Feline diabetes is increasingly common, and we see quite a few cases at Beacon View Vets Sandwich. This increase is linked to the rate of feline obesity also increasing. It is estimated to affect 1 in 200 cats and is the second most common hormonal disease we see in cats. For each kilo that your cat is overweight, their risk of developing diabetes increases by 20%. Diabetes tends to affect cats over the age of 7 years and it more commonly affects males than females. Cats with other illnesses such as kidney disease, pancreatitis and hyperthyroidism are at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
Feline diabetes is most comparable to Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus in humans. Feline Diabetes occurs as a result of the feline metabolism not being able to balance the glucose (sugar) levels in the bloodstream with insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is released by the pancreas and acts like a key to let glucose into cells for metabolic use. Inability to make enough insulin or resistance to insulin results in high blood sugar levels that are deleterious to health and causes a lot of damage. As a result of the high blood glucose levels, glucose ends up in the urine and the kidneys release excessive water into the urine. This leads to dehydration so your cat will need to drink more to try to make up for the excessive water loss.
It is possible for cats to go into remission if the diabetes is detected early, they reach their ideal body weight and are closely monitored. Unfortunately, most cats will not go into remission and some cats that do go into remission will then relapse back to diabetes.
So, what are the signs to look out for?
Cats can display a variety of signs that they may be diabetic, your cat could show one or a number of the following signs.
- Weight loss
- Drinking more water or drinking from unusual places
- Increase hunger
- Urinating more than usual or urinating outside of the litter box
- Reduced jumping ability
- Weakness of the back legs, possibly walking on the heels rather than the toes
How do we diagnose diabetes in cats?
We recommend a health check for any abnormalities that you notice with your cat’s behaviour or appearance. After listening to your concerns and performing a full clinical exam, if we suspect diabetes we will recommend urinalysis and blood tests.
How do we treat feline diabetes?
Whilst it is possible for cats to go into remission from diabetes, this is not achievable for all cats. Most cats require lifelong management and we will have a thorough conversation about the goals of treatment and the commitment that this requires.
- We may recommend that your cat transitions onto a low carbohydrate diet to help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Most cases of feline diabetes are treated with insulin injections that you will be trained to give at home.
- Regular check-ups with the vets and vet nurses to track blood sugar levels, weight and check for further problems that diabetes can cause such as blindness and nerve damage.
It is a big commitment to treat a diabetic cat; you’ll need to monitor them closely and medicate them as your vet directs. With a good routine and close monitoring, we would expect most cats to manage well.
As always, if you have any concerns about your cat or have noticed any of the symptoms listed above, then please contact us to discuss this. Early detection of diabetes is certainly associated with better outcomes for diabetic patients.