Diabetes most commonly occurs in middle age to older dogs and cats, but occasionally occurs in young animals. When diabetes occurs in young animals, it is often genetic and may occur in related animals. Diabetes occurs more commonly in female dogs and in male cats, according to the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Just like humans, certain conditions predispose developing diabetes such as being overweight and inflammation of the pancreas. Some commonly used drugs, such as glucocorticoids can interfere with insulin, leading to diabetes but this is rare and only after long-term use.
Untreated diabetic pets are more likely to develop infections and commonly get bladder, kidney, or skin infections. Diabetic dogs, and rarely cats, can develop cataracts in the eyes. Cataracts are caused by the accumulation of water in the lens and can lead to blindness. Fat accumulates in the liver of animals with diabetes. Less common signs of diabetes are weakness or abnormal gait due to nerve or muscle dysfunction.
There are two major forms of diabetes in the dog and cat:
- uncomplicated diabetes
- diabetes with ketoacidosis
The treatment is different for patients with uncomplicated diabetes and those with ketoacidosis. Ketoacidotic diabetics are treated with intravenous fluids and rapid acting insulin. When the pet is no longer vomiting and is eating, the treatment is the same as for uncomplicated diabetes.
Diabetes is managed long term by the insulin injections by the owner once or twice a day. Some diabetic cats can be treated with oral medications instead of insulin injections, but the oral medications are rarely effective in dogs.
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