Diabetes in Dogs

Insulin for dogs.

Just like people, dogs can develop diabetes. This is almost always insulin responsive (type 1) diabetes, unlike cats where type 2 diabetes is more common.

The first thing most owners notice is the dog drinking and peeing a lot more than normal. This is because there are very high levels of glucose in the blood, which gets filtered out into the urine. This glucose in the urine then draws a lot of water out with it, leading to increased urine production. To compensate for this, the dog needs to drink more.

There are many conditions which can cause a dog to drink and urinate more, so we will always give a dog a thorough physical examination, then perform blood and urine tests.

In a dog with diabetes, we will see a very high blood glucose reading. A normal glucose level for dogs is around 5mmol, while diabetic dogs can be as high as 20 or even 30. We will also see evidence of glucose in the urine.

Some diabetic dogs are very sick when we first see them. They can experience a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. This is a true emergency and requires rapid and aggressive treatment with intravenous insulin and fluids to correct electrolyte imbalances.

Treating diabetic dogs can be quite challenging, but is definitely manageable with the right support and guidance. They require daily insulin injections, a carefully controlled diet and regular check ups with their veterinarian. Unlike people who can measure their glucose levels throughout the day and inject themselves as needed, we need dogs to have similar amounts of food and exercise every day to give reliable control.

We also need to ensure the dog has no other illnesses. Many diabetic dogs have bladder infections or bad teeth. These all need to be treated appropriately as infections will make the dog less responsive to insulin and result in poor control of their blood glucose levels.

Almost all dogs with diabetes will develop cataracts in their eyes which can lead to blindness. There is very little we can do to prevent this, however, cataract surgery can be performed to restore the dog’s vision and improve comfort levels (this can be done at our Eaton Vet Clinic).

With improvements in veterinary medicine diagnostic and treatment options, treating a dog with diabetes is now very achievable and these dogs can live a very happy and healthy life. It does require dedication and commitment from an owner; but if your dog is ever diagnosed with diabetes, you will not be doing it alone – we will be there to assist and guide you through the whole process.


Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

I’m sure that most dog owners by now are aware that chocolate can be fatal in dogs if eaten is sufficient quantities.

This doesn’t mean you need to panic if you’ve been giving your Labrador a tiny bit of chocolate every now and then. However, if your dog has broken in to your stash of Easter Chocolate and eaten the lot, you might have an issue.

Chocolate contains a product called theobromide, which is toxic to dogs. As a general rule, the darker the chocolate the more theobromide it contains. This means that a dog only needs to eat a relatively small amount of dark chocolate compared to milk chocolate.

Signs of chocolate toxicity vary depending on the dose and the individual pet, but can be everything from vomiting and diarrhoea through to heart arrhythmias, muscle tremors and death.

The easiest way to treat chocolate ingestion is to make the dog vomit. If we make the dog vomit within one hour of eating the chocolate, we can remove most of the chocolate before it is absorbed. We may also use activated charcoal an intravenous fluids to help clear any toxin from the body.

So how much is too much?

We’ve found an online calculator you can use if your dog has found the chocolate stash.

Head to: //petsci.co.uk/chocolate-toxicity-calculator-dogs/ and enter your pet’s weight, type of chocolate eaten and the amount. This will give you an idea as to whether you need to seek urgent veterinary attention or not.

If your dog is showing any signs of toxicity, or you’re concerned about the amount your pet has eaten, please call us immediately. This toxin acts very quickly and time is critical.

Why is my cat eating lots but losing weight?

Thyroid gland from a cat.

Why is my cat eating lots but losing weight?

This is quite a common question from owners of elderly cats. The owners often report that the cat always seems to be looking for food, is a bit restless, and losing weight. As soon as we hear this, we start thinking about a number of potential causes, but particularly about a thyroid problem called hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism is a relatively common condition in older cats caused by a small  tumour in the thyroid gland. The tumours are normally benign (which means they don’t tend to spread to other parts of the body), but are active in producing thyroid hormone.

The role of the thyroid hormone is to regulate the body’s metabolic rate. The production of thyroid hormone is normally tightly controlled by the body so there is just the right amount to keep us active, warm and healthy. The tumours which grow in the thyroid gland don’t respond to the body’s control mechanism, so continuously produce excessive amounts of hormone. This leads to an increased metabolic rate and multiple other issues.

The first step for us to investigate this issue is a thorough physical examination. We need to make sure there is no other reason for the cat’s signs. For example, a cat with dental disease may constantly head to the food bowl because it’s hungry but it’s too painful to eat. We also need to make sure that there are no other issues which might impact on our decision to treat the hyperthyroidism.

We find that most cats with hyperthyroidism have a very high heart rate, and can be higher than 240 beats per minute. A normal cat’s heart rate is around 160-180. In some cases we can also feel a small lump in the affected thyroid gland, which is located in the neck next to the trachea.

The next step is a blood test. This is to check the general health of the cat as well as measuring thyroid hormone levels. It is very important to measure kidney function at this point, as hyperthyroidism can affect kidney function quite dramatically.

Once hyperthyroidism has been confirmed, we have a few treatment options:

  1. Medical management: This involves daily or twice daily medication to block thyroid hormone production. This may be in the form of a liquid, tablet or a product which is applied to the cat’s skin.
  2. Surgery: We can surgically remove many of these thyroid tumours. This is a good option for many cats as it avoids the need for life-long medication and monitoring, plus can be cheaper in the long run. We normally need to use medical management for 3-4 weeks to stabilise the patient prior to surgery
  3. Radioiodine therapy: This involves the injection of a radioactive form of iodine, which is picked up by the thyroid gland and destroys the tumour. This is not currently available in Western Australia.

Your vet will discuss the best option for your pet once the condition has been diagnosed, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem.

Early intervention is critical for this disease, as it contributes to kidney damage and may increase the risk of stroke or other cardiovascular problems. If you’re worried about your cat, please call us today.