Diabesity Epidemic Results in More Insulin Dependent Pets

January 24th, 2011

"Diabesity", the twin and entwined epidemics of obesity and diabetes, is not only striking Americans across the socioeconomic spectrum, it is also impacting our pets. As with humans, the number of domestic cats and dogs diagnosed with diabetes is increasing rapidly. About 1 in 400 domestic dogs and cats are believed to have diabetes, compared to just 1 in 2000 only 40 years ago.

Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes in both people and animals. Obesity contributes to insulin resistance, a condition in which the body no longer responds effectively to insulin. The body overcompensates for the loss in insulin sensitivity by producing more and more insulin, straining and eventually damaging the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Most people and animals have type 2 diabetes, the form in which their bodies become insulin resistant, as opposed to Type 1, in which an immune system disorder destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Common symptoms of diabetes in pets are similar to those in humans, and include increased thirst, frequent urination, increased appetite, weight loss, shivering, fatigue and chemical or fruity smelling breath. Diabetes control in pets is also much like that in people - a combination of diet, exercise and the same diabetes medication prescribed to humans. Some diabetic cats can be treated with oral diabetes medications, but most cats and almost all dogs require insulin injections. Diabetic dogs are usually treated with twice daily injections of intermediate-acting insulin, while cats usually require one or two daily injections of long-acting insulin.

Interestingly, scientists have discovered that it's not only people and pampered pets that are becoming increasingly obese. Combing through years of data, they discovered that both wild and domestic animals have been steadily gaining weight for decades. Lab rats and street rats have both gained weight, despite the fact that the lab rats' diet and activity levels remained constant. Monkeys in a primate research centre are actually taking in fewer calories than previous generations, but are gaining weight.

Calculating the odds of so many species randomly gaining weight as only one in 10 million, baffled scientists are proposing a number of causes:

1) Viruses - a common virus that causes colds, adenovirus-36, is known to direct stem cells to turn into fat cells.

2) Global warming - As temperatures rise, living creatures don't have to expend as much energy to keep warm.

3) Chemicals -endocrine disrupters such as the chemical tributyltin, flame retardants and the organic compounds PCBs and BPA have all been linked to obesity.

4) Sleep deprivation - Lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain. A related theory is that changes in the amount of time spent in light or dark environments changes eating habits.

5) Nitrates - Nitrates in processed foods and in dog food have been linked to weight gain.

It's most likely that a variety of environmental factors are driving the obesity epidemic and the related diabetes epidemic. The best way to combat "diabesity" for humans and pets alike remains a low carbohydrate and low glycemic index (dubbed insulin resistance) diet, adequate physical activity, and, if needed, insulin therapy.

Giving Your Cat Insulin Injections

March 14th, 2011

cat in gardenIf you have experience with feline diabetes you know how hard it can be to watch your furry family member suffer through weakness, vet appointments, diet changes and, possibly the most challenging of all, insulin injections. Knowledge of proper cat insulin injection techniques can make your life and your cat's life easier. If you have any questions or concerns talk to your vet.

Prepare the Insulin

  • Start by filling the insulin syringe slightly more than your cat's dose
  • Tap the insulin syringe to remove air bubbles
  • Slowly push the plunger until you have the correct dosage of insulin in the syringe

Prepare Your Cat

Create a routine to make your cat comfortable. At first he will likely try to get away, but eventually he should become familiar with the process, and you may even be able to train him to come when it is time for his insulin injection. Start by giving him lots of attention and affection, and maybe even a small treat. It is probably best to keep the insulin syringe out of your hands at first, so that he does not get scared. When you are ready to give your cat insulin, get on his level - don't come at him from above or he will feel threatened. Now it is time to find the injection site.

Injection sites

The scruff (top of the neck) is the most commonly used injection site for insulin for cats, however it may not be the best. The amount of skin and muscle in this area can slow absorption of the insulin, and can be more painful for the cat.

Other options for injection are the flank (between the ribs and the legs), the side or underside of the belly, and the side of the chest. Absorption tends to be quickest when given in the side or underside of the belly.

Insulin Injection

Each cat is different, and the proper type, dose and frequency of insulin for cats need to be determined by a veterinarian. Once you know the proper insulin dosing and have determined the best place for injection, place your thumb and index finger approximately an inch apart and pinch the skin to create a "tent". Make sure you are not grabbing any muscle.

The insulin injection should go into the hollow space under the "tent" of skin. It should not go into the skin itself, or into the muscle. If your cat is long-haired make sure that you can see the skin and that you are not giving him a "fur shot".

When you are giving the insulin injection be confident, smooth and fast. It is the puncture part that hurts, so go quickly through that part; you can slow down a bit while you inject the fluid.

Above all, be gentle and kind when giving your cat insulin, especially at first, and praise him when it is all done.

Vets Using Continuous Glucose Monitors to Treat Diabetes in Dogs

May 3rd, 2011

diabetes in dogsThe incidence of diabetes in dogs has risen 200 percent over the last thirty years. The symptoms of diabetes in dogs are similar to those in people, as is the treatment. A dog with type 1 diabetes must have its blood sugar monitored constantly, be exercised regularly, be fed low carbohydrate food, and be given insulin injections.

As in human diabetics, not all dogs with diabetes respond well to treatment. Thankfully, over the last few years, continuous glucose monitoring has revolutionized the ways vets manage diabetes in dogs. The glucose monitor is a small device that is inserted just under the dog's skin. To read more about the use of continuous glucose monitors in dogs with diabetes on Science Daily, >CLICK HERE<.

A Humorous Account of Caring for a Diabetic Cat

September 23rd, 2011

cat with diabetes

Megan Radford has written a humorous post titled Babysitting a Diabetic Cat, or How I Learned That Karma Bites Back for the website DiabetesDaily. A diabetic herself, Radford was the obvious choice to care for her sister's diabetic cat (who requires twice daily insulin injections and occasional glucose testing) when her sister went away. The post begins:

I am the friend who is used to needles. The one who doesn't flinch or faint at sight of blood or sharp things. When my sister asked me to take care of her diabetic cat for a week while she and her husband were out of town, I blustered and puffed about like nobody's business. "No problem!" I said with gun-slinging fervor. "Piece of cake!" With a wink and the fingers twisting into an okee-dokee gesture, I delivered the final blow with a wry smile: "It's not like I'm afraid of needles or anything!"

To read more about Radford's adventures in cat sitting, and learn how karma bit her back, >Click Here.<

Living with a Diabetic Dog

September 27th, 2011

diabetes in dogs

Just as in people, there has been an alarming upsurge in cases of diabetes in dogs. Also as in people, diabetes in dogs can be either type 1 (requiring insulin injections) or type 2 diabetes (often connected to an overweight animal).

Dogchannel.com, the self described "website for dog lovers", has posted an article titled Seven Essential Tips for Living with a Diabetic Dog, discussing how to successfully manage your dog's diabetes in daily life.

The article offers common sense tips (carry a small packet of honey with you in case your pet has an episode of low blood sugar) and some not as well-known advice (if your dog stops responding well to insulin, it may have a urinary tract infection) for owners of dogs with diabetes.

For a more in-depth article on the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes in dogs written by a veterinarian, visit Caring For Your Diabetic Dog.