Has your pet been diagnosed with Diabetes Mellitus, often shortened to just Diabetes? Diabetes is a relatively common disease, not only in humans but also in cats and dogs. Cells in the body require insulin in order to be able to move sugar into the cell and use it as a fuel source. Diabetes may result from either inadequate insulin being produced by the pancreas or it being less effective on the cells in the body (insulin resistance). The sugar then cannot be taken up into the cells so there is then too much sugar in the blood stream.
The classic signs of diabetes are weight gain (followed by weight loss), increased appetite and thirst, and increased urination. If left long enough, animals will become severely ill, stop eating, and develop severe weakness, diarrhoea and vomiting. Untreated, diabetes will lead to death.
Pets that have diabetes may be more prone to bladder and skin infections. Diabetes also interferes with wound healing. Cats may be “cured” of diabetes after a course of insulin and may go into remission.
Your veterinarian will explain how to inject your pet with the appropriate amount of insulin. After the diagnosis we will need to work hard to fine tune not only the amount of insulin that your pet needs but also which type of insulin works best for your pet. Although it may seem a daunting prospect remember that it will become much easier as you practice and as you get into a routine.
In order to check how well your pet is responding to insulin therapy the blood sugar levels need to be monitored over a period of 12-24 hours. These readings are used periodically to create a glucose curve and may either be done in hospital or at home. The insulin dosing will then be adjusted accordingly. Most animals (80%) will respond very well to insulin treatment. Some animals (20%) will be difficult to treat, for a number of reasons. Almost all animals will develop cataracts eventually.
Here are some dosing guidelines:
- Keep the insulin in the fridge because if it warms up it will lose its effectiveness. Likewise do not freeze it.
- Keep the insulin in a Tupperware container or cooler box in the fridge to prevent temperature changes when the fridge door is opened.
- Mix the bottle well with a rolling action before drawing up the dose. Only shake the bottle if your veterinarian instructs you to.
- Ensure that your pet is eating well as this will affect the blood sugar levels. Your veterinarian will also discuss what food is best to feed your diabetic pet.
- A new syringe and needle should be used with every injection.
- Ensure you use the correct syringe as different types of insulin have different concentrations and so use the one that corresponds to your pet’s insulin (U-40 vs U-100). When you require a repeat of Insulin, syringes or needles, please phone during normal working hours so that our staff can arrange this for you.
- Please collect this during normal working hours (please not on weekends or after hours).
- Please bring all syringes and needles back to the practice so that we can dispose of them via a medical waste company. The municipality will issue you with a fine if you are found to have placed medical waste products in municipal waste.
- If you spill some of the insulin and are not sure if you have given it all, do not repeat the same amount. Overdosing may be detrimental to your pet.
- Consistency is vital with dosing – doses should ideally be given at the same time every day. If this is not possible then a maximum of 60 minute variation should be allowed in rare instances.
- Try to make the dosing as pleasurable an experience as possible as this will make future treatments easier.
- Pets that have been overdosed with insulin may be very sleepy or may even start to fit. Other signs include drooling, staggering, dilated pupils and loss of appetite. If so please contact your veterinarian immediately or take your pet to the closest veterinary emergency hospital.