Cat Diabetes: Symptoms to Watch For & Treatment Options

What is cat diabetes?

The clinical name for cat diabetes is diabetes mellitus. This chronic disease stems from the inability to produce or effectively use insulin – the hormone created by the pancreas to control the flow of glucose (blood sugar) to the body’s cells. The rest of the body then receives the energy produced.

However, if the pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin, the cells in your cat’s body won’t receive this essential glucose. Instead, the body will feed on fat and protein cells for energy, while glucose will stay in the bloodstream, unused. Eventually, it will accumulate.

Similar to humans, cats can get two types of diabetes:

Type I (insulin-dependent)

The cat’s body does not produce or release enough insulin to send to the body’s cells.

Type II

While the cat’s body may produce enough insulin, organs or tissues resist it. More insulin is required to properly produce glucose than if your cat were healthy. Type II diabetes is most commonly found in elderly obese male cats – 8 years of age and older.

Those with a carbohydrate-rich diet are also at higher risk. Since their bodies are unable to use the fuel in their food, they may have an insatiable appetite.

Signs & Symptoms of Cat Diabetes

Instead of properly utilizing glucose, a cat’s body will break down protein and fat – so, even cats with a normal, healthy appetite and who eat on a regular schedule will continue to lose weight. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to other health complications or symptoms, including:

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  • Dehydration
  • Increased thirst
  • Unhealthy coat and skin
  • Increased urination
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Bacterial infections
  • Liver disease
  • Diarrhea or vomiting

Subtle Signs

  • Drop in physical activity (unable or uninterested in jumping)
  • Walking flat on the backs of their hind legs (as a result of nerve damage)

How is diabetes in cats treated?

Though there is no cure yet for cat diabetes, treatment typically involves getting the condition officially diagnosed and carefully managing the condition with daily insulin injections. Ask if your veterinarian is able to train you to provide these at home.

Your four-legged companion’s diet may need to change so you can ensure they’re receiving the proper combination of fiber, protein and carbohydrates. They may also benefit from a prescription food developed especially for diabetic cats.

What can I do?

Though cat diabetes must be closely monitored, your four-legged best friend can still enjoy quality of life if they’ve received a diagnosis.

In addition to daily insulin injections, regular checkups are important as your vet will take the opportunity to monitor your cat’s response to treatment, his blood sugar and other health indicators. You may also ask if their glucose can be tested at home. Also, make sure their appetite and litter box use are closely monitored.

Your senior pet’s annual exam will also be key, so your vet can catch any emerging health issues, then effectively diagnose and treat them. This is critical, as issues that are spotted early can often be treated more effectively.

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.

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About the Author: Tung Chi