Feline Diabetes Treatment with Glipizide

Feline diabetes is a serious but manageable disease that may be treatable with blood sugar controlling medications like glipizide. Diabetes mellitus, or type II diabetes, is widespread among people and pets. It occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce healthy levels of insulin. This hormone is required for the body to maintain proper levels of blood sugar, known as glucose. Without treatment, diabetic felines are at risk for such problems as kidney, muscle and nerve damage, organ failure and death. Glipizide is commonly used to help lower blood sugar levels in people diagnosed with type II diabetes. Although not FDA-approved for use in animals, it is frequently prescribed by veterinarians to help control the disease in cats. Here is a brief description of how glipizide works, and a summary of the possible side effects and precautions associated with its use.

How Does Glipizide Work?

Glipizide, marketed as Glucotrol by Pfizer, is an oral medication available in 5 mg and 10 mg white tablet doses. It is designed to help increase the amount of insulin released by the pancreas, while decreasing the body's creation of glucose. The drug may also improve diabetic cats' sensitivity to smaller concentrations of insulin in their bloodstreams. Glipizide belongs to a group of drugs called sulfonylureas, which work by stimulating the beta cells of the pancreas to increase insulin production. Some diabetic cats that respond well to glipizide may avoid insulin injection treatments.

Side Effects and Precautions for Glipizide

Although glipizide is considered safe and well-tolerated by most cats, some side effects have been associated with the drug. These include:

  • Nausea and vomiting—these symptoms may be relieved by giving the medication with food
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Liver damage
  • Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, marked by anxious behavior, shaking, headaches and cool or pale skin

Responses to glipizide may vary, so animal medical professionals generally recommend closely monitoring a cat's blood sugar levels during their first month on the drug. In particular, your veterinarian may want to check for the potentially harmful effects of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. You should advise your veterinarian of any appetite or weight loss that occurs after giving your cat glipizide. Although not common, allergic reactions like hives, breathing difficulties, facial, tounge or lip swelling may require immediate medical attention.

Glipizide is typically not recommended for use in cats with a history of liver or kidney disease, as these conditions may increase the chances of adverse hypoglycemic responses. The drug has also been associated with an increase of various protein secretions in the pancreas. These elevated protein levels have been reported to contribute to cases of pancreatic deterioration.

Due to possible drug interactions, owners are advised to notify their veterinarian if their cat is currently taking other medication, especially NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and sulfa antibiotics. For many cat owners, caring for a diabetic pet can seem initially complicated and confusing. Learning more about the number of treatment methods available, including medication like glipizide, can help owners make informed decisions on the best way to manage the their cat's disease.