Diabetes in Cats: Slightly Too Sweet

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Diabetes in Cats

Table of Content


What is Diabetes?

Diabetes, the shortened name for diabetes mellitus, is a metabolic disorder concerned with the production of, or response to, insulin.

Within the body, there is an organ called the pancreas. The role of the pancreas is to produce and secrete (release) hormones (chemical messengers) that help regulate metabolism (chemical processes that allow cats to live). One of the hormones produced by the pancreas is called insulin. The insulin hormone has an important function in metabolism.

Insulin allows glucose (sugar) to be absorbed into the bloodstream where it will then be transported around the body to provide cells with the energy they need to function and grow. When diabetes occurs, it causes blood sugar levels to remain unhealthily high (hyperglycemia), while depriving cells of required energy. This is harmful to the body.

To break it down further, there are two types of diabetes (see below). Cats who have diabetes mostly fall under type II.

  1. Type I diabetes: when the body is unable to produce sufficient amount of insulin, or any at all
  2. Type II diabetes: when the body fails to respond to insulin as it should (e.g., a broken key to the cells)

What are the Causes of Diabetes in Cats?

Since cats are predominantly affected by type II diabetes (see above), we will focus on the causes of type II diabetes in cats. For reference, though, type I diabetes is commonly associated with an autoimmune response.

Here, we have compiled a list of possible causes of diabetes in cats (complete cause is unknown):

  • Obesity (causes less sensitivity to insulin)
  • Old age (body becoming weaker)
  • Steroid-induced (certain drugs such as corticosteroids which can cause the liver to become resistant to insulin)
  • Diseases (e.g., chronic pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease)

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats?

Noticing the symptoms of diabetes in cats is crucial so that early diagnosis and treatment can occur. Below, we have listed some of the most common symptoms of diabetes in cats:

  • Excessive urination glucose in the urine increases water content
  • Excessive thirst loss of water content from excess glucose
  • Weight loss (as glucose cannot be processed, the body breaks down fat and proteins to make up for the lost nutrients)
  • Obesity (more of a cause, but be curious about your chubby little friend)
  • Changes in appetite (may stop eating due to feelings of unease, or may eating a lot more than usual to compensate for lost energy observe your cats eating behaviour)
  • Vomiting (less common but occurs when the waste products of fat or protein breakdown are intoxicating them)

How is Diabetes in Cats Diagnosed?

As well as observing the symptoms listed above, there is a lot more than can be done when it comes to diagnosing diabetes in cats.

It is common for diabetes to occur at the same time or as a result of other diseases (see causes section above).

Despite this, the most common diagnostic methods veterinarians will use to diagnose diabetes are listed below:

  • Blood chemistry analysis this can show the concentration of glucose in the blood, as well as other chemical abnormalities such as lipemia, which indicates increased fat cells in the blood)
  • Fasting blood-sugar level this is a test that samples blood from your cat during a period of fasting (no food) to see if the resting blood glucose levels are higher than they should be (a level over 200 often indicates diabetes)
  • Urinalysis healthy urine will not contain any glucose (sugar), meaning that if high concentrations are present it is often because of diabetes

How is Diabetes in Cats Treated?

When a cat has been positively diagnosed with diabetes, there is no cure to this disease. This does not mean that it is game-over from here on. Instead, the treatment of diabetes in cats relies on management more than anything.

In some instances, diabetes can go into whats called remission. This means that the body does not show any signs of diabetes, although the disease is still there.

Treatment of diabetes can be an expensive process, that is why you should always seek early veterinary advice upon suspecting potential symptoms.

Below, we have listed the three most common treatments, or management, of diabetes in cats:

  • Dietary changes

This is crucial in the treatment of diabetes, especially for obese cats. Diets are recommended to switch to high-protein, low-carbohydrate.

Please note, this is the standard. Your veterinarian will recommend you a specific diet for your cat based on their condition at the time.

  • Oral medications (e.g., glipizide)

Some cases of diabetes will require oral medications for your cat. These medications will help with insulin resistance and aim to result in lower blood glucose levels. While this medication is easy to administer, instead, your vet might recommend going straight to

  • Insulin injections

Ok, calm down, its not as bad as it seems. If your veterinarian recommends insulin injects, dont be resistant to the idea, this is all for the health and wellbeing of your beloved cat remember! Inevitably, all cats with diabetes eventually require insulin injections.

Diabetic cats will require two insulin injections each day. They are not painful to your cat as long as you pay close attention to the training provided by your vet. The dosage will depend on your specific case, paying attention to factors such as the size of your cat and the current severity of the disease.

As with all illnesses, remember to keep in frequent contact with your local veterinarian and always attend scheduled appointments. If your cat has diabetes, you are the one that is responsible for managing the administration of treatments. We know you love your cat dearly, so of course, you are going to do a great job.

Cats with diabetes can still be healthy, active pets always remember to show them some love.

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