Diabetes in Cats: What You Need To Know

Jan 24, 2022 | Cat Advice

Diabetes is one of the most common feline hormonal disorders. Proper treatment and early diagnosis are key to looking after cats with diabetes. While the condition can’t be cured, cats can live a happy and normal life with proper treatment.  

What is feline diabetes?

Diabetes in cats is a result of the pancreas not producing enough insulin or their body isn’t responding to it properly. The result is that once glucose from the food they eat is absorbed into the bloodstream, it can’t reach the body’s cells. This means that there are high levels of glucose in the blood – also known as high blood sugar levels. 

Because the body isn’t able to use glucose to provide energy, it starts to use fat or muscle protein to provide the energy it needs. It can also mean that by-products are created that can make your cat very ill and that they end up with dangerously high blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia). 

What types of feline diabetes are there?

While there are two types of diabetes, just as with people, it is very rare that a cat is diagnosed with Type One diabetes. Type One is caused by an auto-immune response that destroys the cells in the pancreas that process insulin. 

Type Two diabetes is the most common form of the illness in cats. This is when they are still producing insulin but it isn’t effective enough. In some cases, they may be insulin resistant, which means your cat is producing insulin but their body doesn’t recognise it so glucose can’t get to the cells throughout the body. 

What are the symptoms of diabetes in cats?

Knowing the symptoms of diabetes in your cat can help to make sure they get treatment quickly. The earlier you’re able to get your cat treated, the better chance they have of a positive prognosis and being able to carry on and enjoy life. 

The main symptoms of feline diabetes include:

  • Increased hunger
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss

Your cat may also experience other symptoms, although these are common in other illnesses as well as feline diabetes:

  • Changes to their fur
  • Bladder infections
  • Weakness
  • Collapsing
  • Vomiting
  • Enlargement of the liver

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should get your cat to the vet as soon as possible so they can be checked over. 

How is feline diabetes diagnosed?

While symptoms can be a good indication that your cat has diabetes, your vet will need to carry out some tests to confirm this. 

Tests can include blood tests to assess your cat’s blood sugar levels and to rule out any other causes of their symptoms. Your vet will also run a urine test to test whether your cat’s urine contains glucose, which is not normally the case. 

In some cases, more than one set of blood tests or urine tests is needed to confirm feline diabetes. 

How is diabetes in cats treated?

Diabetes tends to be treated more effectively if your cat is diagnosed during the early stages, which is why it’s so important that you take your cat to the vet if you notice anything unusual about their behaviour or appearance. 

Once diagnosed, there are several different treatments depending on the type and severity of your cat’s diabetes. These include:

Diet

Your vet may recommend changes to your cat’s diet, which may change over time as their diabetes stabilises. As cats that are overweight are more at risk of developing diabetes, you may need to follow a specific diet to help your cat lose weight slowly and healthily. 

Insulin injections

Your cat will most likely require insulin, which can only be given via injection. Diabetic cats may require insulin injections once or twice a day. In some cases, cats may become non-diabetic again after a course of insulin treatment while others will require insulin injections every day for the rest of their lives. Your vet will be able to take you through how to administer insulin injections. 

Medication

Your cat may be given medication to lower the levels of glucose in their bloodstream.

Routine

Maintaining a routine is very important for diabetic cats, so you should ensure you stick to a routine. This will include giving insulin injections and giving them medicine at the same time every day. You may also have to monitor how much exercise they are getting, as this can affect their blood glucose levels.   However, you don’t have to worry about when your cat eats, they are able to graze as they see fit and you will still be able to control their diabetes.

Regular check-ups

Your cat will need regular check-ups to make sure they are doing ok and that their diabetes is stable. While the vet will recommend how regularly you should bring your cat in to be checked, it’s also important that you make a vet appointment if you notice anything like:

  • Change in their exercise routine
  • Dental problems
  • Weight loss or gain

This is because these could point to or cause changes in your cat’s diabetes that could mean their treatment needs to be adjusted. 

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