What is diabetes mellitus (DM)?
First, a quick overview - bear with us. The word diabetes comes from ancient Greek and means siphon, or running through (referring to the large volume of urine) and mellitus is Latin for sweet. The disease is appropriately named because diabetics are siphons for sweet urine. DM in animals works the same way as it does in humans. When you eat a meal, carbohydrates and sugars passing through your gut get absorbed to your bloodstream in the form of glucose.
Insulin is a hormone which signals your body to move glucose from your blood into muscles and organs to be either used for energy right away or stored for later use. In diabetic animals, insulin is either not present or not doing its job. This leaves too much glucose in the blood, where it can't be used. Hyperglycemia is the specific word used to describe having too much glucose in the blood. It is normal for an animal to be hyperglycemic right after a meal, especially one high in carbohydrates, but diabetes is characterized by “persistent fasting hyperglycemia.” An animal who is persistently hyperglycemic would have too much glucose in their blood regardless of when they last ate a meal. The blood glucose levels will get so high that glucose leaves in large quantities through the urine – hence sweet siphon – Diabetes mellitus.
How do I know if my animal has diabetes?
The three cardinal signs of diabetes in our furry friends are
- Increased drinking
- Increased urine output
- Increased eating without weight gain
These symptoms alone are not enough to diagnose diabetes. Bloodwork and urine tests will confirm the disease. If this list sounds like your animal at home, bring them into your local veterinarian. Pets will lose weight over time if the diabetes is not controlled. Some dogs can suddenly develop bright white cataracts and lose vision.
How do we treat Diabetes Mellitus?
Treating diabetes is a team effort, and you as the owner will be the most important member of that team! Insulin and diet modification are the mainstay of treatment. There are many different types of insulin which work in unique ways. Your veterinarian will develop a plan specific to your animal, but you are the one who will be carrying out this plan. In general, a diabetic food will have less simple carbohydrates to prevent a big spike in blood glucose after a meal. You will also perform once or twice daily insulin injections. Don’t worry! You do not need to be a trained nurse to do this correctly. The needle is super small, and your pet will hardly feel the poke. Your vet team will show you how to do this when your animal is diagnosed.
How do I know that the treatment plan is working?
The goal of treating diabetes is to avoid the clinical signs (increased drinking, urination, eating) while avoiding hypoglycemia (dangerously low levels of blood glucose). It may take a couple months to get there as we get used to the new diet and find the appropriate insulin type and dose. At home monitoring is very important in this process!
I would encourage every owner of a diabetic pet to keep a daily log of appetite, thirst (increased or decreased) and insulin dose. This is especially important for newly diagnosed and geriatric animals. Lucky for you (and us!), there are many innovative ways to monitor your pet’s diabetes from home. You can buy a litter additive that will change color if your cat is shedding glucose in the urine. Another great new monitoring tool is the FreeStyle Libre blood glucose monitor. For up to 14 days, your pet will have a tiny probe under its skin, continuously sampling the glucose. You will scan the patch with your phone every 8 hours or so and an app will send that data right to your vet! This product was originally developed for humans, so we know that the probe size and placement are not bothersome for everyday life.
To summarize… a well-controlled diabetic will have a stable weight, and eat, drink and pee a normal amount.
Quick note on HYPOglycemia…
Hypoglycemia is a term that describes too little glucose in the blood. Animals are much better at tolerating HYPERglycemia than they are hypoglycemia. They can live for quite some time with too much glucose in the blood, but too little can get dangerous quickly. Watch for general weakness, collapsing, trembling, and/or seizures. If you see any of these signs, rub honey or corn syrup on your pet's gums and call your vet immediately. Accidental insulin overdose can cause this sort of hypoglycemic shock.
Peter Jorgensen - Iowa State University DVM Candidate '25
The whole family should enjoy celebrating the holiday season, including your furry, feathered, or scaled friends. However, as you browse pet stores or search online, you might wonder what to give your pets this year to help them ring in the season. Below, you'll find a handful of creative holiday gift ideas to keep your pet healthy and happy.
Holiday Gift Ideas for Pets
1. Puzzle Feeders
Keeping food out in bowls throughout the day may cause dogs and cats to overeat and become overweight. Luckily, you can slow them down and make meals more fun by providing them with puzzle feeders. These devices hold food in various compartments and require animals to manipulate them in certain ways to release kibble. In addition to making meals last longer, this can provide pets with extra exercise, as they must work to solve puzzles before eating. Puzzle feeders hidden around the house give cats the chance to use their natural hunting and foraging skills, leaving you with a more interactive content cat. They also have the advantage of separating you from being the only source of food so your hungry kitty is more likely to search the house for nibbles at 4am rather than wake you up. Got a pet bird? Hiding food in paper boxes, dried pasta, or stuck into cork can provide them some fun mental stimulation and keep them active.
