Diabetes occurs in approximately 0.2 to 1 percent of the general feline population.1 It can develop at any age, but it’s more common in middle-aged to older cats and it tends to occur more often in overweight cats. Unfortunately, according to veterinarians, obesity-related diabetes is on the rise in our feline friends. This is borne out in Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2016 State of Pet Health Report, which found that cat diabetes rose over 18 percent between 2006 and 2015.2
While there is no known cure for diabetes mellitus in felines, the good news is cats with the condition can live fairly normal lives if the disease is diagnosed early and they receive daily treatment to control the disease. In this article, we’ll discuss cat diabetes, outlining the symptoms associated with it and the treatment given.
Understanding Cat Diabetes
As with humans, cats can suffer from both Type 1 and Type II diabetes, but the latter is by far the more common form of the disease. Male cats are more prone to diabetes than females. The illness develops when the body can no longer produce or use insulin properly. This makes the cells in a cat’s body unable to absorb glucose, thus starving the animal of energy.
Cats with chronic pancreatitis and hormonal disorders such as hyperthyroidism and Cushing’s disease are also at risk for diabetes. For pet owners who want to gauge whether their cat is overweight and possibly in danger of developing diabetes, there’s a simple way to do so. Run your hands over your pet’s chest. You should be able to feel their ribs but not see them. Next, look down at your pet while standing directly above them. Your pet should have what resembles a waist that pulls in slightly in front of their hips.
If left undetected or untreated, feline diabetes can cause other health issues. Ketoacidosis is the most harmful of the possible complications resulting from diabetes. This happens when the breakdown of fat and protein cells becomes so burdensome that your cat’s body is starving even though it’s eating normally. Signs of ketoacidosis include appetite loss, weakness or lethargy, abnormal breathing, dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you don’t seek immediate veterinary care to get your cat fluids and insulin, the situation could lead to death.
Cat Diabetes Symptoms
The most common symptom associated with cat diabetes is increased urination. This symptom may not be obvious to some owners, as it can be hard to detect an increase in urination in homes that have multiple cats using the same litter box. In some cases, a cat might begin relieving itself outside of their litter box due to a need to frequently urinate.
Other symptoms of cat diabetes may include:
- Increased thirst
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
It should be noted that these are similar to symptoms that are also seen in other common cat diseases. Once your cat exhibits changes in behavior or any unusual symptoms, it should be taken in to be checked by a veterinarian.
Cat Diabetes Treatment
Diabetes in cats is diagnosed via bloodwork and urinalysis. Cats with diabetes will exhibit high levels of glucose in their blood and glucose in their urine. Once a diagnosis of diabetes is made, the veterinarian will usually start a cat on insulin injections.
Insulin & Glucose Curves for Cats
When a cat is started on insulin they will have a glucose curve done. A glucose curve tracks the glucose level of the cat over several hours. The cat will be dropped off at the vet for the day. The cat’s glucose level will be checked first thing after they are dropped off. The cat will then be fed and given its morning insulin dose.
The cat’s blood will then be drawn at increments throughout the day to monitor its glucose level. The curve of the glucose levels will help the veterinarian determine if further care will be needed– such as adjusting dosage levels. The cat will need to come in periodically to have the glucose curve performed to make sure that no adjustments need to be made to the insulin dose. Most cat owners will be able to give their animal daily insulin injections at home.
Changing Your Diabetic Cat’s Diet
In addition to insulin injections, you might need to change your cat’s diet in order to control its weight and blood sugar. Food that is high in fiber and complex carbohydrates or a low-carbohydrate, high protein diet can be helpful to your cat’s condition. It’s possible that your vet might put your cat on a prescription diet.
Like all ailments that occur in animals, early detection and proper veterinarian care leads to the best possible outcome. One thing that will easily allow you to give your cat the best possible care is pet insurance. Knowing that you don’t have to worry about your pet’s unexpected veterinary costs can take a load off of your mind and enables you to focus solely on the well-being of your feline family member.
1 Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (2017, May). Feline Diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-diabetes
2 Hospital, B. P. (2016). State of Pet Health 2016 Report. Retrieved from Banfeld Pet Hospital: https://www.banfield.com/Banfield/media/PDF/Downloads/soph/Banfield-State-of-Pet-Health-Report-2016.pdf