One of the many jobs of the pancreas is secreting a hormone called insulin into the blood stream. Insulin is a very important hormone that allows your body to use glucose (sugar) from the carbohydrates that are consumed and store it for future use. All cells in the body require glucose. It flows through the blood stream and supplies the cells with the food and energy they depend on; without insulin the cells cannot receive glucose. When the pancreas isn't producing enough insulin to break down the glucose properly then you have a condition refereed to as Diabetes Mellitus. Typically diabetes occurs in older patients. Female dogs and male cats are more at risk for this condition predisposing factors for diabetes include genetics, weight, medications and other health conditions.
If the animal is lacking insulin glucose will accumulate in the blood and exit the body through the urinary tract. Glucose in the urine causes the animal to exhibit symptoms such as polyuria PU (excessive urination) and polydipsia PD (excessive thirst). They experience those symptoms because high levels of glucose causes water to follow it through the urinary tact. Drinking more helps them compensate for the fluid loss. When the brain is deprived of insulin there is no appetite control causing a diabetic to experience excessive hunger. Due to this imbalance the body is deceived and thinks that is starving. When an animal is deprived of food or starving their bodies begin to breakdown fat, protein and starch to supply the hungry cells with the nutrients and energy they require. Due to the improper use of the nutrients in the body the animal is likely to exhibit weight loss.
The first step to diagnose diabetes is to obtain a full blood panel and urine sample. The glucose level should be approximately 64-170 for a cat and 70-138 for a dog, anything higher than that is considered not within normal limits. Typically when cats come to see their veterinarian they are more stressed than normal which can elevate the levels of glucose in their blood stream, a urinalysis is required to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes. After your veterinarian has diagnosed your animal with diabetes you'll need to modify their lifestyle to accommodate their condition, diabetes can be managed and maintained when carefully regulated.
After the final diagnosis has been made your veterinarian will prescribe insulin. At that point you will come up with a schedule for routine glucose checks to begin to regulate your pet. Typically in the early stages of diabetes you will be doing this at least once a week until a therapeutic insulin dose has been determined. In addition to insulin it is recommended to switch them over to a prescription diet for diabetic management. Prescription diets will help control the glucose, and carbohydrate intake. It is important to always leave out plenty of fresh water for them, as the insulin gets more regulated in their system extreme thirst and excessive urination should decrease. It is important and recommended to bring them in every 6 months to do a glucose test to see how well regulated they are. If you notice any increase in drinking and urinating we recommended that you bring them in to have their levels checked ASAP. This can be a sign that the dose of insulin needs to be adjusted slightly to get them to a more accurate dose. Remember what brought you into see the veterinarian in the first place increased thirst and urination!