“She’s got sugar” is a phrase I would hear quite commonly as a child growing up in the South. In my imaginative mind, I envisioned a kind woman holding bags of brown and white sugar heading home to make sweet potato pies, sweet tea and pound cake for her Saturday cookout.
I later discovered that having the “sugar” was used to describe an individual with Type II diabetes. Humans aren’t the only ones that can develop “sugar”, dogs and more commonly cats can also acquire this complex metabolic disorder.
Type II diabetes or Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus occurs when the pancreas secretes insulin, but there is resistance to the insulin. Insulin is a hormone created in the pancreas that allows the body to use sugar for energy.
One of the major predisposing factors of Type II diabetes in pets is obesity. Pets that are overweight, live a sedentary lifestyle or fed high-fat diets are most at risk of developing Type II diabetes mellitus.
Unregulated diabetic pets may have clinical symptoms that are similar to unregulated diabetic humans. Diabetic patients are characterized as having higher than normal levels of glucose in the blood.
Increased thirst and appetite, frequent urination, and unexplained weight loss are common symptoms owners report when a pet is diagnosed with diabetes.
Glucose may also be present in the urine which can lead to frequent urinary tract infections. Left unregulated, diabetic animals may develop a life threating problem known as ketoacidosis (excess buildup of ketones in the blood from fat breakdown). Pets that display these or any abnormal symptoms or behavior should always be taken to a veterinarian to diagnose the underlying cause of the problem.
Your veterinarian will work with you to create a plan that controls your pet’s high blood sugar, sugar in the urine and avoid insulin induced low blood sugar. Giving the appropriate amount and type of insulin is imperative to getting your pets diabetes under control.
If you or a family member are diabetic, do not give your personal insulin to your diabetic animal in place of veterinarian-prescribed insulin. There are many types of insulin which can affect each pet differently. With appropriate treatment and early diagnosis, many newly diagnosed diabetic pets can achieve remission. No matter how sweet, pets living with long-term diabetes can still live happy, healthy, lives.
Veterinarian Dr. Jasmine Streeter’s column will appear in The Skanner the first Wednesday of every month. Send your pet care questions to [email protected].