A Guide To Cat Diabetes

cat laying down

It might surprise you to hear that diabetes can affect cats as well as humans. When it comes to cats, there are two types of diabetes mellitus (DM). Type I DM occurs when a cat’s body does not produce enough insulin, this lack of insulin can be the result of the destruction of the cells in the pancreas that normally produce insulin. 50-70% of cats that have been diagnosed with DM have type 1 diabetes. Due to the lack of insulin in the cat’s body, they will require insulin injections to control their disease.

Type II DM occurs when enough insulin is produced, but something interferes with its ability to be utilized by your cat’s body. Unlike type I DM, type II DM is found in 30% of cats diagnosed with DM. Type II DM is typically treated with dietary management, weight control, and oral drugs. So what about the remaining 20% of cats diagnosed with DM? The last 20% of cats diagnosed with DM can be classified as “transient” diabetics. To be a “transient” diabetic means that after diagnosis with diabetes mellitus, a cat can have total resolution of their diabetic state months to years after diagnosis.

So when do cats contract DM? DM has been shown to typically affect middle-aged to older cats, ages 9-11, of either sex however it is most common in neutered male cats. But, early-onset diabetes may occur in kittens less than one year of age and can affect any breed.

Possible Signs of Diabetes

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Weight loss despite a good appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Poor body condition/poor coat
  • Weakness – especially in rear legs

Diagnosing Diabetes in Cats

When it comes time for your vet to diagnose diabetes in your cat, he or she will implement any of the below tests to determine the underlying cause of the elevated blood sugar in your cat.

  • Analysis of the urine to check for glucose and for signs of urinary tract infection. The vet will also be looking for ketones, which is an acid produced by a cat’s body when insulin is absent.
  • A serum biochemical analysis to determine the blood glucose concentration and to exclude other potential causes of the same symptoms.
  • A complete blood count (CBC).
  • A biochemical analysis of the blood.
  • Other tests such as abdominal X-rays or abdominal ultrasound if complications or concurrent diseases, such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), are suspected.
  • A complete medical history will be needed as well as a physical examination. Particular attention will be given to your assessment of changes in eating and elimination activities. Changes in weight or general behavior will also be noted. The abdomen will be carefully palpated (probed by touch) to feel for changes in the size of the abdominal organs.

Diabetes Treatment Options

It should be noted, as always, that each cat is different. The treatment options that we outline may not be right for your cat’s specific needs. Talk to your vet to determine your cat’s ideal DM treatment plan.

Insulin Injections:

For most scenarios, most cats will eventually need one or two daily insulin injections. These injections are given under the skin using a small needle. Luckily, most cats become comfortable with this daily occurrence. When this becomes necessary, your vet will show you how to properly perform these injections.

Oral Hypoglycemic Agents:

Oral hypoglycemic agents will typically only be given if your cat’s pancreas is still producing some insulin.

Weight Management:

Proper weight management diet and regular exercise can aid in control of DM. The recommended diet for cats with diabetes is a high protein low carbohydrate diet.

The costs of treating or managing your cat’s diabetes can quickly add up. Between the costs of diagnosing their diabetes through urine samples or other tests, blood tests to monitor their condition, and specialized food to keep them healthy, your cat’s condition could easily turn into a huge financial responsibility. While each vet’s office is different and charges various rates, there is one sure way that you can use to cut costs while treating your cat’s diabetes; pet insurance. Most pet insurance plans will cover diabetes and the costs associated with the disease. By paying a monthly premium, you could be saving hundreds of dollars.

Tackling Your Cat’s Diabetes With PetPlace

We know that it can seem daunting to tackle your cat’s diabetes, but we’re here to help. Between your vet and our online archive of kitty articles, you’ll be able to find all the help you need to battling your cat’s DM. Did you know that some pet insurance plans can help pay for the costs associated with diabetes? To learn more, check out our pet insurance articles.


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