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Filed in Cats, Dogs, Health

There are various medical problems which can cause dogs and cats to lose weight while increasing their intake of food and water. One of the most common, especially among older cats that have a weight problem, is diabetes mellitus. Diabetes is an inability to produce or use insulin properly.

Low insulin levels result in an increase in the cat's blood sugar. When the blood sugar levels get too high, the sugar "spills" over into the urine. The body essentially begins starving for energy when the sugar is lost in the urine.

If left untreated, diabetes can be fatal. The early symptoms include weight loss, weakness, excessive hunger and thirst, and excessive urination. Eventually, acids can build up in the blood, which may result in vomiting, coma and death.

Your veterinarian can test for diabetes with a blood panel and a urinalysis. Diabetes in cats and dogs is controlled the same way as in humans -- usually with a special diet and insulin injections given once or twice a day at home. Recently an oral medication has proven successful in about one-third of feline diabetics, making possible the control of diabetes mellitus without injections.

Pets with diabetes must have a consistent diet, with exactly the same kinds and amounts of food at each meal. Your veterinarian can provide a diet designed specifically for pets with diabetes.

Your veterinarian also will show you how to give insulin to your cat each day. Learning to inject insulin under your pet's skin is not difficult after a little practice. In addition, you may need to test your pet's urine daily to determine the proper doses of insulin. Always keep some sugar syrup available to rub on your pet's gums if her blood sugar ever drops too low, causing convulsions.

Your dog or cat's blood sugar levels will be tested periodically in the veterinary clinic to make sure she is stabilized and on a proper level of insulin.

If your pet's insulin level is kept under control, she can live a fairly normal life. However, cats with diabetes are prone to have suppressed immune systems, making them more susceptible to infections, cataracts and other medical problems.

Diabetes usually occurs in animals older than 6 years of age. Spaying or neutering often is recommended for pets with diabetes because hormones can affect the level of insulin in their bodies.

Source: Ask the Vet, reprinted with permission by Pet Food Express. Ask the Vet is published by Veterinarian's Best, Inc., PO Box 4459, Santa Barbara, CA, 93103.

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