What is Cat Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is an internal condition that can develop in cats whose bodies do not produce or effectively use insulin. This hormone is created by the pancreas to control the flow of blood sugar (glucose) to cells that carry energy throughout the body.
However, without enough insulin, the cells don't receive glucose. Instead, the body uses fat and protein cells for energy, while unused glucose remains in the bloodstream and eventually accumulates to excess amounts.
Types of Cat Diabetes
Like humans, cats can get one of the following two types of diabetes:
Type I (Insulin-Dependent)
The body does not produce or release enough insulin.
Type II (Non-Insulin-Dependent)
While the body may produce enough insulin, organs or tissues resist insulin. They require more insulin than a healthy cat's body would need to properly produce glucose. This type of diabetes is common in overweight male cats over 8 years old, and those that eat a high-carbohydrate diet.
Cats with Type II diabetes sometimes have an insatiable appetite, since their bodies are unable to use the fuel in their food.
Diabetes Signs & Symptoms
A diabetic cat's body uses fat and protein instead of glucose. Therefore, even cats with a healthy appetite and who eat regularly will lose weight with this disease. If your cat develops diabetes and it's left untreated, the condition can lead to other health issues and complications, including:
- Increased urination
- Increased thirst
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Weakness or lethargy
- Unhealthy skin and coat
- Liver disease
- Bacterial infections
- Walking flat on the backs of their hind legs (due to nerve damage)
- Decrease in physical activity (unable to jump, or uninterested in jumping)
Treatment Options for Cats with Diabetes Mellitus
Treatment for feline diabetes will depend on the type of diabetes your cat is diagnosed with. Each cat's treatment plan must also be tailored to match its individual blood sugar levels and how well it responds to insulin.
While some cats' diabetes may improve over time and require fewer treatments, others will need treatment for the rest of their lives. All cats with diabetes will need their blood and urine glucose levels checked regularly.
Your cat's treatment plan may include:
Daily Insulin Injections
Your vet will determine the best type of insulin, frequency of injection, and proper dose for your cat, and can train you to administer insulin injections at home. Most cats are given insulin injections under the skin twice a day and generally tolerate this routine well. Keep in mind that if a cat is given too much insulin, it can lead to dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
Nutrition and diet are important factors in treatment, since obesity can impact how well your cat's body responds to insulin. Your veterinarian can recommend the best diet to help your cat gradually lose weight. A prescription diet may be recommended.
The goal is to make sure your feline friend is getting the right combination of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Diabetic cats should also be fed at the same time their insulin injections are administered, as opposed to grazing throughout the day.
Glipizide is an oral medication that lowers glucose levels in cats' blood. Side effects of this drug can include liver damage, loss of appetite, and vomiting, and the drug may not work for all cats. It can also be difficult to administer this drug daily over a long period of time in some cases.
Managing Your Cat's Diabetes at Home
Though cat diabetes must be closely monitored, your fur baby can still enjoy quality of life with the disease. Appetite and litter box use should be tracked, and any complications will need attention right away.
See your vet regularly to have your cat’s blood sugar and response to treatment monitored. If you prefer, ask your vet if testing your kitty’s glucose at home is an option.
Exercise and regular activity are also effective tools in managing diabetes in dogs and cats. Exercise promotes fat loss while increasing blood flow. This can reduce insulin resistance while simultaneously improving insulin absorption. Exercise will also help your cat expend energy that burns glucose.
It’s best to have diabetes in cats of every age diagnosed and treated early. This is especially true if you have a senior feline friend. If any symptoms mentioned above appear in your cat, bring them in to see our veterinarians in Fort Oglethorpe as soon as possible.
Outlook & Possibility of Remission for Cats With Diabetes
According to the American Animal Hospital Association's Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, cat diabetes can be effectively managed. Diabetic remission may even be possible in some cases. With attentive home care that encompasses dietary management, obesity treatment, and monitoring, your cat may no longer need insulin therapy.
Our veterinary team at The Animal Medical Center of Fort Oglethorpe is here to help you manage your cat's health issues so they can live a happy, healthy, and full life. We look forward to meeting you and your four-legged companion. We can also address any questions and concerns you may have about diagnosis, treatment and management of illness and disease.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.