Feline Diabetes Explained

Feline diabetes affects hundreds of cats every year. Learn potential causes of diabetes mellitus, signs to look for and what to do if your cat develops diabetes. Knowing what to watch for and how to take immediate action ensures your cat will live a longer, healthier life.

Understanding Feline Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus occurs when a cat's body becomes unable to produce or use the proper amounts of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. In some cats, usually older, obese cats, the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin causing improper stores of glucose within the bloodstream. When this happens, the body breaks down fat and protein stores within the body and converts it to the necessary energy needed to function.

There are two types of feline diabetes:

  • Insulin dependent diabetes mellitus
  • Non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus

Statistics show that 50 to 75 percent of new diabetes cases are the insulin dependent variety. If this is the case, your cat will need insulin injections to maintain proper insulin levels. Non-insulin dependent diabetes is controlled by diet and glucose tablets.

Signs a Cat Has Feline Diabetes

Because the body works tireless to convert fat and protein stores into energy, weight loss occurs. The key sign of diabetes mellitus is weight loss while the cat's appetite remains exactly the same. The cat will eat more food hoping to counteract the weight loss, but this doesn't change weight loss from happening.

Meanwhile, the fat and protein that are converted turn into large amounts of glucose and exits the body through the urine. This leads to frequent urination and excessive thirst. Cats with diabetes usually drink large amounts of water in one sitting.

If you suspect your cat may have diabetes, seek veterinary testing. Blood and urine tests generally deliver fast results allowing you to get your cat started on a new diet and insulin injections if required.

Factors that Increase the Risk of Diabetes Mellitus

While the medical world has yet to pinpoint an exact cause for feline diabetes, there are factors that increase a cat's risk. They include:

  • Acromegaly
  • Breed
  • Cushing's disease
  • Gender (Males have a higher risk)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Obesity
  • Old age
  • Overuse of corticosteroids
  • Pancreatitis

Treatment Plans for Feline Diabetes

If a cat tests positive for diabetes mellitus, a veterinarian will need to check if ketoacidosis has occurred. Ketoacidosis is a dangerous imbalance of glucose levels that requires immediate treatment including IV fluids and fast acting insulin injections.

Otherwise, your vet will monitor your cat's reaction to insulin and come up with a plan of action. Once the plan of action is set, you take your cat home and start your cat on a new diet, glucose level tests and insulin injections.

The dietary plan includes a low-fat, restricted calorie food. You will also monitor your cat's blood sugar levels throughout the day and give insulin shots or oral glucose tablets as needed to prevent hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, conditions where the blood sugar either becomes too high or too low.