Diabetes and Your Pet

When a pet is diabetic they cannot bring glucose from the bloodstream into the body cells (insulin facilitates this process). So the body thinks it is starving (think of the glucose like cars on a highway that cannot exit and go home). The body will break down muscle, glucose and fat stores for energy causing muscle wasting and a fatty liver (because the liver is trying to break down it’s energy stores to help feed a body that thinks it is starving). The liver gets enlarged and swollen from this but the liver can usually maintain it’s function.

If this process continues (ie body breakdown of tissues) untreated, ketones will form. Ketones are produced with excessive body breakdown of energy storage areas. Ketones are toxic to pets and cause lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea as well as can progress to liver and kidney failure.

The reason pets drink and urinate more is because the kidneys get overwhelmed trying to handle all this glucose and they excrete what they cannot reabsorb into the system. The body also likes to maintain a certain solute concentration in body fluids. So when this glucose is overwhelming the kidneys the kidneys have to get rid of fluid as well to balance the high concentration of glucose going out in the urine. When the pet loses fluid they drink more to replenish it but a large part of what they drink goes out in the urine to balance the glucose that is going out in the urine (hence a vicious cycle).

A diabetic pet can be dehydrated no matter how much they drink.

Therefore, when diabetes is controlled the sugar level drops and the excessive drinking and urinating should normalize too.

Diabetes can also cause problems with the electrolyte potassium as insulin is needed to transport potassium into the body cells. This can affect the heart and body muscles ie weakness and heart arrhythmias can occur.

We like to monitor urine glucose and ketones because if we see ketones, that is telling us the diabetic control is not ideal. The reason we want to see a trace or small amount of glucose in the urine is because if we do not see any that can mean that we are giving the pet too much insulin.

Too little insulin causes lack of diabetic control and potential development of ketoacidosis (toxicity which is life threatening) and too much insulin causes hypoglycemia (which if severe is life threatening as well).



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