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Saturday, 26 August 2017

Dogs Get Diabetes Too!

It’s fairly well-known that Diabetes is a disease that affects people but did you know that dogs get diabetes too? In fact Diabetes Mellitus (to give it its full name) is one of the most common endocrine conditions seen in dogs. The term endocrine relates to glands whose secretions (hormones) flow directly into the blood stream.

This is not a definitive guide but provides an overview of Diabetes Mellitus, helping the reader gain a better understanding of what causes the disease, the effect it has on a dog and how to manage it.

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes Mellitus is a complex condition caused by resistance to, a deficiency or a complete lack of a hormone called Insulin. This hormone is normally released from the Pancreas, a gland that lies close to the stomach. Insulin is responsible for breaking down carbohydrates, fats and proteins and is important for maintaining glucose levels in the blood stream.

If a dog is unable to produce insulin or cannot utilise it properly, its blood sugar level increases and this leads to Hyperglycaemia, a term used to describe excessive glucose in the blood.  If left untreated hyperglycaemia can lead to a number of serious health problems.

The actual cause of Diabetes is still not known although auto-immune disease, obesity, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), tumours and the long term administration of a drug called glucocorticoids can all play a role in its development.

Which dogs are most prone to Diabetes?

It’s more usual to see Diabetes in middle-aged dogs and certain breeds including Poodles, Terriers, Schnauzers and Dachshunds seem to be over represented.  Bitches that haven’t been spayed are at greater risk because of the presence of the female hormone progesterone. However, the condition can occur at any age and in any breed or sex of dog.

Classification of Diabetes Mellitus and what type do most dogs get?

As in man, this condition can be divided into two types. Type I (lack of insulin production) and Type II (insulin resistance).

Type I (insulin dependent diabetes) is the most common form in dogs and ultimately, in order to survive, they require insulin therapy.

Signs and symptoms

Evidence of any of the following symptoms should be reported to your veterinary surgeon immediately.

•             Excessive thirst
•             Increased urination
•             Changes to normal eating patterns (increased hunger or lack of appetite)
•             Lethargy and lack of energy
•             Changes in weight
•             Urinary tract infection
•             Development of cataracts
•             Vomiting and dehydration
•             A sweet smelling breath (Ketoacidosis)

How is Diabetes diagnosed?

The diagnosis is based on evidence of the clinical symptoms and includes the following veterinary investigations:

•             Urinalysis (checking for the presence of glucose in the urine)
•             Fasting blood tests showing a persistently elevated blood glucose level
•             Assessing water intake over a 24 hour period

Treatment and home management

It is extremely unusual for a dog to respond to oral medication and most cases require a combination of injectable insulin and strict dietary management. Most dogs require one insulin injection per day although some benefit from twice daily injections.

The aim of the treatment is to address and correct any of the symptoms and restore the blood glucose level to as near normal as possible. The main objective is to prevent the blood glucose levels swinging too high or too low. Dogs that are seriously ill will be hospitalised and receive intensive care until they have been stabilised. Entire bitches should be spayed.

Once a dog’s individual insulin dose has been established they will be allowed home and owners will be taught how to administer injections and given detailed management instructions.

Owners will usually be asked to keep a note of their dog’s daily routine and to carry out the following tasks regularly:

•             Take urine glucose values each day and/or measure and record blood glucose levels (using simple home test kits)
•             Record the amount of insulin injected
•             Record the amount and time of feeding
•             Assess bodyweight
•             Pre-printed assessment sheets are usually provided by the veterinary surgeon to help owners.


Dietary management plays an essential role in the treatment of Diabetes Mellitus. It is important that the main meal coincides with peak circulating insulin levels so feeding the exact amounts in conjunction with insulin injections is crucial. A high fibre diet with complex carbohydrates helps to prevent fluctuations in blood glucose levels and controls obesity. Feeding the correct composition of fats and proteins is also important.  For these reasons a prescription diet, specifically designed for diabetics should be used rather than a general proprietary brand. Avoid treats, especially those that are high in glucose.

Diabetics should have free access to a fresh supply of clean water at all times.


 Exercise is important in maintaining blood glucose levels and helps with weight loss. It also enhances the mobilisation of insulin. However, the amount and timing of exercise should be consistent and must not vary from day to day.

What is hypoglycaemia?

If too high a dose of insulin is given or if the dog fails to eat after its injection, then there is a risk of it becoming hypoglycaemic. This is when the level of glucose in the bloodstream is too low.
The signs of hypoglycaemia include:

•             Lethargy
•             Muscle tremors
•             Weakness
•             Collapse
•             Diabetic coma and death

What is the first aid treatment for hypoglycaemia?

•             At the first signs administer a glucose rich solution such as honey or glucose and water by mouth. If using a syringe ensure that you do this slowly, giving the dog time to swallow
•             DO NOT administer any oral solutions if the dog is collapsed or unconscious
•             In the above circumstances the dog must be taken to the veterinary surgery as soon as possible where it will be placed on an intravenous infusion of glucose and closely monitored

Do dogs with Diabetes Mellitus have a good quality of life?

