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Dr. Ruth's Diabetes 101

Reviewed by Dr. Peter Kintzer, DVM, DACVIM on Friday, August 28, 2015
Posted December 15, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Dr. Ruth MacPete shares this important information about Diabetes in Dogs and Cats!

Obese pug

November is National Pet Diabetes Month. In order to do my share and help spread the word, this month’s blog will be all about diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects pets as well as people. Even more alarming is the fact that the prevalence of diabetes has been increasing. To help combat this growing epidemic, I hope that everyone reading this will learn about diabetes so that you become familiar with the signs, symptoms, and treatment options and assume a more proactive role in the fight against diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the body is unable to control blood sugar levels. In one classification scheme, there are two types of diabetes, Type I and Type II:

Type I, also known as insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone released when blood sugar levels are high, such as after meals, and directs cells in the body to move sugar out of the blood stream and into cells for storage or energy.

Unlike Type I, in Type II diabetes, insulin is being produced but the body becomes less responsive to its effects, which is why it is also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Regardless of the cause, both forms of diabetes result in chronically elevated blood sugar levels that damage capillaries and lead to different complications like nerve damage, kidney failure, and even death.

So what causes diabetes? Diabetes mellitus is a multifactorial disease influenced by both inherited and environmental factors. Genetic predisposition seems to be an important risk factor, and in dogs, certain breeds, like Keeshonds and Samoyeds, are more likely to develop diabetes. Age is another important risk factor. Though it can affect animals of any age, it is more common in middle-aged and older animals. However, of all the risk factors, obesity is arguably the most important, especially since the prevalence of obesity is increasing. In the United States, it is estimated that 45% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight; that is more than half of the cats in this country.

In the United Kingdom, dog breeds predisposed to diabetes mellitus include:

In the UK between 30-60% of pets are obese.

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Ruth has more than 15 years of experience in the veterinary industry as a companion animal veterinarian in private practice. Along with being a writer and media personality, she is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.