Diabetes can be a huge threat to your cat's health and well-being if left untreated. Here are some causes, symptoms, and treatments as well as advice on when to seek veterinary attention.
What is cat diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus can become an issue when your cat's body can no longer effectively produce or use the insulin created in the pancreas. When it is used effectively it is used to control the flow of glucose (blood sugar) to cells throughout the body. Energy is then provided to the rest of the body.
Without the correct amount of insulin, the cells don’t receive glucose. Instead, the body uses protein cells and fat for energy.
The unused glucose builds up in the bloodstream over time.
Types of Cat Diabetes
Similar to humans, it’s possible for cats to get one of the following two types of diabetes.
Type I (Insulin-Dependent)
The body does not produce or release enough insulin in the body.
Type II (Non-Insulin Dependent)
While the body may produce enough insulin, tissues or organs won't use insulin. They need more insulin than a healthy cat’s body would need to produce glucose properly. This type of diabetes is most common in overweight male cats over 8 years old, and those that eat a high-carbohydrate diet.
They sometimes have an excessive appetite, since their bodies are unable to use the fuel in their food.
Cat Diabetes Signs & Symptoms
Because a diabetic cat’s body breaks down protein and fat instead of using glucose, even cats with a healthy appetite and who are eating regularly will lose weight. Cat's with untreated diabetes can display health complications and symptoms, such as:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Lethargy or weakness
- Unhealthy coat and skin
- Bacterial infections
- Liver disease
- Decrease in physical activity (inability/disinterested in jumping)
- Walking flat on the backs of their hind legs (from nerve damage)
Treatment Options for Cats with Diabetes
Though no cure has been found for cat diabetes, treatment usually involves getting an official diagnosis and managing the illness with daily injections of insulin, which your vet can train you to give at home if you are comfortable.
Your vet might recommend switching your cat's diet to allow for the right combination of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. There are prescription foods for diabetes.
What You Can Do
Though cat diabetes must be closely monitored, your fur baby can still enjoy a great quality of life if the disease is well managed. Appetite and litter box use should be tracked, and any complications will need attention right away.
See your vet regularly to have your cat’s blood sugar and response to treatment monitored. Glucose testing at home is an option, ask your vet for more details.
Like many illnesses, it’s best to diagnose and treat diabetes in cats early. If any symptoms of diabetes in cats appear, bring them in as soon as possible.
For senior pets, physical exams are essential to maintaining good health, and spotting issues early so they can be treated.