Diabetes in cats: what you need to know

Diabetes in cats (diabetes mellitus) has become an increasingly common condition. It often occurs in cats that are overweight and/or older. As in humans, cats have a pancreas that should produce insulin to regulate the sugar (glucose) in their bodies from their diet. Diabetes in cats occurs when the feline body is not able to properly balance out the sugar in their bloodstream. If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, you and your vet will need to work together to manage the disease. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to pain, nerve damage, muscle weakness, other diseases or conditions, or even death.

Diabetes in cats: the risk factors

The following factors could put your cat at higher risk for developing diabetes:

  • Male
  • Neutered
  • Over seven (7) years of age
  • Overweight or obese
  • Taking medications such as corticosteroids
  • Other conditions happening at the same time, such as infection, hyperthyroidism and/or renal issues

How diagnosis is made

Feline diabetes is not always easy to diagnose. Your vet will need to conduct a thorough examination of your cat, obtain an individual medical history, and conduct laboratory tests. In the early stages of diabetes, you may notice that your cat ‘seems a little off’ or ‘less interactive.’

Symptoms to watch out for

  • Weight loss
  • Drinking more water than normal
  • Drinking from unusual places
  • Begging for food/increased appetite
  • Decreased ability to jump
  • Walking on heels instead of toes (known as “plantigrade stance”)
  • Lethargy and decreased activity
  • Urine is sticky or difficult to clean
  • More frequent urination or urinating outside of the litter box

If your veterinarian suspects that your cat has diabetes, they will need to conduct blood and urine tests. These tests will allow them to rule out other diseases or conditions.

Treatment of diabetes in cats

There are different treatment options. Also, many cats have other diseases or conditions which may complicate treatment. It is crucial to be honest with your veterinarian about your goals, time, and ability to monitor and treat your cat. So, try and maintain a frequent, open dialogue.

Goals of treatment

  • Potential remission is the goal, but is not possible for all cats
  • Blood glucose regulation and stabilisation
  • Stable, appropriate body weight. To help keep the diabetes under control and to prevent further damage, your cat needs to maintain a healthy weight. As with humans, a healthy diet and active lifestyle can make your cat’s treatment more effective, and improve their quality of life.
  • Reduction of signs and symptoms
  • Good quality of life
  • Avoiding hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), ketoacidosis (cell starvation where fat breaks down to provide energy), or neuropathy (pain or damage to nerves)

Monitoring your cat’s response to insulin levels is an extremely important part of the treatment plan. Your vet will teach you how.

Many diabetic cats can live happy and normal lives. To help your cat live a long life:

  • Maintain recommended checkups
  • Work to keep their blood sugar level stable
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Manage other diseases

You are a key part of your cat’s diabetes treatment plan. Remember to be open and honest with your veterinarian about your ability to monitor and provide insulin therapy. Each cat is different and your vet will work with you to do the best you can for your cat.

article extracted from cat friendly.com