Other health problems

Diabetes in Cats

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: February 22, 2018
Diabetes in Cats

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Diabetes is a disease that requires special care and monitoring to allow the patient to lead a normal life. It is not exclusive to humans, as it also affects many animals, especially dogs and cats.

At AnimalWised we know that if you suspect that your cat may suffer from diabetes you may feel worried and anxious. In order to help you, we'll present a basic guide to the most relevant aspects about this disease. Continue reading to learn all about diabetes in cats, including its symptoms, diagnosis and care.

You may also be interested in: Food for Cats With Diabetes - Diabetic Cat Diet
  1. What is feline diabetes?
  2. What are the causes of diabetes in cats?
  3. What are the symptoms of diabetes in cats?
  4. How is diabetes diagnosed in cats?
  5. How to care for a diabetic cat

What is feline diabetes?

Diabetes melitus or DM is a disease that affects more and more domestic cats around the world every day. It consists of an inability to properly process glucose and other organic compounds present in food that are necessary for the reproduction of cells and the production of energy.

This inability is the result of a failure in insulin production: insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that is responsible for processing the glucose that enters the bloodstream.

There are two types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 DM: The cat's own body destroys the deposits where insulin is produced, which results in not enough insulin to function properly.
  • Type 2 DM: The pancreas releases insulin properly, but the cat's cells resist it and thus the hormone can't work as it should. This is the most common type of diabetes in cats, and it is linked to old age, sedentary habits and obesity.

When glucose cannot be processed, the organism runs out of the energy required to lead a normal life so it starts taking that energy from other cells, which then triggers various health problems.

What are the causes of diabetes in cats?

There are some factors that make your cat more likely to develop diabetes, such as:

  • Obesity, especially in cats over 7 kg (15.7 lb).
  • Old age, especially in cats over 8 years old.
  • Genetic predisposition.
  • Breed: for instance, Burmese cats are at higher risk of diabetes than other breeds.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Cushing Syndrome
  • Use of steroids and corticosteroids in medical treatment.

In addition, neutered male cats suffer from diabetes at higher rates than females do.

What are the symptoms of diabetes in cats?

The symptoms of diabetes in cats may not all come together, but when faced with three of them going to the vet will be necessary to determine whether it is diabetes or some other illness. They include:

  • Excessive thirst.
  • Voracious appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Increased frequency and abundance of urination.
  • Lethargy.
  • Neglect in grooming.
  • Bad appearance in the fur.
  • Vomiting.
  • Difficulty jumping and walking.
  • Plantigrade stance: the cat stands on its rear hocks (similar to human elbows), not on its legs.

If your cat suffers from diabetes, it is likely to eat more and more often but still lose weight. This is a clear sign of diabetes.

If the disease is not treated and controlled, related complications may occur. These include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy, which causes vision problems and even blindness.
  • Neuropathy, consisting in the previously mentioned plantigrade stance.
  • Hyperglycemia, which is a steady accumulation of high blood sugar levels.

It is also necessary to be attentive to the possible development of urinary tract infections, renal insufficiency and liver problems.

Diabetes in Cats - What are the symptoms of diabetes in cats?

How is diabetes diagnosed in cats?

When it comes to diabetes in cats, blood and urine tests are necessary to determine the level of sugar in your cat's blood. However, for many cats the trip to the vet can be a stressful experience: when this happens, it is very likely that the blood test results are not completely safe.

That is why, after a first test done by the veterinarian, it is recommended to collect a urine sample at home after a few days, when the cat is relaxed in its usual environment. This way you'll be able to obtain a more accurate diagnosis.

In addition, it is recommended that the vet also performs atest to measure the presence of fructosamine in the blood, which will determine whether your cat has diabetes or not.

Diabetes in Cats - How is diabetes diagnosed in cats?

How to care for a diabetic cat

The treatment of feline diabetes intends to keep its symptoms under control so that they don't affect the cat's normal life, as well as preventing related complications and prolonging the cat's life and ensuring its healthy existence.

  • If your cat suffers from type 1 DM, treatment requires daily insulin injections.
  • If it has type 2 DM, the most important thing to do will be to introduce a drastic change in the cat's diet, and maybe insulin injections depending on how its state progresses.

Diabetic cats will need a new diet to reduce blood sugar levels. Most processed foods for cats that are sold today contain large amounts of carbohydrates, when in fact a cat's diet should be based on proteins. When you feed a diabetic cat you should minimize the amount of carbohydrates and increase the levels of protein, either with homemade or wet food for cats.

As for insulin injections, only the veterinarian can give you the exact dose your cat requires. They should be administered a maximum of twice a day under the skin of the neck. Insulin therapy aims to provide the cat with the necessary tools for its organism to perform its functions as normally as possible, avoiding complications.

The veterinarian's instructions regarding insulin dose and frequency must be followed to the letter so that the treatment is effective. Before reaching a final dose the cat will need to be monitored for some time to determine the patterns of its glucose levels. There are hypoglycemic oral drugs that can replace insulin injections, but it is the vet who must decide on the best treatment for your diabetic cat.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Diabetes in Cats, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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1 comment
Manik K
Yes I had a Burmese, and she got diabetes, and I had to give her treatments every day. Anyway found an infographic about diabetes in cats
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Diabetes in Cats