Left untreated, diabetes can threaten your cat’s quality of life and longevity. Our vets explain risk factors for diabetes in cats, treatment options, and when to seek assistance from your vet.
What is cat diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus can become an issue in cats whose bodies cannot produce or effectively use insulin, which is created by the pancreas to control the flow of glucose (blood sugar) to cells throughout the body. Energy is then provided to the rest of the body.
But without enough insulin, the cells don’t receive glucose. Instead, the body uses protein cells and fat for energy. The unused glucose lies in the bloodstream and eventually builds to excess amounts.
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 resist insulin. They need more insulin than a healthy cat’s body would need to produce glucose properly. This type of diabetes is common in overweight male cats over 8 years old, and those that eat a high-carbohydrate diet.
They sometimes have an insatiable appetite, since their bodies are unable to use the fuel in their food.
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. Untreated diabetes in cats can lead to other health complications and symptoms, such as:
- Increased urination
- Increased thirst
- Lethargy or weakness
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Unhealthy coat and skin
- Bacterial infections
- Liver disease
- Decrease in physical activity (unable/uninterested in jumping)
- Walking flat on 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 via daily insulin injections, which your vet may train you to give at home.
Potential changes to your feline companion’s diet may be required to make sure they’re getting the right combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Your cat may also receive a prescription food for diabetes.
What You Can Do
Though cat diabetes must be closely monitored, your fur baby can still enjoy quality of life with the disease. 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. If you prefer, ask your vet if testing your kitty’s glucose at home is an option.
It’s best to diagnose and treat diabetes in cats early. If any symptoms mentioned above appear in your cat, 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.