Did you know it’s actually possible to be “too sweet”? Well, I’m sure everybody’s heard about the disease called Diabetes and for those affected with this problem, their bloodstream is literally “too sweet” due to the presence of excess sugar.
“Diabetes has been known since the first century B.C.E., when a Greek physician, Aretus the Cappadocian, named it diabainein, meaning “a siphon,” referring to the excessive urination associated with the disease. The word diabetes was first recorded in 1425, and in 1675, the Greek mellitus, “like honey,” was added, to reflect the sweet smell and taste of the patient’s urine.” (from vocabulary.com).
I’ve heard that in days gone by (when laboratory tests were unavailable), doctors diagnosed diabetes by actually tasting the urine of their patients. Thankfully, the doctors at our clinic are able to use more socially acceptable (and technically more accurate) methods to make this diagnosis.
Most commonly, patients affected with diabetes will be brought to the veterinarian when their parents either notice an increase in water intake, a change in their urinary habits or a sudden unexplained loss of weight. There’s nothing like a big puddle of urine in the house to get a person’s attention!
The doctor will check both a urine sample (which will have sugar in it if a pet has diabetes) and a blood sample in order to diagnose diabetes. This is necessary because other diseases can cause similar symptoms, and sometimes those diseases occur along with diabetes so it’s important to be sure we understand as much as we can about what’s going on in each patient. Some animals with diabetes seem to feel pretty good (eating, interacting with family, playing), while others are very sick (abnormal blood salt balances, signs of pancreatitis (lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite) and urinary tract infections).
Once the diagnosis is made, the doctor will discuss treatment options. The main thing to remember is that most dogs/cats with diabetes can experience a good quality of life despite their disease, and can do so for many years. It may take some time in the beginning to find the right “formula for success” in treatment, but most animals do very well with a combination of diet therapy (higher protein, lower carbohydrate) and insulin. Interestingly diabetes in cats can often be managed with diet change alone, while dogs always require insulin.
Since November is National Pet Diabetes month, I thought I’d spend a little time telling you what I know about it. For those of you interested in more detailed information, the American Veterinary Medical Association has an entire website dedicated to the topic. Here’s the link: http://www.petdiabetesmonth.com/