Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) in Cats

Feline Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), the most severe form of Diabetes Mellitus, results in severe changes in blood chemicals including imbalances in small, simple chemicals known as electrolytes.

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic condition in which a deficiency of the hormone insulin impairs the body’s ability to metabolize sugar. It is one of the most common endocrine (hormonal) diseases of cats. For more information on the basics of diabetes, go to Diabetes mellitus in cats DKA is a life-threatening condition caused by diabetes mellitus resulting from insulin deficiency that leads to excess production of ketoacids by the liver. Subsequent changes in the blood result that includes metabolic acidosis, electrolyte abnormalities producing severe signs of systemic illness.

DKA condition can occur in pets with new diabetes or in current diabetics that decompensate. Secondary diseases and/or infections can cause diabetics to decompensate and develop DKA.

What to Watch For

Signs associated with DKA depend on the individual cat and the length of time they have been ill. Signs may consist of the classic signs of diabetes including:

Additional signs of DKA include:

Diagnosis of Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Cats

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine level of blood sugar, the presence of ketones, and electrolyte concentrations to help guide subsequent treatment recommendations.

Some of these tests include:

Additional tests may be recommended on an individual basis. These tests include:

Treatment of Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Cats

Patients with uncomplicated diabetes are generally managed on an outpatient basis, but those experiencing complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis will require initial in-hospital stabilization.

In-hospital therapy generally includes insulin administration with frequent dose adjustment, intravenous fluids, administration of electrolytes (blood chemicals), treatment of secondary problems, and antibiotics.

Therapy may include the following:

Home Care and Prevention

Long term management of diabetes will include insulin injections at home and possible antibiotics to treat infectious complications. Ovariohysterectomy (spaying) is indicated in female diabetic animals. When animals come into heat (estrus), the hormonal changes alter insulin and glucose metabolism.

Be prepared for frequent adjustments to therapy early in the course of treatment. Veterinarians prefer to start with a low dose of insulin initially and adjust upwards slowly to avoid overdose.

For more information for long term home care of diabetic cats, go to Diabetes Mellitus in Cats.

Prognosis for Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Cats

The prognosis depends upon the severity of the illness, the cat’s response to therapy, overall heath of your cat, concurrent diseases, and secondary complications from diabetes. Once pets survive the life-threatening DKA portion of the disease and go on to become “routine” diabetics and do well after 6 months of treatment, many will have a good quality of life for more than 5 years.