Chris Tomlinson, 23rd March 2017

Chris Tomlinson, 23rd March 2017

Chris Tomlinson, Veterinary surgeon. Westover Veterinary Centre, North Walsham.

Seemingly our two main companion animals, cats and dogs, have a one in 500 risk of developing diabetes, but the treatment for each, Chris explained, is quite different. Whilst these animals offer both companionship and a stress-reducing effect, dogs are also often recommended to diabetics as the means of getting the owner to take more exercise! Most of the audience it appeared owned either a cat or dog thus there was great and interested participation in the talk.

Unlike dogs, cats do not readily show signs of stress (which raises blood sugar) but signs such as urinating in the house and blood in urine may also be indicators of diabetes. However the usual signs include appetite change, weight loss and increased drinking and urinating. Diagnosis testing is difficult using the urine dip test, though sometimes urine can be extracted from the bladder. Thus a blood sample will be laboratory analysed for serum fructosamine that gives a three-week retrospective view of blood sugar levels. This test is also used for monitoring as it indicates how treatment and diet have worked, and from this the insulin dose may be calculated, though in this, as with humans, the more immediate blood glucose test can be used but with cats from an ear-pricked spot of blood.

Cats can develop both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and a long-acting insulin specifically for cats is used. Diet too is just as important with wet foods causing less weight gain than dry foods. Fat cats not only have an increased risk of diabetes but cystitis too, where the urethra become blocked.

Dogs normally just develop Type 1 diabetes with some breeds being more susceptible. Weight loss and increased drinking are the usual indicators of such a problem. Additionally as dogs scavenge some of the things they eat can damage the pancreas and its insulin producing cells. Dogs also are administered an insulin developed specifically for them and treatment usually involves one injection a day (sometimes two) and plotting a glucose curve to establish the correct dosage.

Our more sedentary lifestyle with increased food consumption relates to dogs too, as they need plenty of exercise and for most pets lower GI foods to keep their weight under control. Overweight dogs can also suffer with arthritis and Chris mentioned that dental chews could be fattening. However Chris recommended raw (non-weight bearing) bones as the best way of cleaning teeth since gum infections can increase blood sugar levels. Urinary tract problems and loss of sight are also common complications.

The ongoing cost of diabetes treatment can be a cause of concern to low income groups such as pensioners, thus good diet and exercise become all the more important as a means of delaying diabetes onset.

Following keen questioning, the audience showed its very real appreciation of Chris’s talk.