Cats and Feline Diabetes, Symptoms and Treatment

Cats and Feline Diabetes

What are the Symptoms? What is the Treatment?

Cats and Feline Diabetes, Symptoms and Treatment
Photo: King Taco, Flickr

Feline Diabetes

Cats are one of the most popular pets in North America. They are loving pets, capable of providing you years of companionship.  Like other pets, cats can sometimes get sick.  There are several different types of ailments that cats can get, one of which is feline diabetes. Feline diabetes is a serious disease, although it can be treated by a veterinarian. About 1 in 400 cats develop diabetes and it is becoming increasingly common.

Diabetes is more common with humans than with cats or other animals. The cause of diabetes is actually quite simple.  Sugar, or glucose, is found in the blood.  The level of blood sugar in the body or the animal is kept under control by the hormone insulin, which the pancreas produces.  When the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, diabetes is to blame.

Diabetes in cats occurs more frequently than in dogs.  80-95% of diabetic cats experience something similar to type-2 diabetes but are generally severely insulin-dependent by the time symptoms are diagnosed.

Feline Diabetes Symptoms

The symptoms of feline diabetes will vary.  The most common symptoms include sudden weight loss (or occasionally gain), an increase in urine and an excessive increase in thirst.  Some cats may even appear to develop an obsession with water and lurk around faucets or water bowls.  Appetite is suddenly either ravenous (up to 3x normal) or is absent altogether. These symptoms arise from the body being unable to use glucose as an energy source.

If feline diabetes is left untreated, the cat will eventually become inactive, with back legs becoming weak.  The gait may become stilted or wobbly (peripheral neuropathy).  Cats may vomit on a regular basis and will eventually suffer from malnutrition, with the body breaking down its own fat and muscle to survive.   Lethargy or limpness, and acetone-smelling breath are acute symptoms of ketoacidosis and/or dehydration and is a medical emergency.

Untreated, diabetes leads to coma and then death.

Feline Diabetes Testing

The same home blood test monitors used in humans are used on cats, usually by obtaining blood from the ear edges or paw pads. As the disease progresses, ketone bodies will be present in the urine, which can be detected with the same urine strips as in humans.

Cats and Feline Diabetes, Symptoms and Treatment
Image: Janeyesee, Flickr

Feline Diabetes Treatment and Prognosis

Feline diabetes can be treated but is life-threatening if left alone. Early diagnosis and treatment by a qualified veterinarian can help in preventing nerve damage, and, in rare cases, lead to remission, in which the cat no longer needs injected insulin.  If you get diabetes treated in time, the cat will more than likely lead a normal and healthy life.

Keep in mind that treatment doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time and dedication.

Cats that have feline diabetes will need to be given food at the same time every day. They should be prevented from going outside as well.  If your cat has diabetes, you’ll need to give him insulin shots once or twice or a day.  Once your veterinarian checks your cat, he will tell you how many shots and how much insulin you need to give your cat.

Making Your Own Cat Food: The Complete Guide

Before you give your cat his insulin shot, you should always make sure that he has some food first.  If he hasn’t eaten and you give him a shot anyway, he could end up with a hypoglycemic shock.  This can also occur from too much insulin as well.  A hypo can be really dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.  If your cat gets a hypoglycemic shock and you aren’t around, he may end up dying.

If you have to give insulin shots to your cat due to feline diabetes, you should always keep a watchful eye on him after you have administered the shot.  After your cat has been on insulin for a period of time, your vet may reduce the amount of insulin.  Even though he may have to stay on insulin for the rest of his life, he will lead an otherwise healthy life.

Feline diabetes is rare in cats younger than seven years old.

Cats and Feline Diabetes
Photo by: Maury McCown, Flickr


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6 thoughts on “Cats and Feline Diabetes, Symptoms and Treatment”

  1. Looked at many sites for info about feline diabetes, finally found you. You have offered me the most information without trying to sell me something. Thank you!

  2. I know how from experience – we had a sweet little poodle when I was a girl but they didn’t have the shots for dogs then – and now I’ve heard that you can also give your dogs b-12 and b-complex shots – so cool! Great post and photos, Jeanne 🙂


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