Diabetes in Cats

Diabetic cats can go in remission
Diabetes is a common disease in humans. Many don't realize cats and dogs can also be affected. Diabetes in cats is a complex disease, caused by either a lack of insulin or an inadequate response to insulin. It is a manageable disorder, and most diabetic cats can lead happy and healthy lives. Some even go into remission.

What Is Diabetes?

When a cat eats, the digestive system breaks food into various components. One of these is glucose, which is carried into the cells by insulin. If a cat doesn't produce insulin - or can't utilize it - blood sugar levels elevate. The result is hyperglycemia.
Diabetes is classified as either Type I - lack of insulin production - or Type II - impaired insulin production along with an inadequate response to it. Cats with Type II diabetes can progress to Type I, and by the time a cat is diagnosed, it has usually turned into Type I. These cats will require insulin therapy to survive. Cats with Type II may respond to other forms of treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats?

The following are signs that your cat may be diabetic:
Change in appetite (either increased or decreased)
Weight loss
Excessive thirst/increase in water consumption
Increased urination
Urinating in areas other than litter box
Unusually sweet-smelling breath
Unkempt hair coat
Urinary tract infection

What Causes Diabetes in Cats?

The exact cause of diabetes is unknown. Genetics, pancreatic disease, certain medications and abnormal protein deposits in the pancreas can play a role. Other factors include obesity, age, and gender - male cats are more commonly afflicted.

How Is Diabetes Diagnosed?

To properly diagnose diabetes, your veterinarian will collect information about clinical signs, perform a physical examination and check blood work and urinalysis.

How Is Diabetes Treated?

Every cat is an individual and will respond differently to therapy. Diabetes treatment is based on how severe the signs of disease are, and whether there are any other health issues that could complicate therapy.
  • Some cats are seriously ill when first diagnosed and require intensive hospitalized care for several days to regulate their blood sugar levels.
  • Cats who are stable when first diagnosed may respond to oral medication or a high-fiber diet.
  • For most cats, insulin injections will be necessary for adequate regulation of blood glucose. Once your pet’s individual insulin treatment is established, typically based on weight, you will be shown how to give him his insulin injections at home.

Your vet may also show you how to perform glucose tests at home.

What Should I Know About Treating My Diabetic Cat at Home?

It is important to always give your cat insulin at the same time every day, and feed regular meals in conjunction with her medication; this allows increased nutrients in the blood to coincide with peak insulin level. This will lower the risk of  sugar levels swinging too high or too low. You can work with your vet to create a feeding schedule around your pet’s medication time. It is also important to avoid feeding your diabetic cat treats high in glucose.

Can Diabetes Be Prevented?

A proper diet and regular exercise can go a long way to avoid the development of feline diabetes. Aside from other negative effects, obesity is known to contribute to insulin resistance.

What Can Happen if Diabetes Goes Untreated?

If a diabetic cat is not treated, they can develop kidney disease, neurological disorders, or other metabolic diseases. Cats with Type I diabetes require insulin therapy for survival.
If you suspect your cat might have developed diabetes, contact your veterinarian.