Is your pet peeing or drinking too much?

Sugar diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is one of the “common” causes for pets to drink too much and pee too much.

What is diabetes?
Sugar diabetes is a condition caused by insufficient insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) in the body.

Insulin allows the cells of the body to take glucose out of the blood stream and use it as an energy source so they can survive. If there isn’t enough insulin the glucose doesn’t get used so it builds up in the blood stream getting higher and higher and eventually it spills out through the kidneys into the urine. Glucose is osmotic (it draws water with it) so when there are high levels in the urine it sucks water out with it … your pet starts to pee a lot and then to compensate for the extra loss of water through the urine they have to drink a lot. At the same time, as the cells of the body can’t use glucose as an energy source they start breaking down fat for their energy – this results in weight loss and the production of acids (ketones) that slowly poison the body.

Diabetes can be primary (otherwise called type 1) due to the lack of production of insulin from the pancreas or secondary (type 2 ) where insulin is produced but it is not enough and what is produced can’t work properly due to excessive weight, some hormonal diseases.

Factors that increase the risk of your pet developing diabetes include being middle aged to older, being overweight, having a history of pancreatitis and genetics (some breeds are predisposed e.g. Burmese cats, poodles etc.)

Signs of diabetes
In the early stages signs can be subtle – they may be eating well, losing weight and drinking and peeing a lot. Pets may start looking for water sources they never normally touch or they might start having urine accidents in the house.
With time, despite the increased thirst, dehydration develops and the ketones build up causing them to become sick – i.e. they become dull, depressed, off food, start vomiting and become weak. Secondary infections (especially in the bladder and kidneys) are common. Dogs are also prone to developing cataracts in the eyes. Eventually if left untreated they will become comatose and die.

Diagnosis involves blood and urine tests.

Treatment of diabetes depends on the severity at the time of diagnosis but is centred around giving insulin injections, correcting the dehydration, electrolytes imbalances and treating any secondary infections.

Long term treatment involves giving insulin injections at home. Diet modification is also very important not only to get the pet to their “ideal body weight” but certain foods reduce insulin requirements (e.g. in cats a high protein- low carbohydrate diet and in dog’s a high fibre diet will reduce the amount of insulin the body needs). In some cats, remission can occur after starting insulin and the diabetes can be controlled with diet only.

Although a complex and serious condition, diabetes is a treatable and when well managed and monitored, pets can live a normal and happy life.