November 20, 2019 Uncategorized

Take Diabetes to Heart: National Pet Diabetes Awareness Month 2019

A concerned looking dog looks at the camera

Take Diabetes to Heart: National Pet Diabetes Awareness Month 2019

November is National Pet Diabetes Awareness Month, in addition to being National Pet Cancer Awareness Month. To bring attention to diseases linked to diabetes, this year’s theme is “Take Diabetes to Heart,” calling attention to the link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease. When two or more diseases occur together, they are termed “comorbid conditions” or “comorbidities.” For example, heart disease and strokes occur commonly in diabetic humans. Canine and feline patients with diabetes don’t suffer from strokes and heart disease, but they do develop co-morbid conditions. I’ll discuss some of those diabetic comorbidities in this blog post.

Dogs, diabetes and other conditions

Two diseases occur with some frequency in dogs with diabetes. Cushing’s disease is a hormone disorder where the body overproduces steroid hormones. The increased levels of steroid hormones prevent the body from responding normally to insulin. When the body doesn’t respond to insulin, blood sugar climbs and the dog becomes diabetic. If your dog has diabetes and Cushing’s disease, you might be lucky: treating the Cushing’s disease might resolve the diabetes.

Another common comorbid condition in canine diabetes is a urinary tract infection. The high levels of sugar in the blood stream of diabetic dogs turn into high levels of sugar in the urine. This provides an excellent environment for bacterial growth. Dogs with a urinary tract infection typically urinate frequently, have blood in the urine, strain to urinate and have accidents in the house. If your diabetic dog shows any of these clinical signs, you should take her to the veterinarian immediately.

Cats, diabetes and other conditions

Cats are comorbid creatures. By this I mean cats rarely have just a single disease; comorbidities are the norm. Obese cats often develop type 2 diabetes. Overweight, diabetic cats have a good chance for diabetic remission if they lose weight and their owners tightly control their blood sugar with insulin injections. However, since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, preventing “pounds” will go a long way to preventing diabetes in your cat.

In a study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, hyperthyroidism and diabetes were the most common comorbid endocrine diseases in cats. Differentiating the two diseases can be difficult for your veterinarian since both disease cause weight loss, an increased appetite and excessive urinations. A series of blood tests is required to make the correct diagnosis.

Inflammation of the pancreas – “pancreatitis” – is a third comorbid condition associated with feline diabetes. Pancreatitis can decrease the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin, causing diabetes or increasing an already diabetic cat’s insulin requirement. Long-term pancreatitis can permanently disrupt insulin production and result in permanent diabetes. The cause of feline pancreatitis is elusive, making it difficult for your veterinarian to recommend preventive measures.

To explore other differences and similarities between human, canine and feline diabetes you can read a previous blog post on the topic. Dogs can also be trained to help humans with diabetes manage their own blood sugar better. Read more about the work of these amazing dogs in Science Daily.