2. New Beds
If your pet has sensitive joints or arthritis, it might be difficult or painful for them to lie on the floor. Instead, a new bed can make your dogs and cats feel more comfortable while resting and taking naps. If your furry friend enjoys sleeping in warm areas, a heated bed can match their body temperature and ensure they remain cozy. On the other hand, if your pet likes to sleep in cooler spaces, an elevated bed with a steel frame can create a breezy effect that prevents the bedding from becoming too warm.
3. Interactive Toys
Most pets enjoy playtime and the opportunity to spend time with their owners. As such, giving your pets interactive toys for the holidays can help them get the most out of playtime, while also getting extra exercise to maintain a healthy weight. These toys may also provide mental stimulation to improve cognition and prevent boredom while you're away from home for the holidays. For cats, you might choose products that simulate the hunting experience by popping toy "prey" out of various compartments, prompting your feline to chase and pounce on them. For dogs, digging toys featuring fabric flaps under which you can hide their favorite toys and treats will let them have fun foraging and retrieving them.
4. The gift of good health!
We are an animal hospital, after all - the most important gift on our list is a checkup! We can catch your friend up on any needed preventive care and look for any minor ailments that may have creeped up over the past few months. Itchy or dry skin, slowing down, drinking more - all of these can be helped with the right diagnosis and a plan that fits your busy schedule.
So enough about the cicadas - what about our pets?
Dogs and less fastidious cats will try to snack on the cicadas and their shells.
Eating one or two cicadas is highly unlikely to cause any harm, unless your pet happens be allergic (very rare, but possible, just like some people are allergic to bee stings).
Supervise your pet outside, since the hard insect exoskeleton could cause choking.
Eating a lot of cicadas can lead to GI problems:
The bottom line - don't let your pets eat a lot of the cicadas, but don't panic if they grab a small snack. Now is a great time to teach the "drop it" command if you haven't already - you'll have lots of chances to practice it in the weeks ahead! No time to teach a command? Spend 5 minutes a day getting your dog used to wearing a basket muzzle - they're roomy enough that your pooch can eat treats, drink water, and pant while wearing one, but won't be able to pick cicadas up off the ground.
Spring brings warm weather, flowers, and allergies, and it's not just us humans who can be affected. Dogs and cats can have allergies to pollen, grasses, trees, food ingredients, and even to pet dander. So what can we do to help?
How to treat allergies:
Unfortunately, allergies aren't usually curable. They can be managed, but your itchy pet will likely need some help every time they get exposed to their trigger.
First step - reduce exposure
Is cure ever possible?
Certain pets can actually be cured of their allergies through a process called allergy immunotherapy. Skin testing is the most accurate way to find out what triggers your pet's allergies. Blood testing is becoming more accurate every year. Once the allergens are known, injections are prepared with increasing amounts of those triggers to gradually desensitize your pet. The process takes about a year.
Pets with food sensitivities (about a quarter of all allergic pets) can usually be controlled by limiting what they eat and avoiding the trigger food once we find out what it is. While not actually cured, these pets get to be comfortable without medications most of the time.
2. Can pets spread Covid? Maybe.
In laboratory settings, certain animals have spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others of the same species housed together. Cats, ferrets, and hamsters infected with the virus should be considered contagious to other cats, ferrets, and hamsters. Dogs do not seem to spread the virus to other dogs.
Most importantly, pets do NOT seem to be able to spread the virus back to people. No pet to person transmission has been documented at this time.
3. What should pet owners do?
Thankfully, you can protect your pet the same way you are protecting everyone else in your family. Follow CDC guidelines by wearing a mask, washing hands frequently, and continuing to social distance to decrease your risk of catching Covid-19.
Testing pets for Covid is only available with approval from the State Veterinarian or through university research studies. If someone in your household has Covid and your pet is showing respiratory signs, please call us.
If you have Covid:
If your pet tests positive for Covid:
Are there real holiday hazards?
However, there are some truly toxic plants that can cause more severe illness in our curious dogs and cats.
Traditional holiday plants to keep out of reach:
Beware that some decorations can be dangerous:
While we're enjoying some extra treats this month, keep the following ingredients out of your pets' reach to avoid a trip to the vet:
If you have any concerns about what your pet just got into, call ASPCA Poison Control: (888) 426-4435
No one likes coming home to find a mess - whether that's an object torn to shreds, furniture damaged, or pee or poop to clean up. But chances are, your dog (or, very rarely, cat) isn't actually out to get you. He or she is more likely to be scared or nervous, and the mess is the symptom of that anxiety.
It's normal for pets to be unhappy when their owners leave. But most pets can settle down to nap while their owners are away.
So what is separation anxiety? Separation anxiety is a medical condition where your dog experiences distress when left alone. These pets may cause harm to themselves or their environment in their need to escape or their drive to comfort themselves.
Signs of separation anxiety include:
What triggers separation anxiety?
Any change in routine can trigger anxious behavior. This can include absence of a family member, like a new work or school schedule or a trip. The absence doesn't have to be long, and some pets will start to show anxious behaviors before the person even leaves. Moving is another stressful even that can trigger anxious behavior. Puppies can show anxiety when separated from their littermates, and senior dogs can develop anxiety in their old age.
