Feline Diabetes

Meet Bob. Bob was an office cat at San Diego Humane Society up until his adoption. He, like millions of other cats, has been living a happy, healthy life with feline diabetes.

While the diagnosis itself can sound intimidating, feline diabetes is actually a very common condition among the global cat population – especially among overweight cats. Pet parents around the world are actively managing this disease for their beloved companions and you can, too, with some basic knowledge and patience. Here’s the lowdown on how to help your cat survive – and thrive – with feline diabetes:

What is it?

Feline diabetes is a condition in which a cat’s pancreas either doesn’t produce insulin or the body’s cells do not use insulin effectively. The most common form of the disease is diabetes mellitus (DM), which can take shape in a cat’s pancreas in one of two ways:

Insulin Dependent diabetes (IDDM): insulin injections are required to maintain normal blood sugar levels. About one-half to three-quarters of the cats have this type.

Non-insulin dependent diabetes (NIDDM): insulin injections are not immediately required. Diet and medications are adequate to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

However, cats will sometimes switch from one type to the other. Most cats with NIDD will end up needing insulin injections. Some cats with IDDM may have periods of time where diet and medications are adequate to control blood sugars, although this is often transient. 

How is it managed?

Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM):

Daily insulin injections are required for cats diagnosed with IDDM. While daily injections may seem like an intimidating daily task at first, most pet parents find it quite easy and gratifying to be able to help their animal in such a crucial way.

Still skeptical? Remember our friend Bob that we introduced you to at the beginning of this article? While at San Diego Humane Society, Bob was treated for Type I diabetes mellitus with a daily insulin injection that he tolerated each time without incident.

Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM):

As mentioned earlier, cats with this form of diabetes mellitus can survive without injections of additional insulin, however diet changes and oral medications are often needed to control a cat’s weight and blood sugar.

Diet is key to managing both forms of Diabetes Mellitus: Diet is definitely a component of not only how diabetes progresses, but also the efficacy of insulin in controlling the disease. In general, high protein/low carbohydrate diets are recommended to aid in controlling blood sugar. Fortunately, many readily available canned feline diets are regarded as good options for diabetic cats.

Additionally, be mindful of the amount of treats you give your cat as they can cause blood sugar spikes that may throw off insulin levels in the body (whether natural or injected). To be safe, make sure less than 10% of your cat’s daily calories come from treats. Avoid commercial treats, as they are typically high in carbohydrates and sugars. Instead, choose treats that are high in protein, such as freeze– dried meat.

You will need to plan to work closely with your vet in order to maintain your cat’s optimal health. Doses of needed medications can change over time. Testing for blood sugar levels, additional diseases, and non-symptomatic urinary tract infections are common requirements for a well-managed diabetic patient.

Signs that your cat may have feline diabetes.

The main symptoms for this disease are increased urination, increased thirst and unexplained weight loss. The cat will often have a good or even ravenous appetite. Additionally, be aware that although feline diabetes can occur in average sized cats, it’s more commonly seen in obese cats. If you notice your cat displaying these symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately for proper diagnosis and guidance on long-term management.

What happens if untreated?

Feline diabetes is not a condition to be taken lightly – if left untreated, this disease can be life-threatening. Warning signs that this disease is affecting your cat include: severe weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting, dehydration, severe depression, problems with motor function, coma, and even death. Contact your veterinarian immediately if any of these symptoms are presented by your cat.

For further information on this condition, please visit: http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/Health_Information/brochure_diabetes.cfm