss
it, never go back and give more.
It is safer to have a high blood sugar level for
a day, if you missed, than insulin shock if you gave too much.
If your pet vomits or does not eat the meal, DO NOT give the insulin. Call
your vet and get a blood glucose level.
Diabetic dogs who do not eat can be
sick, and giving them insulin will make them hypoglycemic (low blood sugar).
Always monitor for sickness, and do not try to save money. Call your vet. A sick
diabetic pet will just get worse.
You should give the insulin 12 hours apart due to the glucose curve that
the drug makes. The insulin will drop the blood sugar to its lowest point at 6
hours, then rise during the next 6 hours to its highest point at 12 hours. Our goal
is to never let the blood sugar drop to lower than 58 or so, and to not let it go
above 160-170 at 12 hours.
Make sure you handle the insulin correctly. Never leave it out. Once it has
been opened, change the bottle every three months, on average. (It loses
effectiveness over time). Twirl the bottle in your hands. Then turn it upside down
to draw out the said amount and remove all air bubbles.
Cats should always get insulin in the lower quadrant of the body. It has been
shown they absorb better in that area.
If you are going away and you are leaving your pet in a caretaker’s hands, please
make sure the person fully understands these rules and is able to give the insulin
There are a few things you can do to monitor your pet at home.
You can do urine dipsticks. These help you to monitor for glucose, ketones, or
signs of a urinary tract infection.