Diabetes mellitus is a condition in cats where blood sugar, or glucose, cannot be effectively utilized and regulated by the body. Insulin which is produced by the pancreas controls the flow of glucose (blood sugar) to the body's cells in order to provide energy. If your cat's insulin levels are too low, glucose doesn't reach the cells as it should. When this happens, the cat's body begins breaking down fat and protein cells to use for energy, while unused glucose builds up in the cat's bloodstream.
Type I or Type II Diabetes in Cats
- Type I (Insulin-Dependent) - The cat's body can no longer produce or release enough insulin into the body. This form of diabetes is relatively rare in cats.
- Type II (Non-Insulin Dependent) - With this form of diabetes, the cat's body produces sufficient amounts of insulin, but the tissues or organs do not respond appropriately to insulin and have become insulin-resistant. Type II diabetes is common in overweight male cats over the age of 8, and cats that are fed a high-carbohydrate diet.
Cat Diabetes Symptoms
Because a diabetic cat’s body breaks down protein and fat instead of using glucose, cats with a healthy appetite, or even those with a ravenous appetite, will lose weight. Other cat diabetes symptoms include:
- Increased urination
- Increased appetite
- Lethargy or weakness
- Increased thirst
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Unhealthy coat and skin
- Walking flat on backs of their hind legs (from nerve damage)
If left untreated diabetes can lead to a variety of debilitating, expensive, and potentially fatal conditions. If your cat is showing symptoms of diabetes it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. While there is no cure for diabetes in cats, treatment is available.
Diabetes Treatment Options for Cats
Your cat will first require an official diagnosis, then daily management of the condition with insulin injections, (which your vet may train you to give at home). Your vet may also recommend that you make changes to your cat's diet to make sure they’re getting the right combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. In some cases your vet may recommend a special prescription food to help manage your cat's diabetes.
For cats with diabetes, regular visits to the vet for blood sugar tests are essential, or your vet may recommend testing your cat’s glucose at home. Many pet parents find it helpful to keep a diary of their diabetic cat's appetite and litter use so that any changes are spotted early and can be reported to the vet right away.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.