Diabetes in Cats – Symptoms and Treatment of Feline Diabetes

Diabetes in cats occurs less frequently than in dogs however, recent veterinary studies show that feline diabetes is on the rise. Symptoms can develop gradually over time making them difficult to detect and often by the time diabetes is diagnosed insulin is required for treatment.

Diabetes in cats is usually treatable once it has been identified and when insulin and diet are regulated properly there is a good prognosis for a normal life span. "Untreated, the condition leads to increasingly weak legs in cats, and eventually malnutrition, ketoacidosis and/or dehydration, and death" (1).

Symptoms of diabetes in cats

Feline diabetes is less common in cats under seven years of age and symptoms typically come on gradually over a period of weeks. Because of the slow onset symptoms can often be overlooked; it is important that pet owners pay close attention to their pet’s normal behaviors and routines so any changes are detected.

Notify your veterinarian if any of the following symptoms arise:

  1. A sudden drop in weight (some cats may show an increase in weight)
  2. Excessive drinking. Some cats may appear to be obsessed with water and hover around their water bowl or other water sources such as faucets
  3. Excessive urinating
  4. Excessive appetite (some cats may lose interest in eating)
  5. Weakness in the back legs
  6. General lethargy
  7. An unusual sweetness or acetone-smell to the cat’s breath due to ketoacidosis

Presence of these symptoms can be serious and you should not hesitate to take your cat to the vet for testing of urine or blood to properly diagnosis diabetes.

Treatment of diabetes in cats

Early diagnosis will help treatment and may prevent complications and in some cases cats can go into remission.

If your cat is found to have diabetes, then the normal course of treatment involves diet changes and insulin.

Diet is a key component in fighting diabetes in cats. Former recommendations of feeding a diabetic cat a high-fiber diet are being replaced with new recommendations that show a low carbohydrate diet is best for cats with diabetes.

Following a low carbohydrate diabetes cat diet has been shown to significantly lower the insulin needed by diabetic cats.

In addition to dietary changes, your cat will likely need insulin injections. These injections are often administered once or twice a day by the pet owner.

Diet and insulin injections must be coordinated and this can take a month or more to regulate. It will be necessary to closely monitor your cat’s blood sugar level as you set up the insulin and feeding schedule and beyond.

Testing can be done at home by the owner using a blood glucose meter. An alternative method can be used to monitor sugar levels using urine testing but this method may not be as accurate.

Diabetes in cats can be a life-threatening condition but when caught early and treated properly there is a good prognosis for a long survival rate.

(1) Wikipedia (2010). Diabetes in cats. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_in_cats

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