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Summary: In this blog, we detail and explore diabetes in cats. We’ll discuss the reasons cats develop diabetes, the tell-tale signs, how to prevent it, and the treatment methods for diabetic cats. Read on to discover some of the reasons behind diabetes in cats as well as solutions, pro-tips, and more!
Feline diabetes is when a cat’s pancreas stops or doesn’t produce enough of the hormone insulin, or their body’s reaction to it isn’t sufficient.
Cats, dogs, and humans alike all need insulin to help absorb sugar into our bloodstream after we eat. Insulin then helps transport that sugar to the body’s cells to energize them and enable them to grow and thrive. If the insulin amount is inadequate or stops being produced, the cells become starved of energy, and the pancreas overloads in insulin production to the point where it packs up completely meaning blood sugar levels rise abnormally high and diabetic symptoms become apparent.
If diabetes isn’t spotted and left untreated, your cat will become extremely unwell.
Petlab Co. Cat Fact: If you’re wondering “can cats eat sugar?”, the answer is yes but they can’t taste it! Cat’s don’t actually carry the protein that enables them to taste sweetness. Scientists believe it’s because they simply don’t need to be able to taste sweet things; the only thing they really need to eat is meat!
Yes. Obese cats are four times more likely to develop feline diabetes, but typically neutered males and older cats (7+) are more likely than younger and female cats to develop the condition. When it comes to specific breed disposition, Siamese and Burmese cats have a notably higher risk of developing diabetes than others, but it’s important to recognize that all cats, regardless of breed, can experience diabetes. If your cat takes certain long-term medications, this can sometimes lead to developing diabetes too.
Diabetic cats are more prone to UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
As you may know, there are two forms of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Cats are more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes due to abnormalities occurring in the pancreas affecting its functioning. Type 1 Diabetes is much rarer in cats when compared to dogs.
Thankfully, Type 2 Diabetes is can be easily managed with insulin injections and a properly controlled diet.
The signs your cat may be experiencing diabetes are:
If your vet suspects diabetes, they will take a blood sample and a urine sample from your feline friend and assess the levels of glucose (sugar) in their body. Unfortunately, they will not be allowed to eat before their blood work is done.
Your vet will most likely also monitor how much they weigh. If your vet is unsure, or the results of the blood and urine samples are inconclusive, your cat may be kept overnight so the veterinary team can properly assess the issue and have a chance to stabilize their condition.
For most cats diagnosed with diabetes, they will require an insulin injection twice a day after they’ve eaten their main meals. You will be properly instructed by your vet on how to administer the insulin into the scruff of the neck, and rest assured, this isn’t painful for your cat to experience. You may also be required to check your kitty’s blood sugar levels by taking a small swab of blood with a minuscule pinprick on occasion. Again, this will all be explained and taught clearly to you by your vet. If you have any questions, or are unsure, just ask them - that’s what they’re there for!
Petlab Co. Pro Tip: Whilst your cat’s getting used to being regularly injected, you may need an extra pair of hands to help keep them still!
Insulin injections are usually administered 12 hours apart (so the first at 10 am, second at 10 pm). If this is off, your cat will be at risk of developing low blood sugar and they may become hypoglycemic (When cats are experiencing a “hypo”, they may display bumbling behavior, become confused, appear weak, or exhibit extreme body twitching).
Spotting hypoglycemia in cats can be tricky but as a diabetic parent, you’ll be more aware of the signs. Try rubbing honey directly onto your pet’s gums if they’re experiencing a hypoglycemic episode, try to stay calm, and contact your vet.
In some cases of cat diabetes, your vet may think that your feline friend might respond better to glucose-lowering medication instead of insulin injections, combined with a weight-reducing diet.
If your cat is overweight, this will not be helping the symptoms of their diabetes so your vet will most likely advise a diet to help them get to a healthy, optimal weight. You will also probably be advised that the best food for diabetic cats is a wet food diet that’s higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates, which will help manage their glucose levels. You’ll probably be told to avoid treats and offering them any extra food outside of their mealtimes too, again to control glucose levels in their blood. Your vet will advise you thoroughly on what’s appropriate to feed your diabetic cat.
Your vet will also expect to check on your kitty more regularly, so there will be a slight increase in veterinary appointments. If your diabetic pet seems unwell at any point, there’s a noticeable change in their appetite or they become disorientated, contact your vet immediately. In addition, if you think you may have made a mistake when administering their insulin, consult with your vet. Treating a cat with diabetes is a team effort, so don’t worry about bothering your vet - to reiterate, they are there to help!
Every pet parent’s worst nightmare is deciding when it’s kindest to put your furry friend to sleep. If your cat isn’t insured, diabetes can be an expensive condition to manage and care for. In addition, the commitment can be too overwhelming to manage for some pet parents. Sadly, in some cases, diabetes can simply be too severe to control, cause complications, and thus, suffering.
Always keep an open dialogue with your vet, who can support and advise you every step of the way. It’s highly recommended you ensure your pet’s from the day you bring them home, before any potential illnesses and long-term conditions (like diabetes) arise, so your fur baby’s medical bills are covered.
There’s no sure-fire way of stopping diabetes from developing, particularly if your cat is predisposed. However, keeping your cat at a healthy weight, feeding them a high-quality, nutritious diet, and ensuring they’re active (lots of play with toys if they’re an indoor cat!) can help.
Feline diabetes can be managed and controlled if a pet parent can commit to their routine insulin injections and feeding them an appropriate diet. They will often lead normal, happy and healthy lives! Obtaining a diagnosis as soon as possible is key, so you and your veterinary practice can work together to support your diabetic cat and their long-term health.