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"Holly" - Collie with Diabetes Mellitus
Photo: Holly

With a supposed "obesity epidemic" hitting Western society, Diabetes mellitus ("sugar diabetes") is a problem being seen increasingly in human medicine. Likewise, with the increase in overweight pets, many vets are seeing a rise in the number of diabetics they treat.

Diabetes arises from the lack of the hormone insulin, produced in the pancreas. This can be because of damage to the pancreas by a number of disease processes, but can also be because of certain factors which make the body resistant to insulin, so that naturally produced insulin is unable to perform it's tasks (regulating the levels of carbohydrates, fat and proteins in the body).

In dogs, the commonest reason for diabetes is that the pancreas has been destroyed so is no longer able to make insulin. In cats, however, other factors such as obesity, hormonal diseases and certain drug treatments can mean that the insulin produced is ineffective. In such cases, weight loss or withdrawing the "suspect" drug can allow the diabetes to resolve.

In cases where the problem remains, and in most canine cases, daily insulin injections must be given to make up for the lack of insulin.

Animals with diabetes usually present with an increased thirst, weight loss, lethargy and sometimes with a ravenous appetite.

"Holly" was first presented to us over the August bank holiday period, with classic symptoms. If left untreated, Holly would be prone to urinary and other infections, and would eventually become very sick due to the build up of certain toxins called "ketones", which are formed when the body cannot utilise it's normal energy sources.

When deciding whether to treat for diabetes, an owner needs to understand the high level of commitment required to manage a diabetic animal. Not only is there considerable expense involved, but an owner must be able to guarantee that they will be able to inject and feed the dog at the same times on a day-to-day basis, morning and evening.

Fortunately for Holly, her owner was williing to take on this commitment. Under instruction from her vets, Holly's owner has soon become adept at administering her daily insulin injection. and Holly is gradually being stabilised.

Fortunately Holly is a co-operative patient - as sweet as sugar, in fact!


Geraldine Young BVSc CertSAM MRCVS.

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