Diabetes In Cats


Diabetes in cats is a chronic condition, but it doesn't have to affect your cat's quality of life. Learn what steps to take if you suspect your cat has diabetes and how to manage it with our comprehensive guide.

Cat diabetes is manageable with the proper treatment and care, ensuring your pet can still enjoy a good quality of life. With some extra care, your cat will soon return to its normal self, playing, seeking attention, and getting into harmless trouble like before.

As a cat owner, your role in managing your cat's diabetes is crucial. Whether your cat has diabetes or you want to learn more about this condition, please continue reading to discover the symptoms of cat diabetes and how to manage it effectively.

Diabetes In Cats

Like humans, cats can develop different types of diabetes. Your veterinarian will identify the specific kind and explain its nature and treatment. While Type I diabetes is rare in cats and more common in dogs, the most prevalent type in cats is Type II Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus (DM).

Signs Of Diabetes In Cats To Monitor

Identifying cat diabetes symptoms can be challenging because cats often hide their health issues. However, by staying observant, you might notice some signs before they worsen. Common symptoms include:

  • Increased drinking
  • Increased urination
  • Increased eating
  • Weight loss despite increased appetite
  • A decline in coat condition and appearance

If your cat has diabetes, their urine will contain more sugar, which can lead to recurrent urinary tract infections. If your cat frequently gets UTIs, your vet may test for diabetes.

These symptoms can also indicate other medical conditions, so always consult your vet even if you suspect diabetes.

Main Cause Of Diabetes In Cats

The main cause of diabetes in cats is insulin's insufficient or ineffective production. This results in glucose not properly entering the cells to provide energy or insufficient insulin to function effectively.

There are several ways cats can develop diabetes:

Feeding Human Food: Feeding your cat too much "people" food can lead to pancreas inflammation, where insulin-producing cells are located, inhibiting insulin production.

Prolonged Corticosteroid Use: Extended use of steroids can increase a cat's risk of developing diabetes.

Obesity: Excess weight significantly raises the risk of diabetes in cats. Many indoor cats gain weight as they age. If your cat is overweight, consult your veterinarian on how to achieve a healthy weight and reduce diabetes risk.

Immediate Care: If you suspect your cat has diabetes, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Meanwhile, ensure your cat has plenty of water, as they will likely need more frequent refills.

If your cat is very ill or not eating, seek veterinary attention immediately. Loss of appetite in a diabetic cat indicates a severe condition.

Diagnosing Diabetes In Cats

After a physical examination and discussion of your cat's symptoms, your veterinarian will collect blood and urine samples for testing.

In addition to measuring the glucose levels in your cat's blood and urine, the vet will look for signs of other diseases with similar symptoms, such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism.

They will also check for conditions that could complicate diabetes treatment, like infections and diabetic ketoacidosis, which may require hospitalization.

Treatment Of Diabetes In Cats

The goal of treatment is to manage your cat's diabetes effectively, maintaining their blood glucose levels near the normal range and eliminating diabetic symptoms.

Treatment plans are tailored to each cat's needs and may include dietary changes, weight loss, and insulin therapy.

If your cat develops diabetic ketoacidosis, hospitalization will be necessary. They will receive IV insulin and fluids until their blood sugar and electrolytes stabilize and they start eating again. Afterward, they will transition to subcutaneous insulin and be discharged.

Infections can disrupt glucose regulation, so infections, such as common urinary tract infections in diabetic cats, must be treated first. Your veterinarian may recommend regular screenings to prevent these complications.

Home Insulin Treatment

Home insulin therapy begins once your cat's diabetes diagnosis is confirmed and any infections are treated. Your veterinarian will provide instructions and demonstrate how to administer insulin at home.

The choice of insulin depends on various factors, including your cat's needs and cost considerations. The most commonly used insulins for cats are glargine and PZI.

Insulin is typically injected under the skin, usually twice daily, following your cat's meals.

Understanding The Glucose Curve

A glucose curve is performed after your cat has been on insulin for one to two weeks. This involves taking timed blood glucose measurements throughout the day, usually at the veterinary clinic.

Based on your cat's symptoms and test results, the insulin dose is adjusted, and the glucose curve is repeated. This process continues until your cat shows no diabetic symptoms and their blood glucose levels remain within an acceptable range.

This phase of treatment can take several weeks to months, so patience is crucial.

Increasing the insulin dose too quickly can be dangerous and potentially fatal, so your veterinarian will make gradual adjustments for your cat's safety.

High-Protein, Low-Carbohydrate Diet

Treatment also includes transitioning your cat to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate canned food and encouraging weight loss if your cat is overweight.

These dietary changes are as crucial as insulin therapy.

Weight loss is significant for diabetic cats, as it can lead to diabetic remission, where insulin is no longer needed.

Consistency with your cat's weight loss plan is just as important as administering insulin, which can lead to remission.

Managing And Caring For Diabetic Cats

Caring for a cat with a chronic illness like diabetes requires a full commitment. Your cat will need twice-daily insulin injections, possibly for life, and regular blood tests.

Your veterinarian might suggest learning to take blood glucose readings at home. This involves pricking your cat's ear for a drop of blood, similar to how a diabetic person checks their blood sugar.

Doing this at home can save time and money and allows you to monitor your cat's blood glucose in a more comfortable environment.

Stress from vet visits can artificially elevate blood glucose levels. Discuss this with your veterinarian if your cat gets stressed during car rides or at the vet's office.

You can even perform the blood glucose curve at home with some guidance.

Monitoring Insulin Reactions

You need to monitor your cat's response to insulin closely.

If the original symptoms reappear, it might indicate a need for an insulin dose adjustment or a visit to the vet to check for other issues, such as a bladder infection or hyperthyroidism.

Signs of insulin overdose, such as disorientation, unsteadiness, unconsciousness, or seizures, indicate dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

If your cat shows these symptoms, administer a small amount of corn syrup, honey, or maple syrup by mouth—less than one teaspoon to avoid choking. Rub the syrup on the cat's gums and contact your veterinarian immediately, or take the cat to the clinic.

Life Expectancy For Cats With Diabetes

The life expectancy of diabetic cats depends on individual circumstances. For a cat in otherwise good health, well-managed diabetes may not affect their lifespan.

However, some cats may be harder to regulate or have other health issues that affect their prognosis.

Preventing Diabetes In Cats

While diabetes can't be entirely prevented, you can reduce the risk for your cat.

Avoid obesity by encouraging exercise, feeding appropriate cat food, and minimizing long-term steroid use if possible.

If your cat develops diabetes, aim to prevent complications and work towards reducing their insulin dependence through diet and exercise.

The Importance Of Communication In Feline Diabetes Treatment

Maintaining good communication with your veterinarian is crucial. Report any changes in your cat and ask questions about anything unclear, as managing a diabetic cat involves more than basic care.

Communication within the family is also crucial. Decide who will administer the insulin, when, how to record insulin doses, what and when the cat will eat, and the type and number of treats allowed. Ensure everyone knows the symptoms of an insulin overdose and how to respond.

Caring for a diabetic cat requires serious commitment. Proper blood glucose management can help your cat continue leading a happy and healthy life, which is ultimately the most important goal.


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