The good news is that, provided the condition is quickly diagnosed and the dog has been stabilised, the majority of dogs respond well to treatment. With the appropriate care and management most go on to have a good quality of life.

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Saturday, 19 August 2017

Five Quirky Things About Black Cats

Black cats are often associated with good or bad luck and there are many articles written that refer to the superstitions and folklore that surrounds them. Less well known characteristics of black cats are often overlooked and below are five things that you may not have known about them.

Golden Eye Factor

A black cat's eyes are typically golden, or yellow, in colour and this is because the over-production of melanin that makes their fur so black often causes the cat's irises to reflect this melanism and produce the pigment that gives this golden or yellow colouring.

Gene Factor

To be a true black cat both of the parents need to carry the black colour gene. Though this sounds a fairly simple equation, what you may not know is that the dominant cat fur gene is actually tabby and it is only the added presence of a recessive gene known as a non-agouti that suppresses these tabby markings.

In a cat where this gene is not fully suppressed you may notice that close up, or more especially in bright sunlight, you can make out the faint tabby stripes on the animal's tail or legs and also perhaps see the M marking on the cat's head that is more often characteristic of a tabby cat.

There are said to be around twenty breeds of cat that can produce a black offspring but the only breed of cat that is all black is the Bombay cat and they are often referred to as miniature panthers.

Appearing To Rust

A high degree of exposure to sunlight can lead to a black cat's fur to temporarily take on a rusty reddish- brown appearance. This rusty appearance can also be seen when the cat has an absence of an enzyme called tyrosine.

Interesting Immune System Quirk

Early studies have indicated that black cats may very likely be more resistant to certain diseases than other cats such as Feline HIV and that their genetic makeup may well be of benefit to their immune system

Worldwide Appreciation

There is a growing appreciation of black cats around the globe and this is shown in the fact that there are days designated to the celebration of the dark furred feline. What may be less known is that some of the better-known celebration days actually have different dates and this has caused some confusion on social media amongst the black cat loving fraternity.

Natural Remedies for Cat Lovers

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Can Cats And Dogs See Spirits?

Thought I'd have a break from the norm and write about the potential supernatural powers of cats and dogs.

A lot has been written about about pets in relation to a kind of 'sixth sense' that they are thought to possess. I read an excellent book recently entitled 'Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home And Other Unexplained Powers Of Animals' by Rupert Sheldrake which covers many of the topics around this suggested sixth sense such as premonitions, telepathy etc and it inspired me to study the less well known capabilities of the pets that we share our lives with.

A study carried out by Biologists at City University London found that, contrary to previous opinion, cats and dogs seem to see in UV light. It has long been theorized by some in the the ghost hunting fraternity that spirits are more readily seen in UV light and Ultra Violet lighting tools are sometimes used on ghost hunting expeditions.

A lot of my research has led me to some interesting finds that, although offering no hard evidence, certainly seem to suggest that our pets may see things that we don't on a supernatural level.

Take the story of Del Johnsen a woman who passed away leaving seven dogs and six cats. Witnesses reported her pets acting in a way post-death that suggested that the owner was visiting her pets daily and interacting with them as written about here

Cats and dogs have long been associated with being guides to the spirit world. Cats were allegedly prized by witches as it was thought that cats could be trained to be alert to both good and bad spirits as written about here

I have had personal conversations with pet owners that are convinced that their cat or dog interacts with a playmate that has passed on and many of the conversations relate in detail about the pets only behaving in this way when their pet pals that have passed away were around.

I think it's fair to say that cats and dogs show a lot of intuitive unexplained behaviours and their inability to communicate what they see will always leave us wondering. What I do know is that there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests that cats and dogs react and interact with things that we cannot comprehend which may include spirits.

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Friday, 4 August 2017

A Few Hidden Gems About Cats That You Might Enjoy

I've been trawling the net lately looking for a selection of interesting cat related gems. Below are a few feline related things that may be of interest to cat owners.

Cats working for the UK government

Believe it or not, the British government feeds around one hundred thousand cats that help to keep down the mice population at it's various properties!

Cats actually do 'claim' us

An interesting study in America showed that only 25% of cat owners actually went out with the intention of acquiring a cat. In the remaining 75% of the cat owning population the cats were spontaneously acquired.

Cats falling from buildings

Studies have shown that cats have a higher chance of survival falling from a higher storey of a building than a lower one. Cats were determined to have a non-fatal terminal velocity of around 60 miles per hour. There are documented cases of cats surviving falls from as high as 30 storeys. The cats ability to orient themselves mid-air was considered the main factor in high survival rates when falling from buildings.

Cats are master predators

It is estimated that cats in the United States kill around 5 billion rodents and 1 billion birds every year!

Cats have whiskers on their legs

Cat owners may be forgiven for not noticing this but cats have whiskers on the rear inside of their front legs around the dew claw area. The reason for this is up for debate but it's thought that the sensory nature of these added whiskers may be an added bonus for the cat to determine the nature of caught prey as their short distance vision is not so sharp.

The whiskers referred to above are known as carpal whiskers or to give them their fancier term carpal vibrissae.