This final post in our Pet Diabetes Month blogs will outline potential difficulties and conditions linked to diabetes to round off your overview of the condition.

Complications with treating diabetic animals

As explained in Part 3, controlling blood glucose level is difficult and it is safer to be on the higher side of normal. While the aim is to maintain an ideal range of glucose in the blood, it is unavoidable that an animal will spend at least part of its day with elevated levels of glucose. These periods of high blood sugar level contribute to some long term issues, discussed briefly below.

Damage to the eyes or 'retinopathy': at the back of the eye is the 'seeing' part called the retina which is supported by a delicate network of blood vessels. With diabetes, increased blood sugar level leads to damage of these blood vessels and formation of new ones which may further injure existing vessels. Sight can deteriorate to blindness if untreated. Earlier stage diabetes can quickly cause blurred vision because the kidneys take water from the entire body to dilute glucose in the urine.

Cardiovascular disease: during periods of hyperglycaemia as lack of insulin, fats are used as energy and fatty deposits build up in blood vessels. Deposits mean that the heart is strained to force blood at higher pressures through narrower tubes. The vessels themselves lose their elasticity over time or can even rupture under pressure. Damaged vessels are repaired by the body but can lead to dangerous blood clots in the bloodstream that could block vital blood supply and be fatal.

Nerve damage 'neuropathy': again, damage to blood vessels caused by high glucose levels has a wide impact, especially where nerves are concerned. When the blood supply to nerves is affected, a range of muscle, organ and sensation problems can occur. Cats most commonly show diabetic neuropathy as a weakness in their hind legs; cats usually walk on their toes but present a strange flat-footed walk when nerves have been affected by their diabetes and their muscles are no longer able to hold them up.

Kidney damage 'nephropathy': a combination of damage to blood vessels supplying the kidneys and high glucose levels in the blood put additional strain on kidneys and cause damage to the tiny functional units that filter the blood to remove waste products and toxins. Loss of unit function has body-wide consequences as harmful substances build up and fluid levels are not regulated properly.

What other factors cause a high blood sugar level?

  • Insufficient amount/skipping a dose of insulin
  • Snacking between set meals and injection routine
  • Eating too much food at mealtimes
  • Inappropriate diet, high in sugars

What can cause low blood sugar level?

At the other end of the scale, hypoglycaemia, commonly referred to as a 'hypo' may be a medical emergency if left only for a short period of time. While less common than a 'hyper', it is extremely important to understand what causes it, and to avoid those situations. From the points below, you will see why routine, accuracy and consistency is important.

  • Too much insulin administered will direct the body to absorb too much sugar from the blood too quickly, so too little is left to supply the brain with energy
  • Skipping a meal or eating less will mean that the prescribed dose of insulin is too high, so available glucose is depleted and levels drop below the normal range
  • A sudden increase in activity one day will mean an increased energy requirement and a greater amount of glucose will be used by muscles than normal

Can other diseases or conditions cause diabetes mellitus?

Yes. There are a range of diseases with links to diabetes but in particular, Cushing's Syndrome (also known as Cushing's Disease depending on the cause, or hyperadrenocorticisim) may induce insulin resistance and consequently, diabetes. The syndrome itself is a result of an overproduction of a hormone called cortisol or more formally 'hydrocortisone'. Cortisol is normally released in response to stress and essentially increases blood sugar level to provide the brain with energy, while diverting it from inessential processes. The way in which insulin resistance is brought about isn't fully understood at the moment but it as agreed that the action of cortisol somehow impairs the signals insulin gives normal body cells, so that they no longer take up insulin and use it.

What other factors increase a pet's risk of diabetes?

  • Obesity- easily preventable with a healthy lifestyle but an ever increasing problem in our modern pets
  • Pets over six years of age have a higher risk, although cases of juvenile diabetes do occur
  • Female dogs are twice as likely to be affected than males
  • Some dog breeds such as Toy Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers and Samoyeds are more prone to developing diabetes
  • Burmese cats have been reported to have higher incidence of diabetes than other breeds
  • Diabetes more commonly affects castrated male cats

Did you know?

Some cats receiving treatment for diabetes will spontaneously lose the need for insulin therapy and injections can be stopped. That said, their diet (low carbohydrate, high protein) and lifestyle still need to be controlled to help them maintain their health with the condition.

Pet Diabetes Month

We hope that the last four posts have been helpful in providing an understanding of diabetes. The aim of Pet Diabetes Month is to raise awareness and prevent unnecessary cases of disease in our beloved pets. Please help us to spread the word by sharing these posts and talking to your friends with pets about it- you never know, it may just save a life.

If you have a diabetic pet and want to share their story, please feel free to comment below, we would love to hear from you!

Pet Diabetes Month Part 1: What is Diabetes?

Pet Diabetes Month Part 2: Signs & Symptoms

Pet Diabetes Month Part 3: Managing Diabetes

Pet Diabetes Month Part 4: Complications & Conditions Linked to Diabetes

Written by: Danielle