Your pet has been diagnosed with diabetes, which happens when the pancreas fails to produce adequate amounts of insulin, a hormone necessary for controlling blood glucose (sugar) levels. In almost all cases, diabetes is a manageable disease in cats and dogs.
Most pets show classic signs, including excessive urination, excessive thirst, strong appetite, and weight loss. High blood and urine sugar levels usually diagnose diabetes, but occasionally additional tests may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.
Every day, you’ll need to give your pet insulin injections, watch their diet, and monitor their behavior. You will have to pay much closer attention to your pet’s needs and behavior, and you’ll need to find someone to care for your pet if you leave for an extended period of time. Our practice offers boarding services for diabetic pets.
Treating diabetes usually involves insulin injections and a special diet is beneficial for all diabetic pets. It has also been shown that a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet helps lower blood sugar in cats. In dogs, a high fiber diet helps prevent spikes in blood sugar after eating. We’ll discuss with you diet options to best manage your pet’s diabetes.
Here are some basic tips on preparing and giving insulin injections to your pet.
- Keep insulin refrigerated at all times. It must never be frozen.
- Before withdrawing insulin for injection, gently mix it by rolling the bottle between the palms of your hands. Don’t excessively shake the bottle since this can damage the fragile insulin molecules.
- With the insulin bottle held upside down, draw up a large amount of insulin into the syringe. Tap the syringe to move any air bubbles upward and then push the excess insulin back into the vial. Stop when you reach the number of units that have been prescribed.
- Insert the needle under your pet’s skin and inject the insulin. Give your pet a treat right after an insulin shot to teach them not to fear the injections.
- Give insulin at the same time every day. Most pets receive insulin twice daily. Choose the time frame that works best for you. If you’re most likely to be home at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., give the injections at these times. If 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. work better for you, that’s fine. As long as you’re consistent, there should be few problems.
- Don’t reuse needles. After one use, needles are no longer sterile. Also, needles become dull very quickly, and dull needles hurt when they’re inserted into the skin.
Please scroll to the bottom of the page for an insulin-injection how-to video
Without insulin, your pet can’t survive, but, too much insulin is just as deadly as too little. A potentially dangerous condition called hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can result from an overdose of insulin. You must watch your pet carefully for signs of hypoglycemia, which include:
- lack of coordination
- acting confused
- lapsing into unconsciousness
If your pet experiences any of these signs, call us immediately (203 775 3679). While waiting for veterinary assistance, keep placing a small amount of corn syrup or honey in your pet’s mouth. The sugar from the syrup will directly enter the blood through the gums. If your pet is able to eat, offer its normal food. Seek medical attention immediately if your pet is having seizures or is not responsive.
Guard Against Overdoses of Insulin
Overdoses can happen with an incorrect dose or a duplicated dose because one family member didn’t know another family member already had already given an injection. If more than one person is handling a diabetic pet, good communication between family members is essential to avoid this situation. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if the injection went beneath the skin or merely into the hair. If, after you administer the injection, you are not sure the insulin went under the skin, it’s safest to skip that dose and proceed normally at the next scheduled injection time. Occasionally giving too little insulin is much less dangerous than giving too much.
There may be occasions where your pet’s diabetes is uncontrolled, or when other illnesses arise. Although most diabetics remain reasonably healthy, some can develop a condition called ketoacidosis, in which the animal becomes extremely depressed with signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, dehydration, and coma. Ketoacidosis is a potentially life-threatening emergency, and any diabetic with these clinical signs should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately. Diabetics are also more prone to infections, with kidney, bladder, and oral infections being most common.
Most diabetic dogs eventually develop cataracts. Although usually rapid in onset, some dogs that are well controlled have a slower progression of cataract formation. There are surgical procedures available to remove the cataracts from the lenses and restore your pet’s vision. If you are interested in pursuing this, we can refer you to an ophthalmologist that can assist in assessing if your dog is a good candidate for the procedure. Cats diagnosed with diabetes generally do not develop cataracts.
Overall, the prognosis for diabetic pets is good. Animals do not typically suffer many of the other problems that human diabetics experience. Diabetes is a treatable condition and your pet can live a normal, happy, healthy life.