Diabetes is a condition which leads to raised blood sugar level due to the body’s inability to produce enough insulin or responds to the produced insulin.
The body requires energy to perform its functions and when food goes into it, it is broken down into glucose which works as a fuel. Glucose enters the blood stream and triggers pancreas to release the hormone known as Insulin, which maintains the balanced glucose level in the bloodstream. In diabetes, the body fails to maintain balanced blood sugar due to insufficient insulin or minimal response to insulin.
Types of Diabetes
There are two types of diabetes (also known as diabetes mellitus):
- Type-1 which is caused by insulin deficiency
- Type-2 is a condition in which the body shows minimal or no response to the produced insulin. In cats, type-2 is a widespread form of diabetes.
There is an increased rate of cats suffering from diabetes nowadays i.e.; 7.4/1000 cats.(1)It is therefore required for care givers to be aware of signs and symptoms that can lead to feline diabetes, as many cats remain under diagnosed and if left untreated it could lead to serious complications.
Early Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of diabetes are usually unnoticeable in the beginning. In fact, early signs can even be confused with other conditions. Therefore, close monitoring is required if you observe any change in your cat’s behavior and activities. The early signs and symptoms of feline diabetes are:
- Increased thirst: also known as Polydipsia. Daily water requirement for a normal healthy cat is 5-10 fluid ounces/day(2). If your cat is drinking more water, then there is a need for monitoring fluid intake closely as water requirements differs individually.
- Increased urination: also called Polyuria. Elavated water intake leads to increased urination, which may be an early sign of diabetes.
- Increased appetite: also called Polyphagia. The eating habits of diabetic cats changes as they feel more hunger because of their body’s inability to use energy from glucose, so their body requires more food to function.
- Weight loss: despite eating more foods, there is a sudden loss of weight in early diabetes, as the body starts using fats to compensate for fuel requirements.
Later Signs and Symptoms
- Lethargy: due to weight loss and the inability to derive energy from glucose, cats usually appear to be lethargic and sleepy. If you notice changes in activity levels of your cat then there is a need to see a veterinarian.
- Obesity: sudden weight loss in early stage is followed by weight gain in the later stage, thus leading to obesity.
- Vomiting: chronic diarrhea and vomiting are also an alarming sign.
- Oily coat: if your cat’s coat becomes oily and is accompanied by dandruff without changing any routine habits (shampoo, conditioner), then this may be a sign of diabetes
- Change in gait: notice the gait or walk of your cat. If you notice a change at the hind end i.e. if your cats walk on his hocks or flat footed instead of walking on his toes, then there is a need to see a veterinarian as it is a later sign of the disease.
- Dehydration: excessive urination, diarrhea and vomiting leads to dehydration.
- Breathing problems: In some cases there is difficulty in breathing. Also there is an acetone-like smell in breath.
These later signs are alarming and if left untreated can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a life threatening complication.
Diabetes is a manageable disease because it requires proper care and balanced diet to maintain the healthy life style of a cat. If owner is vigilant in noticing any unusual behavior in cat’s attitude and eating habits, then early diagnosis can be made. If left untreated, diabetes can bring about serious complications like diabetic neuropathy, nephropathy, infections, dehydration and even death.
1. Lederer R, Rand JS, Jonsson NN et al. Frequency of feline diabetes mellitus and breed predisposition in domestic cats in Australia. Vet J. 2009; 172(2):254-258.
2. Dr. Mark E. Peterson; Daily Water Requirements and Needs for Cats; https://animalendocrine.blogspot.com/2011/10/daily-water-requirements-and-needs-for.html (Accessed 26/04/2018)