How do you treat separation anxiety?
The first thing to do is consult your veterinarian. Your pet may have a medical condition that is causing the behavior change, and treating the problem may fix the behavior. Some examples include pets who are uncomfortable from arthritis, drinking, urinating, and panting more than usual because of Cushing's disease, or are hyperactive or aggressive from an overactive thyroid (cats).
Once medical issues are ruled out, training starts. Many pets will also benefit from calming supplements and/or medications to allow their anxiety to subside enough that learning can occur.
The first step in training is to provide your pet with proper exercise. A bored pet is more likely to get into trouble. A tired pet is more likely to rest until you come home. Make sure to stimulate your pet's mind as well as body with new games and activities.
Now, start training your pet to "settle". This is a command that you train, just like "sit" or "stay". It means your pet goes to a designated spot like a bed or a crate and relaxes in place. At first, your pet will settle for a very short time. Gradually increase the length of time and the distance you move away before releasing your pet from the command. Use treats and positive reinforcement to keep teaching this command stress-free. Be patient! Once you can leave the room for a short time and return without your pet moving from their settle, you are ready to leave the house for a short time. When you come home, great your pet with the release word and a calm demeanor.
Severely affected pets need additional help beyond training.
Solliquin or Zylkene are calming supplements that decrease the fight-or-flight response and allow learning to occur. Some pets will also respond well to hemp-based supplements - but be careful to avoid any THC, which is extremely toxic to dogs and cats.
Anti-depressants like fluoxetine or clomipramine are also very helpful to get the process started for some pets. Start with an appointment with your veterinarian to get your pet the help they need.
It's blazing hot outside, so it's time to take a moment to make sure our four-legged friends are safe and comfortable. A new study of almost a million dogs in Britain confirmed what veterinarians have long suspected - older dogs, overweight dogs, and certain breeds are at increased risk of heat-related illness.
Which breeds are at most risk?
Working dogs can also succumb to heat stroke because they are so eager to please. They will often continue running to the point of collapse rather than stopping to take the break they need.
Older dogs can be more susceptible because of underlying lung or heart conditions that may be mild or asymptomatic during temperate weather and only show up in hot weather.
Overweight dogs are also more prone to overheating because their airways are narrowed by the excess fat and the excess weight acts like a marine mammal's blubber, trapping body heat inside.
Rabbits are also very susceptible to the heat. They can tolerate cold temperatures much more easily. Rabbits kept outdoors should have a shaded hutch, a fan to move air and open hutch sides to allow a breeze, and a frozen water bottle to lay on in addition to fresh drinking water.
So how do you prevent heat exhaustion?
If you have a dog or cat who is at risk of heat-related illness, avoidance is the key.
Notice the signs of heat exhaustion early:
If you think your pet is too hot:
When is a mosquito bite more than just an itchy annoyance for your dog, cat, or ferret? When that mosquito is carrying a parasite called heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis). Found in all 50 states but most prevalent in the South and Midwest, heartworms are transmitted from one pet to the next by a mosquito.
Heartworms start as tiny microfilaria that can only be seen under a microscope. Over the next 6 months they lodge in the vessels of the heart and lungs and grow to be over a foot long. Adult heartworms can live in your pet for up to 7 years, and create thousands of baby heartworms that will be transmitted to other pets through new mosquitoes.
Heartworm disease is the syndrome caused by these worms living inside your pet. At the beginning, your dog will not show any signs of illness. Early signs of illness can include decreased activity, decreased appetite, weight loss, and/or mild cough. Over time, the heartworms can cause heart failure, kidney failure, or sudden death. Cats and ferrets can get severe disease from just a couple worms, and unfortunately there is no treatment for heartworm in these pets.
Dogs can be treated for heartworms with a medication called immiticide. This kills the adult heartworms and then your dog's immune system will gradually break down the worms. Treating heartworm is a very time-consuming and expensive process. It must be done gradually, because the dead worms can cause potentially fatal clots. Your dog is absolutely NOT allowed to run during the months of treatment because exercise can dislodge a worm and cause sudden death. In order to decrease this risk, we start with a month of an antibiotic to weaken the worms prior to the immiticide and steroids to decrease the inflammation in the lungs following the American Heartworm Society Guidelines.
So, that's all the bad news. What's the good news?
The good news is that heartworm disease is completely preventable. There are many preventive medications available that stop the baby heartworms from developing into adult disease-causing worms. Adding in mosquito repellent provides another layer of protection.
It's hard to concentrate in the midst of a global pandemic, but spring is bringing back all the usual pests and our pets need protection. So to keep your pets safe from disease-carrying fleas and ticks, here's what you need to know - we've put it into the mnemonic that's top of mind these days.
So by following the tips above you can keep your pets free of fleas and ticks this year - and give yourself one less thing to stress over. Questions about your particular pet? Just give us a call at 513-791-7912 and we'll be happy to discuss the best product for your individual situation.