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What is Diabetes and How Does it Affect My Pet?

Diabetes mellitus occurs in our pets when their body does not use glucose (sugars) normally. Glucose is used in the body for energy and is regulated by the pancreas sending out a hormone called insulin. Insulin is required to transfer the glucose to the cells. This becomes similar to a lock and key situation. The glucose is the lock and the insulin is the key. If the insulin is unable to be used or there is not enough circulating in the bloodstream (basically the wrong key) then the glucose will remain locked in the wrong places of the body such as the bloodstream which eventually will overflow into the urine if not treated. This is what causes diabetic pets to drink and urinate more. If the body is not getting enough energy then it must take it from somewhere else such as fat and muscle which is why pets will lose weight with untreated diabetes.

Do they have Type I or Type II?

Type I diabetes: Pancreas produces no insulin at all.

Type II diabetes: Pancreas produces some insulin, but not enough.

Almost all dogs have type I diabetes and must be treated with insulin. Most cats will have non-insulin-dependent diabetes or Type II.

How does it affect my cat or dog?

Cat:

  • Type II
  • Might not be permanent (Can go into remission)
  • High Protein/Low Carb Diets

Dog:

  • Type I
  • Is permanent
  • High Fiber Diets
  • Can develop cataracts

How can I tell if my pet is diabetic?

  • Excessive water drinking and increased urination
  • Weight loss, even though there may be an increased appetite
  • Cloudy eyes (especially in dogs)
  • Chronic or recurring infections (including skin infections and urinary infections)

Did I do something to cause this?

Most likely no you did not. However, animals that are obese have a higher chance of becoming diabetic. Therefore making sure your friend doesn’t become overweight is the best thing you can do.

What can I do to help my pet?

The first thing you want to do for your possibly diabetic friend is to bring him to a veterinarian. They can do a glucose check if they feel that might be the case. This is the most important thing for them because the earlier you catch it the better chance of continuing a long life they will have. After a diagnosis, they will need to be on insulin and go to their vet for regular blood glucose curves (every 6 months once stable). This part is also important because it will tell us where the highs and lows are during the day which will give us important information for adjusting the insulin doses as soon as possible as too little is a problem but too much is an emergency called Hypoglycemia.

What is Hypoglycemia & why is it dangerous?

Hypoglycemia is the opposite of high blood sugar. Meaning that their sugars are too low. Having high blood sugars may be a problem but having too low blood sugar can be fatal! This is what you want to prevent. When watching your friend and making sure they don’t become hypoglycemic you want to look for the following things:

  • lethargy (lack of energy)
  • weakness
  • head tilting
  • hunger
  • restlessness
  • shivering
  • ataxia – usually lack of muscular coordination, but maybe changes in head and neck movements, wobbling when walking, unbalanced
  • disorientation
  • stupor
  • convulsions or seizures
  • coma

If you notice anything like this. Your 1st step is to get them some corn syrup on their gums followed by giving them some food if it is safe to do so. Then get them to your nearest veterinary clinic.

My first curve

When newly diagnosed with diabetes your pet will need a glucose curve after 2-3 weeks. This is because all pets start on the average dose of insulin. Since each animal is different and there is no test to tell us how much is needed exactly, we have to do curves to get the correct dosing. So for the first little while, you may have to do a couple of these to get your stable dosing.

Can my curves be done at home?

Once your pet is on a stable dose yes you can do these curves at home! Make sure it is a day you will be home for at least 12 hours. You can purchase a glucometer from your veterinarian called AlphaTrak. The glucometer you use CAN NOT be one for humans! Then starting in the morning (after your pet has been fed and given insulin) you will take small drops of blood samples every 2-3 hours while recording the times the sample was taken, if insulin was given, and any food or treats. You can do this with a sheet that you can find here, this website or you can use this app called Pet Diabetes Tracker or Pet Dialog. Then after the day is done you can send the files to your veterinarian and they will be able to tell you if you need to change dosing.

Pet Diabetes Vs Human Diabetes

There are many similarities between pet diabetes vs human. However, it is important to understand the differences. First pets need to eat before getting insulin while humans get insulin after eating. Pets have 3 locations where you can give injections; between shoulder blades, flank, and the side of the chest. While humans can inject in 6 places; abdomen, upper arm, thigh, lower back, hips, or buttocks.

References:
AMVA – https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/diabetes-pets
VCA – https://vcacanada.com/know-your-pet/diabetes-mellitus-in-dogs-overview
Vetsulin – https://www.vetsulin.com/
Veterinary Partner – https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/doc/?id=4951506

By: Ashley G, VT

Blog

How to make medication request hassle-free!

Getting your requests to your veterinarian can be quite a process, especially when you are uncertain about the necessary information we need to fulfill the request. Let’s take this opportunity to review the information required and help you understand why it's helpful in ensuring a smooth and hassle-free experience. What do I need to know before I make a prescription request?   There are 5 important pieces of information you'll need to have ready to relay to your veterinary team when requesting a prescription. Medication name Medication concentration Medication dose Medication instructions Quantity you need Let me explain what each one is and why we need it. This information can all be found on your pet's medication label.  Medication Name – This is simple enough; it is the name of your medication, and yes, it is very important. If you call and say you want to refill Fluffy’s eye medication, this won’t help us if they are on 3 different eye medications. Knowing the name of your pet’s medication can be the difference between the correct refill and the wrong refill. Medication Concentration – All medications come in many concentrations, and we want to ensure that your pet gets the correct one to avoid the risk of over- or under-dosing. The concentration is either written as milligrams, mg/mL or a percentage. Pills and tablets can be things like 2.5mg, 10mg, etc. Liquids will be in forms such as 20mg per ml, 200mg/ml, etc., and other medications, such as eye ointments, may say something like 2%. Medication Dose – The dose indicates how much of the medication your pet should be given and how often—for example, 1 tablet every 12 hours or a 1/4″ strip 3 times a day. Medication Instructions – We don't have the exact wording of your label, but we need to know how you are giving the medication currently. This may sound something like I give 1 pill in the morning and 2 pills in the evening or I give 3 units every 12 hours, etc. If what you are giving is different from what is on your medication label, then tell us what you are currently giving and why. It is not recommended to change medication instructions without speaking to your veterinarian.   Quantity You Need – To ensure you have the supply uu need and avoid multiple trips, please be sure to know what amount(s) of your pet's medication(s) you need. This may be given as a number amount, such as 30 pills or the length of time the medication needs to last,  such as 30 days worth. If you tell us 1 bottle, it doesn't necessarily help us as many medications come in multiple-sized bottles. TIP: Create a folder in your phone’s photo album called Medications, take pictures of your pet’s medication labels, and place them in there for quick access!   Keep in mind that your veterinarian pharmacy, like all other pharmacies, will need time to fill your medication. We kindly ask that you give us 24-48 hours' notice for filling medications as our veterinary staff are very busy and may not always have time to fill medications same-day. TIP: If you are like me and have trouble remembering to get medications refilled on time until you use the last one, there's an APP for that!   If it's a regular medication - there is an app called medisafe that lets you track medications and can be used for pet medications as well. You can set custom notifications to remind you when to refill your medication, such as when you have 5 pills left. If the medication is your pet’s flea and tick medication, check out the app "Flea & Tick"  (iPhone) (Android). This app allows you to track when you last gave your pet their last dose and upload a photo of your medication so you always have what it is at your fingertips. Lastly, look for things your clinic may have, such as QR codes on your medication bottles to help remind you to refill when you run low or website pages like ours (Pharmacy Requests) to make it easier for you to request your medication. Stayed tuned for Part 2.   Written by: Ashely G, VT

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