Diabetes in Cats: What You Need to Know

cat diabetes: what you need to know

Nowadays, diabetes in cats (also known as feline diabetes) is a prevalent disease, and it is estimated that six out of ten urban cats are overweight or even obese. Fat cats have become very popular and are the protagonists of lots of “memes” and internet videos, but the truth is that nothing is amusing about it. Obesity has many consequences, and one of them is diabetes. Did you know that there are more than 15,000 cases of feline diabetes and of incidents that constitute health risks to them in some countries?

The classification of diabetic cats as DMID (insulin-dependent) or NIDDM (non-insulin-dependent) can be confusing. This disease occurs due to an alteration in glucose metabolism, a decrease in the secretion of insulin by the beta cells of the pancreas, combined with a reduction in the action of insulin or resistance to insulin — resulting in the development of diabetes in cats.

We must bear in mind that, an article reviewed cases of cats that developed a condition known as “transient diabetes.” In these cats, hyperglycemia, glucosuria (glucose in urine), and diabetic clinical signs are resolved, and insulin therapy can be discontinued.

Some do not require more insulin after the initial access to clinical diabetes dissipates, while other cats experience permanent insulin dependence weeks to months after the resolution of the previous diabetic state.

Cats suffering from so-called “transient diabetes” are apparently animals that are in a subclinical diabetic state that becomes clinical when the pancreas is forced by exposure to an adverse drug or disease of concurrent insulin, as in the case of glucocorticoids, megestrol acetate or chronic pancreatitis.

If your cat has diabetes, you should start acting on it as soon as possible, because it can pose serious health problems! But what exactly is this disease? What causes it?

cat diabetes symptoms

What Is Diabetes in Cats?

Diabetes in cats is increasingly becoming frequent, and this is due to the lifestyle of domestic cats, who eat too much food with plenty of calories and perform little or no exercise. Diabetes is a really life-threatening disease and can significantly shorten the life expectancy of the animal if it is not treated correctly.

Insulin is a hormone necessary for the proper functioning of the organism. With diabetes, the cat’s pancreas is not able to generate the insulin it needs, or it creates it but does not fulfill insulin needs well. Without insulin, the diabetic cat is not able to synthesize and use glucose as an energy source, so the body resorts to other components, such as fats or proteins.

The truth is that clinical data indicate that the most common form of cat diabetes is similar to type-2 in humans. In both species the function of the beta cells of the pancreas is deficient, and the secretion of insulin as a reaction to a glucose overload is abnormal.

The most frequent finding in human and cats is the accumulation of a substance called amyloid in the so-called pancreatic islets, which is where insulin is manufactured and is the cause of its poor functionality.

Cat Diabetes Symptoms

According to an article published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, one out of every 230 domestic cats has diabetes or is at high risk for it. This implies that if there are around 3.5 million domestic cats, more than 15,000 suffer or will suffer from diabetes throughout their lives.

Is there a way you can know at home if a cat has diabetes or at least suspect it of having this condition? A diabetic cat that is unable to synthesize glucose will eliminate it through urine, and this implies that it will urinate more often than a non-diabetic cat. Therefore, the cat will also drink more to replace the liquids it expels; otherwise, there is a risk of dehydration. Besides, they tend to eat less and lose weight, and apparently, if your cat is diabetic, it will collapse when having glucose drops.

Although it is not necessarily that all of these feline diabetes symptoms must be present and it is normal that when you go to the consultation that you worry about having to change the substrate of your cat’s tray regularly.

Additional cat diabetes symptoms include lethargy, less interaction with the family, lack of grooming behavior and development of a dry, tarnished, disheveled fur. Also, it shows less jumping ability and weakness of the posterior train or plantigrade posture.

These changes in gait are related to a common complication of diabetes in cat, which is called diabetic polyneuropathy. The most severe complication that can endanger the cat’s life is diabetic ketoacidosis.

How to Diagnose Diabetes in Cats?

The diagnosis of feline diabetes is based on the identification of a permanent elevation of blood glucose values. We refer to it as “permanent,” because a single measurement of fasting blood glucose has a limited value in cats.

There is what we call “hyperglycemia due to stress,” in response to psychological stress as well as to a disease not related to diabetes. Many cats, when they are taken from home for a trip or a visit to the veterinarian, suffer “physiological” elevations of glucose, so it is difficult for the veterinarian to draw conclusions from an analysis in which glucose is elevated. We have to know that these symptoms are not unique to diabetes, but common to several other health problems.

feline diabetes

Diet for Diabetic Cats

In order to help our cat regain its ideal weight, it is necessary to adjust its regular diet by providing fewer calories than what it ate before. And it is scientifically proven that in many cases, cats who moderate their diet and reduce their overweight, can control diabetes because obesity is one of the most harmful factors that are responsible for the production of insulin.

According to experts and veterinarians, cats that have diabetes must eat a diet rich in fiber, since this nutrient in addition to helping the cat to control being overweight and obese, it also assists in managing blood sugar levels after each of the meals of the day.

Likewise, the diet of a diabetic cat must be limited in the availability of carbohydrates, since these, in addition to contributing to the overweight of the animal, usually adds to the rise in blood sugar levels and therefore brings about diabetes.

As well as the proper foods, the owners of a diabetic cat must have strict daily control over their diet. In this sense, if before being diagnosed with this disease, your cat had unlimited access to food, you must know that now, all its meals must be rationalized appropriately and you must exercise strict control over all rations and quantities of food that you provide to your pet.

Have in mind that many veterinarians recommend that cats with diabetes usually eat half of the daily ration they took before being diagnosed with this disease.

Eight Key Points to Remember

  1. Diabetes in cats is a severe condition that can shorten our cat’s life. This disease has no cure but can be controlled with the help of appropriate veterinary treatment.
  2. This disease is diagnosed by the veterinarian with the help of an analysis that allows detecting an abnormal and excessive presence of glucose in the feline’s blood.
  3. Cat diabetes symptoms will be tiredness, weakness and severe weight loss; but it will also urinate and drink water more frequently. Other signs that warn of the disease are cat diarrhea, vomiting, as well as an unhealthy appearance of feline hair.
  4. Cats with diabetes need treatment or veterinary follow-up; otherwise, its life could be shortened as a result of the disease. According to a study conducted by Cornell University (USA), more than half of cats with diabetes require periodic injections of insulin to keep the disease under control.
  5. Controlling cat food helps recognize diabetes. The feeding of the cat should always be done at the same times and in equal amounts. In this way, it will be easier to recognize if the animal suffers from diabetes (or other ailments) at home. Cats with this disease often lose their appetite.
  6. Monitor cat water consumption at home. An animal with diabetes increases its water intake: it is the way your body eliminates excess blood glucose. Therefore, it is essential to control their consumption over a few weeks.
  7. The cat litter box also offers clues to recognize a cat suffering from diabetes, since urine evacuations will grow significantly. When there are more cats at home, it may be more complicated to assess this increase, but even so, the increase is usually very striking.
  8. When diabetes is the outcome of cat obesity, the animal may lose insulin dependence after months or years of treatment. This will be easier when we eliminate the excess loss of weight, which is a goal that will be easier to achieve if you have the proper feline weight loss plan— diet, exercise and many games with our furry friend.

Diabetes in cats poses a grave threat to the health of your pet! Do not ignore it.