Left untreated, diabetes can threaten your cat’s quality of life and longevity. Our Las Vegas 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 develop in cats whose bodies are unable to produce or effectively use insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the flow of glucose (blood sugar) to cells throughout the body. The rest of the body is then supplied with energy.
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 produces enough insulin, tissues and organs resist it. They require more insulin than a healthy cat's body would require to properly produce glucose. This type of diabetes is common in overweight male cats over the age of 8, as well as those who consume 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 the body of a diabetic cat breaks down protein and fat rather than using glucose, even cats with a healthy appetite and who eat regularly will lose weight. Diabetes in cats, if left untreated, can lead to a variety of health complications and symptoms, including:
- 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 the 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.
Changes to your feline companion's diet may be necessary to ensure they get the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Your cat may also be given prescription diabetes food.
What You Can Do
Though cat diabetes must be closely monitored, your pet can still live a happy and healthy life despite the disease. Appetite and litter box use should be monitored, and any complications should be addressed as soon as possible.
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.