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April 2003 Newsletter
Volume III Issue 4-24
"Diabetes in Pets"
Diabetes is seen in both dogs and cats as other animals. The type of diabetes
animals get is similar in most ways to the diabetes seen in humans. It has
now been determined that human diabetes is an immune disorder in which the
body attacks the pancreatic cells that make insulin. It is likely this same
process that destroys the insulin-producing ability of our pets.
Insulin is a Protein (a chain of amino acids) produced by the pancreas, a
small organ located in the abdomen. Insulin is made by the pancreatic islet
cells (also called the beta cells), then secreted into the blood where it
travels throughout the body and helps regulate blood sugar. Insulin is also
called a hormone because it is produced in one location (the pancreas) and
travels to other cells and regulates their function. Insulin also plays an
important role in the body's ability to use and store glucose.
A blood sample taken by your veterinarian from your pet will determine if
your pet has diabetes.
This failure of the pancreas to secrete insulin does not allow proper use
of blood sugar. Instead of reaching the body tissues, the increasing levels
of blood sugar spill over into the urine and are lost from the body. Thus
despite adequate caloric intake, the tissues are in a condition of semi-starvation
all the time.
Thus, the animal eats a lot, but still gets thinner and thinner. The continuous
presence of sugar in the urine also causes fluid loss. That is because the
must be dissolved in water to be eliminated, so it carries the water out with
it. As a result, the animal is abnormally thirsty and passes large volumes
There is apparently more to this condition than just lack of insulin, however,
because even if insulin needs are carefully met with injections of this hormone,
there are still progressive changes in we4aknesses that my persist. These
are sometimes include recurrent pancreatic inflammation, formation of eye
cataracts and increased susceptibility to infection (particularly of the urinary
Depending on the extent of the animal's diabetes as determined by your veterinarian
or caretaker, daily injections of insulin will be given. Your caretaker will
work with you and your pet in stabilizing the insulin levels through monitoring
with blood work and visits.
The usual treatment consists of strictly regulating sugar intake and using
daily injections of insulin (derived from the glands of other animals).
Many pets do very well on human recombinant insulin which is produced in
a laboratory by either bacteria (Humulin) or yeast (Novolin) and is identical
to human insulin. Due to the minor changes in insulin structure, human recombinant
insulin does not work well for some pets. In those cases, other species of
insulin can be used. Dogs typically are put on a pork insulin and cats are
given beef or combination beef/pork insulin. The choice of species and formulation
of insulin will be made by your vet, depending on your pet's response to a
The diabetic dog has done generally well on the basic fresh and raw natural
food diet given as two or three meals during the day. Their insulin needs
seem to stabilize, rather than going through erratic ups and downs from day
to day. The best source of dietary needs are through working with your veterinarian.
Above all, avoid the soft-moist food that come in cellophane bags and don't
need refrigeration. These products are very high in carbohydrates like sugar
that are used as preservatives, as well as artificial colors and other preservatives.
As always your veterinarian is the best source of information for treatment
for diabetes and will work with you on how to administer the injections of
always your Veterinarian is the best source of information and
treatment for questions or problems that may exist.
If you have any suggestions or
comments or would like to add to
our "Monthly Newsletter",
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Memory Of Pets" in sharing loving feelings
for their beloved ones.
John, Carole and Staff
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