November is National Diabetes Month. Many people don’t realize that their pets can develop diabetes and it can often be very similar to diabetes in humans. Over the next few weeks, we will be digging into what diabetes is, how it affects our pets’ health and happiness, and what can be done to treat and to prevent the development of diabetes.
Let’s start with an overview of diabetes and some of the terms associated with the disease. At its most basic level, diabetes is when the body cannot use the sugar from the food we eat. Normally, when food is digested, sugar (or glucose) is taken into the bloodstream and the body releases a chemical called insulin. Insulin is what activates certain channels in the cells of the body to accept the glucose in the bloodstream. Without insulin, cells won’t get the glucose they need for energy, and the body malfunctions.
In humans, diabetes is broken into two “types” depending on the source of insulin insufficiency. Type one diabetes is more common in young children. With this disease, the cells have a normal response to insulin, but the body is not producing insulin in normal amounts. This is thought to be due to disease of the pancreas, which is where insulin is produced. The exact cause is not known at this time, but right now it is thought to be due to an auto-immune disease damaging the pancreas. The most effective treatment of this type of diabetes is giving injections of insulin to help the body use the glucose being taken in through food. Dogs commonly develop a type of diabetes very similar to Type One diabetes in humans, but we will cover that in more detail later.
Type two diabetes is more common in older people, and is typically seen in people who have diets higher in sugar and who do not exercise as much. In type two diabetes, the body produces insulin normally, but the receptors on the cells that normally react to insulin have built up a tolerance due to overexposure over years of high sugar intake. This means that the body has to produce more insulin to give the cells the same amount of glucose, and eventually the body can’t produce enough insulin to keep up. This type of diabetes can sometimes be treated through diet changes, weight loss, and increased exercise, although insulin injections can become necessary in some cases. This type is very similar to the most common form of diabetes seen in cats.
Coming up next, we will take a more detailed look at diabetes in dogs. Keep checking back for more fun info about diabetes and other pet topics! If you are interested in more information about diabetes specifically in your dog or cat, check out this information from the AVMA, or give us a call with any concerns or questions you may have!