Diabetes is common in dogs and cats – which means brushing up on your knowledge of the disease is always a good idea.

Diabetes mellitus is an endocrine disease that affects 1 in 300 canines and felines. The disease results in relative and absolute insulin deficiency, causing a chronic carbohydrate metabolism disorder. Middle-aged dogs and middle-aged to older cats show a higher predisposition to spontaneous diabetes. Obesity also makes these animals vulnerable to developing insulin resistance. 

Pathophysiology of diabetes in dogs

The most commonly identified clinical form of diabetes mellitus in dogs is similar to Type 1 diabetes in humans and is characterized by permanent hypoinsulinemia. Common pathological tissue changes include a reduction in the size and number of pancreatic islets, a decrease in the number of β cells of the islets, and degeneration and vacuolation of the β cells. In chronic cases, the β cells become difficult to locate.

The destruction of islets cells is secondary to either severe pancreatitis or immune destruction.  Chronic relapsing pancreatitis leads to a progressive loss of both endocrine and exocrine cells, which are replaced by fibrous tissue resulting in diabetes mellitus. 

It is important to note that chronic use of progestin and glucocorticoids as well as spontaneous hyperadrenocorticism may also lead to insulin resistance and secondary diabetes mellitus. 

Pathophysiology of diabetes in cats

In cats, 80% of the diabetes reported is similar to Type 2 diabetes in humans and is characterized by a combination of impaired insulin action and β cell failure. Type 1 diabetes is rare in cats.

In diabetic cats, most of the pancreatic tissue appears to be normal while specific degenerative lesions are present selectively in islets of langerhans. The most commonly observable pancreatic lesions in diabetic felines involve the selective deposition of amyloid in islets (amyloidosis), and degenerative alteration of β cells. 

The amyloids arise from islet-associated polypeptide (IAPP), which gets secreted from β cells along with insulin. Diabetic cats have higher concentrations of amyloids in their islets. The amyloid and IAPP physically disrupt the β cells, resulting in diabetes. 

Clinical signs of diabetes and client compliance

In both dogs and cats, clinical signs of diabetes include polydipsia, polyuria, polyphagia, and weight loss. Clinical signs arise only once blood glucose levels reach concentrations of 180-220 mg/dl in dogs and 220-270 mg/dl in cats. 

Monitoring dogs and cats for blood sugar levels is a good idea, even if they do not have diabetes. Diabetic pets, however, demand more vigilance and client compliance is crucial. 

Fortunately, PetTest has developed an easy-to-use and accurate PetTest Painless Glucose Monitoring System that can help your clients navigate their pets’ diabetes journey. The monitor comes with a Genteel painless lancing device, ensuring minimum discomfort to animals. The downloadable data management system also allows your clients to provide you with real data.  

For pets too low on sugar, PetTest also offers The Glucose SOS Energy Boost for Pets, a fast-acting, controlled, precise, and repeatable glucose remedy that rapidly raises the animal’s blood sugar levels. It’s a quick, easy fix for pets in trouble.

PetTest, a subsidiary of Pharma Supply Inc, started offering pet-based diabetes products in 2015.

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Dr. Omer Rashid earned his veterinary degree in 2002 from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, and quickly followed that with a Master’s degree in Parasitology. He worked for several years in veterinary practice with small animals, as well as horses and livestock. He studied advanced pharmacology at Charles Darwin University in Australia, and discovered his love for writing while working as a science writer for a research company with clients such as Harvard, Stanford and Cambridge universities. Along the way, Dr. Rashid developed an interest in integrative veterinary health, and he joined Redstone Media Group as Associate Editor of IVC Journal and veterinary content developer in 2022.


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