Diabetes In Cats - Definitive Guide For Cat Owners

December 27, 2018

Diabetes in cats is getting more and more common nowadays. While the exact number of cats diagnosed with this disease is estimated to be at around 2% of the cat population, the numbers are suspected to be much higher as a lot of cases are not reported or under diagnosed.

What is feline diabetes

Feline diabetes, or diabetes mellitus is a disease in which the body does not produce enough insulin in the pancreas to regulate the body’s blood sugar (glucose) level or become resistant to insulin. Similarly to humans having diabetes, cats will have a high level of blood glucose. Cast with diabetes will have symptoms similar to humans as well.

Feline diabetes can be divided into two different types, namely type-1 and type-2 diabetes. Type-1 diabetes is due to a shortage of insulin. Cats suffering from type-1 diabetes will require insulin injections to maintain the blood sugar level. This condition is considered the more severe form of diabetes and is known as insulin dependent diabetes mellitus or IDDM for short. Type-1 diabetes may be due to genetic causes.

Type-2 diabetes occurs when the cells are not reacting well to the insulin. This condition is also known as non insulin dependent diabetes mellitus or IDDM for short. As the name implies, cats suffering from this type of diabetes do not need to have insulin injections initially.. However, in most cases of type- 2 diabetes, affected cats will eventually need to have insulin injections.

Cats younger than seven years old are less likely to develop feline diabetes. Most cases of diabetes mellitus happened to older cats. Another interesting thing to note is that male cats are more likely to develop this disease than female cats. Also at risk are obese or overweight cats.

Diabetes while chronic is a treatable disease. If a cat suffering from diabetes is diagnosed early and treated properly, the cat can expect to live out a normal life span. Most cats with diabetes are considered to have type-2 diabetes. For cats with type-2 diabetes, early and effective treatment may lead to remission of the diabetes condition. In such cases, the cats will no longer require injected insulin.

However, if diabetes is left untreated, the condition will cause the affected cat to have weaker legs, dehydration, ketoacidosis, malnutrition and eventually death.

Diabetes may be due to a number of factors. However, poor diet leading to obesity is one of the leading causes of diabetes in cats. This is something that cat owners should look into. The exact cause of feline diabetes is not known, but below is a list of some possible  causes.

  • Certain cats may develop diabetes as a result of genetics.
  • Developing pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Poor and unbalance diet may lead to obesity.
  • Secondary disease as a result of another disease such as Cushing Disease and Hyperthyroidism.
  • Secondary disease as a result of using certain drugs to combat another disease.

Symptoms display by affected cats may vary. However, the symptoms are very similar to those of humans with diabetes, so it is more easily recognizable in a way. Below is a list of symptoms associated with diabetes in cats you should look out for if you suspect your cat of having diabetes.

  • Coat is oily and with dandruff
  • Enlarged liver
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased urination
  • Increased water consumption
  • Jaundice
  • Ketoacidosis may be characterized by depression and vomiting
  • Obesity
  • Tired and lethargic
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Weight loss

Over at the clinic, your vet will require a complete history of your cat’s health, medical history, symptoms and events leading to the visit. Your cat will undergoes some standard tests which include a chemical profile, complete blood count and urinalysis. These tests will be sufficient for initial diagnosis and treatment.

Your vet may recommend other tests such as x-rays or ultrasound to determine other diseases and underlying medical conditions. If your vet suspects a secondary condition such as liver disease, a sample of liver tissue may be taken for further evaluation as well.

Treatment will depend on the results of the tests taken. Dietary change is definitely part of the treatment plan. Insulin injection will be required for those suffering from type-1 diabetes. If insulin injections cannot be used, oral medications may be given instead. Your vet will advise you on the most appropriate treatment plan for your cat. You will also need to bring your cat back to your vet every three to four months for a medical examination and review.

Managing your cat’s diet is one of the very first thing you will be required to do. If your cat is obese, you will need to reduce the calorie intake and make sure your cat has enough exercise. Otherwise, if your cat is slightly overweight, a diet low in carbohydrates will do fine. You have to watch over your cat’s diet carefully to avoid any deterioration of the condition.

Your cat may require a daily or twice daily injections of insulin. A lot cat owners may find it daunting at first to give the shots themselves. However, with practice, it is going to be a piece of cake for you. Your vet will be able to guide and show you the proper way to handle the syringe and needle.

Preventive Measures
Diet plays a big part in preventing diabetes. While studies have not been done to validate this, obesity is one of the causes of feline diabetes. Thus, to prevent or lessen the chance of your cat getting diabetes, it will be good to provide a low carbohydrate diet for your pet. Likewise, more exercise will be good to ensure your cat remains healthy and strong.

In certain cat breeds, the chances of getting feline diabetes are probably much higher due to genetic reasons. As such, it will be difficult to prevent diabetes from developing.

Though there is no cure  for diabetes in cats, you can manage this chronic disease. Some cats after undergoing treatment for a period of time may lose the need to have insulin injections. Most of these cases are cats with weight issues as obesity. Once these cat’s weights are brought under control, they will gradually lose the need for insulin to control their diabetes. A cat with diabetes if manage well can go on to live many more years. However, this will require you to work with your vet closely together with a lot of commitment, effort  and time for both parties.

Image Credit
Photo by Melissa WieseCC BY 2.0

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