Insulin is a hormone naturally producted by the body, and is vital in controlling the body's metabolism.
Diabetes mellitus occurs when the body cannot prodcut or respond to insulin, resulting in high blood sugar (glucose) levels. This affects the body's metabolism and energy usage. As diabetes progresses, the metabolism can become more and more disturbed, potentially resulting in life-threatening abnormalities such as ketoacidosis. Diabetes in all animals should be treated.
Diabetes in cats is more often due to lifestyle factors and obesity (type 2 diabetes) and is often reversible. In dogs, diabetes is usually type 1, and may require life-long insulin mediation. For all animals, healthy diet and lifestyle modification is an important part of treatment.
Common signs of diabetes include:
- Increased thirst and increased urination
- Strong "fruity" or "sweet" smelling breath
- Urinating in the house or in unusual places
- Rapid changes in weight
- Panting, lethargy, weakness (especially as for severe cases)
If you suspect your pet has diabetes we would recommend visiting your vet as soon as possible, diagnosis usually only requires a simple blood test, and early detection will greatly improve response to treatment.
Your pet's insulin dose will be determined by your vet, and is normally given once or twice daily.
It is important to follow your vet's recommended dose exactly, and not to change the dose without discussing with the vet, who may recommend dose adjustments over time.
Insulin should generally be given around meal times, and if you are checking your pet's blood glucose before dosing.
Insulin should ALWAYS be keptrefrigerated. After taking the insulin out to the fridge, gently roll the bottle (don't shake) to mix the contents.
Hold the bottle upside down and insert the needle into the seal, draw the insulin into the syringe using the TOP of the plunger line corresponding to the correct amount, ensuring there are no bubbles in the syringe. Use one hand to lift up the skin between the shoulder blades to create a "tent"
The needle should be inserted gently into the"tent", keeping the needle parallel with your pet's back. Push the plunger to administer the insulin and remove and dispose of the needle safely.
If you aren't sure if the insulin went in properly, we would not recommend giving again, as a double dose could cause dangerously low blood sugar.
A healthy body weight and a healthy, carbohydrate controlled diet, are absolutely vital for successful control of both forms of diabetes, both in dogs and in cats.
A carbohydrate controlled diet prevents spikes in blood sugar which can overload the body's ability to cope, resulting in a diabetic state.
In many type 2 diabetes cases, healthy bodyweight and a healthy diet can be all that's required to control mild diabetes cases, under close veterinary supervision.
Diabetes must be carefully monitored, generally by monitoring blood sugar.
Diabetic animals need to be monitored for either too high blood sugar (from poor diabetes control or too little insulin), or too low blood sugar (generally from giving too much insulin, or not eating properly). A poorly controlled diabetic animal is at serious risk both from too high or too low sugar.
Newer monitoring systems like Freestyle Libre have made at-home monitoring much easier.
Signs of poor diabetic control include:
- Excessive thirst, drinking and urination
- A tired, weak pet
- Development of infections, skin disease or cataracts
If you think your pet has had too much insulin, we would suggest rubbing honey or sugar on the tongue and gums immediately and then going straight to your vet.
If you have a blood glucose monitor at home, danger levels are a blood sugar lower than 4mmol/L or higher than 20mmol/L.