Dogs can get diabetes too!

This month’s patient of the month is Shaelea, an eight year old Border Collie cross. Shaelea was brought to the clinic after her owner noticed she had lost weight and was lethargic. Dr Raj Wicks examined Shaelea and after discussion with her owner found Shaelea had been drinking a lot more water in the last couple of months.

Dr Raj recommended to Shaelea’s owners that blood tests be performed to find the cause of the weight loss. The blood tests revealed that Shaelea’s glucose levels were 23.63 mmol/l, higher than the normal range of 4.28 – 6.94mmol/l. Urinalysis performed on Shaelea's urine showed she had glucose in her urine. Dr Raj diagnosed Shaelea with Diabetes Mellitus.

Diabetes in dogs and cats is a common disorder very familiar to diabetes in humans. It is caused by a lack of insulin production by the pancreas, a small organ near the stomach. Insulin is a hormone whose main role is to regulate the level of glucose on the blood. In a diabetic animal the absence of insulin causes excess glucose to build up in the blood. At a certain level the kidneys react by excreting glucose in the urine. This results in the glucose not be utilised and therefore wasted.

Shaelea’s condition was explained to her owners and they were informed that Diabetes requires a continuous treatment program involving insulin injections either once or twice a day for the rest of her life. A small amount of insulin is given in a specially designed insulin syringe with a needle so small that most animals do not notice it. Shaelea’s owners were happy to start treating Shaelea with insulin.

Dr Raj explained to Shaelea’s owners that the treatment program for her diabetes would be simple but required strict adherence to timing of injection and feeding. Shaelea’s owners were also informed that she would need to visit the clinic at regular intervals to monitor her glucose levels, as sometimes insulin levels change.

One week after Shaelea began her insulin doses she visited the clinic to spend the day. During her day at the clinic a sample of her blood was taken every 2 hours to test her blood glucose levels. This enabled Dr Raj to see how the insulin was effecting her glucose levels and determine if she receiving enough insulin. Shaelea’s blood glucose levels were still high so Dr Raj increased the amount of insulin she was receiving. The amount of insulin required is different for each dog and has to be increased slowly till the right balance is achieved.

Its now 4 ½ months since Shaelea was diagnosed with Diabetetes. Thanks to a change in diet and insulin treatment she has put on a little weight and is drinking a lot less water. Shaelea still has regular visits to the clinic to check her glucose levels and her owners have noticed she is lot happier.