If you notice that your pet is consuming large amounts of water coupled with frequent passing of large amounts of urine, he, or more frequently she, may have diabetes mellitus. This aptly named disease literally means sweet water, and is called so due to the large amount of sugar that is passed in the urine. This excess sugar actually pulls the water out of the body leading to an almost insatiable thirst in an attempt to replace the lost fluid.
The cause of this disease is a failure of the pancreas to produce enough insulin. Understanding the function of insulin is key to understanding the symptoms of diabetes. Insulin allows a sugar (glucose) which is circulating in the blood to enter into the cells of the body. Glucose is the food that all cells use for energy. Without enough insulin, this energy is not available to the cells; they literally are starving in the midst of plenty. As more and more glucose accumulates in the bloodstream, it gradually spills over into the urine — the only means of escape. In an attempt to feed itself, body fat is used as an alternative energy source. It is easy to see why our diabetic pets show symptoms of increased thirst and urination coupled with a healthy appetite and weight loss.
Treatment of diabetes involves supplementing the body with injectable insulin as well as regulating diet. Most diabetics do best on diets which are high in fiber content – a Pritikin type of diet which allows a continual and even absorption of glucose from the intestinal tract. The more consistent the daily routine, the more effective is the regulation of the blood sugar. Feeding the same quantity and type of food at the same time each day will contribute to a successful regulation of diabetes. Some patients require insulin injections to be given once a day, but most patients will require twice a day administration. It is important to always feed a meal just prior to the injection of insulin to insure that there is enough glucose in the system to prevent hypoglycemia — a condition where the blood sugar drops too low, thus triggering seizures or collapse. Administering honey or Karo syrup orally easily remedies this complication by supplying the glucose necessary to restore the blood level to normal. Monitoring the patient’s water consumption is one of the most reliable ways in which you can gauge the effectiveness of the insulin dosage. As a diabetic patient becomes better controlled, water consumption will drop. If water consumption starts increasing, it may be a sign that more insulin is needed.
Diabetes is a very serious condition and if not treated properly will result in the death of the patient. Your veterinarian will advise treatment based on the findings of blood and urine tests. Diabetic pets that are effectively regulated can lead normal and productive lives.
NOTE: You might also want to read:
Increased water consumption by pets, Part 1