“He’s ravenous but is losing weight. He seems to always be thirsty.”
Sound familiar? When we hear this in the clinic, our first thought is blood work. And our second thought is glucose values because these are some of the most tell tale signs of diabetes.
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is either unable to produce enough insulin to make glucose usable or when the body is unable to use the insulin that is being produced.
When your pet eats, the carbohydrates in their food are absorbed into the blood. The body needs to be able to transfer these sugar molecules into the individual cells to be transformed into energy. Without insulin, or without the ability to use insulin, the sugar remains in the blood and can’t be converted. This causes the body to believe it is being starved even though it is simply unable to use what is there. The body will continue to feel hungry but will be unable to convert the necessary nutrients, losing weight despite continuing to eat. And the body, sensing the increase in glucose, tries to rid the excess by filtering it through the kidneys: your body tries to pee it out. The more glucose in the blood the more it will want to pee. As the body becomes dehydrated it will start to crave fluids.
By the time these symptoms become apparent, they will be seen in the blood. On occasion glucose values on blood work can be higher than normal due to stress (how many critters like getting their blood taken?), the body goes into panic mode and the liver releases a back-up storage of energy to try and help the muscles get out of danger (fight or flight response). This is why we might also ask for a urine sample to confirm our diagnosis. If stress is the cause, we won’t see that sugar in the urine, but if the body is unable to use the glucose in the blood it will be seen in the urine.
After the results are confirm the diagnosis, the DVM figures out the necessary dosage of insulin for your pet (based of factors such as weight, diet, activity level, etc). Without it they will continue to suffer, and will continue to starve. Depending on your pet’s lifestyle and condition, they will have to be treated with minuscule injections under the skin, much like we do in humans.
With advances in technology there are glucose monitors which can be used at home. They take a single droplet of blood and can easily track glucose levels to monitor whether or not the dosage is correct. We can review these numbers over the phone, or if you aren’t comfortable taking them yourself, we can do it for you at the clinic. We want to make sure we are giving enough to adequately lower levels and aren’t giving too much, causing the body to use up more glucose than needed so that the blood runs out of its stores. This would result in hypoglycemia, and it would look as if your pet were drunk due to the lack of energy reaching the brain. This is also why we emphasize the importance of giving your pet’s dose after their meal incase they decide not no eat everything we may be giving them more than they need.
If this is hitting close to home maybe it would be worthwhile bringing your pet in for an exam. The earlier it is caught the easier it will be to manage. If you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to give us a call any time.