How To Distinguish Diabetes In Cats


Diabetes in cats is similar to type 2 diabetes in humans. While the disease itself is treatable most of the time, unfortunately, when the symptoms are missed or ignored the diagnosis comes too late for long-term effective treatments.

That being said, it is possible for a cat with diabetes to live a great and happy life. The onset of the symptoms of diabetes is usually slow and is thought to occur over a period of months.

The incidence of diabetes in felines is higher for cats that are older than 7 years of age – but, like humans, diabetes can occur at any age. There are signs to look out for when considering if your feline has suspected diabetes.

Watch this video – Nutrition and Diabetes in Cats

First, many cats will experience a sudden weight loss. However, it also possible that a fast gain in weight can also be a symptom. Therefore it is best to speak to your vet if you witness any sudden loss or gain in weight.

Secondly, there will be an increase in the cat’s need for water and subsequently more frequent urination. This is to flush out all of those extra sugars that are not being absorbed into cells and are remaining in the blood.

Other signs to look for include but are not limited to an increased appetite or possibly a refusal to eat and even weakness in the hind legs.

Weakness in the hind legs can be a sign of later stages of diabetes in cats – when a diabetic neuropathy has occurred. This is when the diabetes can have effects on the nervous system and can cause some pain and discomfort.

The damage in diabetes is caused by hyperglycemia which is when there is too much sugar in the blood. This high level of sugar can be toxic to many regions of the body including nerves, the eyes, the lower extremities like the paws and the kidneys.

A feline with diabetic neuropathy may have trouble walking, jumping or also have an awkward, off- balanced gait.

If any of these symptoms occur, make an appointment to see a veterinarian.

cat diabetesIn worse case scenarios a cat can go into ketoacidosis and can end up with severe dehydration and a breakdown of fat and muscle tissue. This can be treated with fast vet treatment but there is no need to let your cat’s condition get this far if you look out for the early symptoms.

Cats that are lethargic, appear limp or weak and have foul smelling breath (smelling like nail polish remover due to the presence of acetone) need to be taken to a vet immediately.

Treatment of feline diabetes consists of medications, diet changes and monitoring. There are several medications that can be used to treat the disease.

The severity of the condition at diagnosis will dictate what treatment will be used. There are oral medications that can be used to help the pancreas to make insulin – a hormone that encourages the sugars in the blood to enter the body cells where they are needed.

The more commonly used treatment is actual insulin injections. Injections are effective in cats for the long term treatment because it is usually given twice a day, morning and evening and works well when combined with a low carbohydrate diet.

There may be instances where a dosage of insulin no longer works to control the blood sugar and needs to be adjusted, whereas with oral medications it may take longer to get the blood sugar under control.

You will need to visit your vet periodically if your cat is on insulin in order to check that the dose is sufficient for your cat’s needs and that all is working well.

Felines have notoriously fast metabolic rates which will cause the insulin to wear off to fast; this can lead to the need to change the dosage amounts frequently in the early stages of treatment.

If your cat is on insulin and you notice any signs of hypoglycaemia – this is when the blood sugar is too low, perhaps because of too much insulin – you must take your cat to a vet immediately.
Signs of hypoglycaemia may include signs lethargy, vomiting, seizures and involuntary bowel or bladder movements.

Diet is an important factor in controlling feline diabetes, as with human types of diabetes. Monitoring the intake of food and calories aides in the management of the disease. Many veterinarians will recommend a lower carbohydrate diet since carbohydrates break down into sugars.

A majority of dry kibble cat foods are very high in carbohydrates, including the expensive brands, so switching to a lower carbohydrate wet food is the recommendation. In fact, cats need no carbohydrate in their diet whatsoever. Like many animals, the main diet of a cat should really be meat and so your cat can be perfectly healthy without any carbohydrates at all.

A good boneless fish diet would be great for your cat.

Sometimes a significant change in diet can be enough to treat diabetes. Felines that have an early diagnosis may benefit solely by changing foods and eating habits, and therefore foregoing the need for insulin or oral medications.

Feline diabetes is a treatable disease, which when detected early and aggressively treated can be managed. However, with advances in the treatments available, many diabetic cats continue to live long and relatively healthy lives.

There is no reason why a cat cannot live a great life with diabetes if its owner is watching carefully for any changes in its behavior or appearance and is giving it a good, high protein and low carbohydrate diet.