Diabetes is common in cats and dogs as it is in people. In people there are several types of diabetes but in our pets there is only one kind. In dogs control is always by insulin injections but there are some cases in cats that can be treated by dietary changes so avoiding the injections.
Signs can be very non-specific, usually there is increased thirst and weight loss, but not always. We diagnose by looking for glucose in the urine or blood. The problem we have in cats is that stress increases glucose levels a lot, so any cat that has been removed from its sleep (where they usually are!), put in a box, then a car, sat in the waiting room and then restrained for a blood test, is going to have high glucose. To get round this we can test for a sugar called fructosamine, which is always high in diabetic cats and not affected by stress.
Early and aggressive treatment in cats can sometimes result in a full cure and no further treatment, so early diagnosis is vital.
In both cats and dogs there seems to be two common ages of onset, around 3 years old and then again when the pet is over 9 years old. The older onset cases can be much more difficult to control, we believe this is because there will be other ‘old age’ changes taking place in the pet’s body which complicate the demand for glucose.
Starting off injecting your pet is often traumatic, but virtually everyone gets the hang of it very quickly, we keep home testing to a minimum to keep things easy and there are a host of aids such as booklets, DVDs, charts, YouTube videos to help. Recently an injecting ‘pen’ has become available that automatically draws up the right amount of insulin and injects it for you!