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Diabetes

Randy Walker DVM

About Diabetes...

Diabetes (also called sugar diabetes or diabetes mellitus ) is a condition in which the glucose level of the bloodstream is elevated abnormally. This is a serious condition and can lead to death in untreated cases. Most cases of diabetes are due to a deficiency of insulin in the bloodstream.

Briefly, How Is Insulin Produced And What Does It Do In The Body?

Simply put, insulin is a hormone which is produced by the pancreas. The pancreas releases the insulin into the bloodstream where it functions to carry the blood sugar (called glucose) into the cells. The cells then use this glucose for energy. When there is a deficiency of insulin the bloodstream the glucose level rises and the cells don't get their energy (because insulin isn't putting blood sugar into the cells). This results in the condition called diabetes. When the cells are unable to use blood sugar for energy the body then begins to consume fat and muscle tissue. When the body begins breaking down its own tissues for energy this results in metabolic breakdown products (called ketones) which circulate in the bloodstream. Ketones can cause serious health problems because they can change the pH of the bloodstream and cause mental dullness seizures or coma which can ultimately be fatal.

What Are The Symptoms Of Diabetes?

The classic symptoms of diabetes are increased thirst (called polydypsia); frequent urination (called polyuria); increased appetite (called polyphagia); weight loss, weakness and lethargy. In ongoing severe cases the patient can experience ketoacidosis which is a serious condition (discussed above) often resulting in coma and death if not treated with emergency measures. Patients with diabetes also often experience secondary problems such as an increased tendency to get localized infections such as bladder infections cataracts kidney disease and liver disease.

How Is Diabetes Diagnosed?

We diagnose diabetes through a blood test, urinalysis and other appropriate tests as needed along with the history and physical exam.

What Are The Main Factors That Can Cause Diabetes To Develop?

Obesity, heredity, hormonal imbalances, and pancreatic disease can contribute to diabetes. In most cases, however, the cause of diabetes is unknown.

How Is Diabetes Treated?

In dogs we treat diabetes with daily insulin injections. In cats diabetes is usually treated with daily insulin injections but also sometimes with oral medication.

Briefly, Describe The Treatment Protocol For Diabetes.

The specific protocol for your pet's therapy for diabetes will be tailored by your veterinarian to fit your pet's specific condition. In general, a common approach is as follows: The diabetic patient is placed on once or twice dally injections of insulin and is fed a carefully monitored and regulated diet. When possible we check the urine sugar level once daily. Initially the patient's blood sugar level is checked periodically throughout a given day (called a glucose curve) then once every week until the insulin requirement is fine tuned. Then the glucose curve is repeated once every 4-6 months in order to keep the insulin dose as accurate as possible.

Why Should A Glucose Curve Be Performed Every 4-6 Months?

Because the patient's insulin requirements can change with time and with environmental and personal factors.


- Randy Walker DVM
Sun Lakes Animal Clinic
May 14,2004



"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
- Anatole France, 1921 Nobel Prize Speech -


Titlebar Image: The Gentle Doctor, 1937-38 by Christian Peterson (U84.179) - Iowa State University