Our Veterinary Referral Associates vets are seeing more and more cases of diabetes in cats. Left untreated this condition can threaten your cat's quality of life, and longevity. Here is some signs pet parents should watch out for, as well as treatments available for cats with diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus is a condition that cats can develop when blood sugar, or glucose, cannot be effectively utilized and regulated by the body.
Insulin is produced in the pancreas and controls the flow of glucose to the body's cells to provide energy. If your cat's insulin levels are too low, glucose is unable to reach the cells as it should. When this happens, the cat's body begins breaking down fat and protein cells to use for energy, while the unused glucose gradually builds up in the cat's bloodstream.
Type I and Type II Diabetes in Cats
- Type I (Insulin-Dependent) - While rare in cats, Type I Diabetes occurs when the cat's body is unable to produce or release enough insulin into the body.
- Type II (Non-Insulin Dependent) - Type II Diabetes is most common in overweight male cats over 8 years of age, and those cats which eat a high-carbohydrate diet. A cat with Type II diabetes produces enough insulin, but the tissues or organs do not respond appropriately to insulin and have become insulin-resistant.
Cat Diabetes Symptoms
A diabetic cat’s body breaks down protein and fat instead of using glucose, which means that even cats with a healthy or ravenous appetite, will often lose weight. Untreated diabetes in cats can lead to several health complications and symptoms, such as:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased appetite
- Lethargy or weakness
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Walking flat on the backs of their hind legs
- Unhealthy coat and skin
Diabetes in cats that are left untreated can lead to a variety of debilitating, expensive, and potentially fatal conditions. If your cat is showing symptoms of diabetes it is important to seek veterinary care. There is no cure for diabetes in cats, however, the condition can often be managed through treatment.
Treatment Options for Diabetes in Cats
An official diagnosis from your cat's vet is the first step in the process. Your vet will then prescribe daily management of the condition with insulin injections, (which your vet may train you to give at home). You may also need to make changes to your cat's diet to ensure that they’re getting the right combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. In more severe cases, your vet may recommend a special prescription food to help manage your cat's diabetes.
If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, regular visits to the vet for blood sugar tests will be essential, or if you prefer, ask your vet if testing your cat’s glucose at home is an option. You may also find it helpful to keep a diary of your cat's appetite and litter use so that any changes are spotted early and checked out.