Your pet has been diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes occurs 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.
According to Dr. Ellen N. Behrend, a boarded veterinary internal medicine doctor, canned, wet food is the preferred diet for diabetic cats. High fiber diets are best for dogs. The veterinarians at Brookfield usually recommend Purina DM or Hills Prescription Diet m/d for cats and Hills w/d for dogs. Both require a prescription from one of our doctors. Dr. Behrend cautions against feeding a dry formula diet to cats because such diets usually contain higher levels of carbohydrate.
Pet owners are often nervous administering the first few injections, but with time become real pros. Here are some basic tips on preparing and giving insulin injections to your pet.
- Make the experience a pleasant one. Relax with your cat and give him or her some very small nibbles of a favorite, low calorie, low carbohydrate treat. Freeze dried chicken treats are great. Cats love them and they can be broken into small pieces.
- If you like, you can condition your dog or cat to associate the insulin bottle with something pleasant. Start by holding the bottle of insulin close to your pet’s nose. When your pet sticks his or her head forward to sniff the bottle, quickly give a small treat. Repeat this action several times. Once your pet understands that touching his or her nose to the bottle results in a reward, he or she will learn to run to you when you take the bottle out at injection time.
- 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, but if you are using Vetsulin, you should shake the bottle.
- Wipe the rubber top of the insulin bottle with a disposable alcohol wipe to cleanse it.
- 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
Cats that are diabetic should be examined by one of our doctors every 6 months as diabetes is not necessarily a static condition and insulin needs can change with time. Pet owners should pay attention to the amount of water and food your pet consumes and the amount of urine your pet produces. Any changes should be reported to our medical team.
Because the balance of insulin to blood sugar is a delicate one, there is always a low risk that your pet will receive too much insulin and become hypoglycemic. Hypoglycemia is a dangerous condition, so pet owners should always be watchful for the following signs after administering insulin.
- 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.