Diabetes mellitus develops when the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin. Insulin is required for the body to efficiently use carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
The body needs insulin to use glucose, fat and protein from the diet for energy. Without insulin, glucose accumulates in the blood and spills into the urine. Glucose in the urine causes animals to urinate large amounts and to drink lots of water. They also lose weight despite have a ravenous appetite.
Diabetes most commonly occurs in middle age to older dogs and cats, but occasionally occurs in young animals.
There are two major forms of diabetes in the dog and cat:
- Uncomplicated diabetes
- Diabetes with ketoacidosis
Pets with uncomplicated diabetes may have the signs just described but are not extremely ill. Diabetic pets with ketoacidosis are very ill and may develop vomiting, abdominal pain, and lethargy. Untreated diabetic pets are more likely to develop ketoacidosis and infections. Diabetic dogs, and rarely cats, can develop cataracts in the eyes.
The Diabetic Program at Penn Vet strives to improve the treatment of diabetes in dogs and cats, and to investigate the genetic risk for diabetes in dogs.