Has your cat been diagnosed with diabetes? Our Waxhaw vets discuss risk factors for the disease, treatment options, and when you should seek help from your vet with treating cat diabetes.
What is cat diabetes?
Cats whose bodies cannot produce or effectively use insulin can experience diabetes mellitus. Insulin is created by the pancreas to control the flow of glucose (blood sugar) to cells in the body. Energy is then sent to the rest of the body.
However, without sufficient insulin, the cells don’t receive that vial glucose. Instead, a cat’s body uses fat and protein cells for energy, while unused glucose remains in the bloodstream. It eventually builds up.
Like humans, cats can get 2 types of diabetes:
Type I (insulin-dependent)
The cat’s body does not produce or release enough insulin to send to the rest of the body.
Type II (non-insulin dependent)
The body might produce enough insulin, organs or tissues resist insulin, and need more insulin than a healthy cat’s body would require to properly produce glucose. Type II diabetes is common in obese male cats over 8 years old, as well as those that a diet high in carbohydrates. They may have an insatiable appetite, since their bodies are not able to use the fuel their food contains.
Diabetes Signs & Symptoms
A diabetic cat’s body breaks down fat and protein instead of using glucose, so even cats with a normal, healthy appetite and who eat regularly will lose weight. Left untreated, diabetes in cats can result in other symptoms and health complications, including:
- Liver disease
- Bacterial infections
- Increased urination
- Lethargy or weakness
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Increased thirst
- Unhealthy coat and skin
- Walking flat on backs of their hind legs (from nerve damage)
- Decrease in physical activity (uninterested or unable to jump)
Treatment Options for Cats with Diabetes
Though we haven’t identified a cure for cat diabetes, treatment typically involves officially diagnosing and carefully managing the illness with daily insulin injections. Your vet may teach you to provide these at home.
Your furry friend’s diet may need to change to ensure they’re getting the correct combination of fiber, protein, and carbohydrates. A prescription food made especially for diabetic cats may also need to be integrated into their diet.
What You Can Do
Though owners and vets must closely monitor the disease, your feline friend can still absolutely enjoy quality of life with cat diabetes. Any complications will need attention right away, and litter box and appetite should be tracked.
Visit your vet regularly to have your cat’s response to treatment and blood sugar monitored. If you’d like, inquire about whether you can test your kitty’s glucose at home.
Physical exams are critical to maintaining good health for senior pets. This is doubly important when it comes to identifying issues early and treating them.