Bulldozers bring new urgency

WITH the bulldozers moving into our old hospital on Monday it was with a renewed sense of urgency that we cleared out the last of our worldly goods.

The Whorral Bank hospital is finally fully operational. Moving everything from stationery and computers to medical equipment has been a mammoth task, but by last weekend the place was beginning to feel like home.

Staff and equipment are all very well, but our entire reason for being is our patients. One of the first in our new dog ward was Fred, a Tibetan Mastiff. He certainly was a test of our facilities, being about 70kg in weight — bigger than the majority of our nurses. Fred was spending a few days with us because his diabetes had become unstable.

Diabetes mellitus is a common condition in dogs and cats. Interestingly, degus (a sort of giant gerbil) all have a genetic predisposition. It is caused by either a lack of insulin in the blood, or cells in the body not responding to insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone to control sugar levels in the body. The lack of insulin means that there is too much sugar in the bloodstream. The extra sugar is lost in urine so diabetic pets urinate and drink more than usual. The lack of insulin also means that there is too little glucose in the cells of the body, which leads to weakness, weight loss and hunger.

A lack of insulin production is the most common cause in cats and dogs, but we are seeing an ever increasing number of diabetic animals, especially cats, where the cause is obesity.

We will often diagnose diabetes at a routine health check — a dog or cat that is drinking and peeing more than usual is one of the first signs. A simple urine test is often enough to point us in the right direction.

Treatment is quite straight forward in most cases, though does require a lot of commitment from the pet owner. Treatment is with insulin injections. These are often given twice a day at mealtimes. In virtually all patients, some dietary changes are needed. This is especially true in the case of the larger cat or dog where weight loss can make all the difference. Initial stabilisation can sometimes take a month or two, and very frequent visits to the vet for blood tests are often needed.

Sometimes it can be a little more stressful, as in Fred’s case, although I’m pleased to report that we got him sorted out and he is now back home.

If your pet is drinking or peeing more than usual it is always worth booking them in for a check-up. If you can, bring a fresh sample of their urine with you. We can give you some tips over the phone and provide you with the necessary kit if you don’t have a suitable container.

Chris Green, Director and Senior Vet