The Management And Prevention Of Diabetes In Cats
Diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or properly use insulin to break down glucose (a type of sugar) in foods. Glucose is the main source of energy needed by the body’s cells to sustain life.
Noticing early signs is the best way to catch diabetes before it can do major damage. The sooner diabetes is diagnosed and treatment begun, the better chance the pet has of a normal life. While there may not be a cure for diabetes in cats, it can be managed quite successfully.
SYMPTOMS OF CAT DIABETES
Symptoms of diabetes in cats include:
- Increased thirst
- Urinating more than usual
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss, even with increased food intake
- Weakness in the back of legs – a difference in stance
DIAGNOSING DIABETES IN CATS
If diabetes is suspected, your veterinarian will draw blood, collect urine and conduct these tests:
- Urinalysis test. Glucose in the urine indicates a failure of the kidneys to filter the glucose out of the blood, which suggests the cat is hyperglycemic and may have diabetes.
- High blood glucose (sugar) or hyperglycemia test. In the U.S., blood glucose is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). The glucose concentration that may raise suspicion of diabetes is 200-300 mg/dL, depending on symptoms.
- Fructosamine test. This provides a long-term view of blood glucose over the previous one to three weeks. Fructosamine is measured in micromoles per liter (μmol/L). A fructosamine measurement above 400 μmol/L could suggest diabetes.
DIABETES TREATMENT GOALS
Once diabetes is confirmed, your veterinarian will provide a treatment protocol that may include insulin by injections. It is not a one-size-fits-all treatment – your veterinarian may periodically need to adjust your cat’s treatment regimen based on the results of monitoring. Dietary recommendations are an important part of treatment.
The goals of diabetes treatment include:
- Normalize appetite
- Reduce or eliminate signs of weight loss
- Restore normal blood glucose concentration
- Reduce or eliminate signs of increased thirst and urination
- Avoid causing inappropriately low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) through therapy
The objective is to eliminate signs of diabetes while avoiding associated complications.
COMPLICATIONS OF DIABETES
- Weight loss
- Low blood sugar
- Impaired coordination
- Poor hair coat (not grooming)
- Plantigrade stance caused by nerve damage
- Recurring ketosis (body doesn’t have enough glucose for energy)
- Poor glycemic control caused by simultaneous infection, inflammation, hormonal disorders or neoplasia
TREATING & MANAGING DIABETES IN CATS
- Possibly a diet restricted in carbohydrates
- Weight loss program for overweight cats
- Diet that combats weight loss associated with diabetes, if applicable
- Multiple meals per day or unrestricted access to food, if weight loss is problematic
- Initial insulin therapy
- Frequent evaluations
- Insulin therapy adjustments
- Continued adjustments until an effective treatment protocol is determined
PREVENTING DIABETES IN CATS
You can reduce your cat’s risk of developing diabetes by taking the following steps:
- Watch your cat’s weight.
- Encourage and provide means for physical and mental exercise.
- Provide proper diet: some recommend a high-protein, low-carb, grain-free diet.
- Never skip regular checkups and contact your veterinarian, if you’re concerned about any changes.
- Take your cat for regular blood and urine screenings.
Cats with diabetes can live a high-quality life for many years, if the condition is properly controlled.