Preventing and Treating Canine Diabetes
The growing diabetes epidemic is not limited to people—diabetes mellitus is increasing among dogs as well. Researchers estimate that one in 200 dogs will develop the disease. Fortunately, treatment has made huge strides in recent years, and as a result, dogs with diabetes are living longer, healthier lives.
The mechanism of diabetes is relatively simple to describe. Just as cars use gas for fuel, body cells run on a sugar called glucose. The body obtains glucose by breaking down carbohydrates in the diet. Cells then extract glucose from the blood with the help of insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas in specialized cells called beta cells. (The pancreas, an organ situated behind the stomach, produces several hormones.) In diabetes mellitus, cells don’t take in enough glucose, which then builds up in the blood. As a result, cells starve and organs bathed in sugary blood are damaged. Diabetes is not curable, but it is treatable; a dog with diabetes may live many happy years after diagnosis.
Kinds of Diabetes
Humans are subject to essentially three kinds of diabetes. By far the most common is Type 2, followed by Type 1 and gestational diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has typically been a disease of middle and old age (though it is being seen increasingly in young people), and has two causes: The beta cells don’t make enough insulin, or muscle cells resist insulin’s help and don’t take in enough glucose (or both). As a result, blood glucose levels climb. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells, cutting off insulin productio Continue reading