Health Symptoms & Solutions Diabetes in Cats: How to Recognize and Manage this Disease?

Diabetes in Cats: How to Recognize and Manage this Disease?

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You are probably aware just how debilitating diabetes in humans can be. And you surely know what the reasons behind developing diabetes are. Surprisingly diabetes in cats is also a common issue.

In this article, we will discuss diabetes in cats, what causes it and how it can be treated and managed.

What Is Diabetes in Cats?

Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus as it is officially called, is a disease of the pancreas. It leads to the inability to produce the proper amount of insulin necessary to balance blood glucose levels (blood sugar levels).

The pancreas has two types of cells that perform different functions – one produces enzymes that aid in digestion, while the other cells (beta cells) produce insulin that regulates glucose levels in the bloodstream. When the pancreas fails to produce enough of these cells, it ultimately leads to diabetes.

Feline diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to a wide range of health problems if left untreated. These include loss of appetite, weight loss, dehydration, vomiting, severe depression and motor function issues, coma, and even death.

Different Types of Diabetes in Cats

There are three different types of diabetes in cats:

Type I diabetes – This is one of the rarest forms of diabetes in cats. It stems from near-complete destruction of beta cells.

Type II diabetes – This type of feline diabetes means that the production of insulin is insufficient or that there is a delayed response to the secretion of diabetes. It can also mean that the tissues in the cat’s body are insulin-resistant. However, some beta cells still remain in the body. This type of diabetes is the most common in cats and obese cats are more likely to suffer from this condition.

Type III diabetes – This type of diabetes comes from insulin resistance that is caused by other hormones, like during the pregnancy or due to certain hormone-secreting tumors.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats?

Some cats are more likely to suffer from diabetes than others. Risk factors for diabetes in cats include obesity, physical inactivity, aging, neutering and steroid therapy. Also, male cats are more likely to get diabetes than females.

There are four main clinical signs of diabetes in cats but the most obvious are excessive thirst and increased urination. In addition to this, other symptoms include increased appetite and weight loss.

These symptoms often go unnoticed, especially in the early days of the disease. Also, if the cat spends a lot of time outside it may not be obvious that it’s going through these changes. Additionally, cats can lose weight for any number of reasons. Still, if you notice any of these signs, put your cat in her carrier and take her to the vet to get a diagnosis.

How Is Diabetes in Cats Diagnosed?

When clinical signs of diabetes are present, vets are more likely to do certain blood tests to determine glucose concentrations in the cat’s blood and urine. Persistently high glucose levels in the blood, as well as the presence of glucose in the urine, are in the vast majority of cases certain indicators of diabetes.

However, this is not a definite test since some cats can have a temporary increase in glucose levels due to stress and other factors. To confirm their diagnosis, vets will usually order a specialized test that measures the concentration of fructosamine in the blood. This test can tell the average levels of blood glucose for the previous week or two.

black and white cat lying on brown bamboo chair inside room. Part of the "Diabetes in Cats: How to Recognize and Manage this Disease?" article.
Photo by Manja Vitolic on Unsplash

How Is Diabetes In Cats Treated?

Unfortunately, diabetes in cats can’t be cured but the condition can be managed and kept under control with a combination of different methods.

Insulin Therapy

After diagnosis, your vet will start the insulation therapy for your cat. The first step is to determine the dose of insulin that is needed based on the cat’s weight. Your vet may also measure a 12 or 24-hour glucose curve to better determine the correct dosage and avoid potential issues like hypoglycemia.

Additionally, your vet will show you how to administer insulin injections to your cat and what clinical signs you need to monitor. They will help you to understand the types of insulin and which is most appropriate for your cat.

Oral medications are normal but your vet will advise you regarding what’s best for your cat.

Monitoring your cat’s food and water intake, activity and urination frequency, is the most important thing at the start of the treatment because it can tell you whether the insulin dosage is correct. Your vet will adjust the dosage based on monitoring in the next few weeks or even months.

Some cats might go into clinical remission after a certain amount of time. This means that they no longer require insulin but it doesn’t mean that they are cured. It just means that diabetes is stable.

Dietary Management

Diet can play a significant role in your efforts to keep your cat’s diabetes in check. Your vet will most likely recommend a diet suited specifically to your cat. However, there are some general tips that can also help:

  • Feed cat foods with high-quality sources of healthy fats and protein
  • Stick to low-carbohydrate diet and high protein diets
  • You should feed your cat at the same time each day. Avoid free feeding and leaving food in her food bowl

Overall, a nutritious and tasty diet can help in minimizing blood glucose fluctuations and assist in maintaining a healthy weight. This will be more complex if dealing with a pregnant cat.

Consistent Exercise

Exercise is also an important part of managing your cat’s diabetes but it needs to be carefully monitored. The key is to keep the exercise at consistent levels or it can affect your cat’s glucose levels.

In general, your cat’s exercise shouldn’t change unless she is overweight. In which case you can talk with your vet to devise an exercise plan that can promote weight loss.

Make sure to take your cat for regular veterinary checkups. Especially if you notice any changes in her health or behavior.

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