Drinking, Drinking, Drinking – Your Cat and Diabetes

Understanding Feline Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus – commonly known as sugar diabetes or “sugar” – is one of the most frequent and important medical disorders of humans. Surprisingly, it is also a common illness of cats. Among the main symptoms of diabetes in both people and cats is thirst and increased water consumption.

Diabetes is a disease that leads to chronic elevation of the blood glucose or sugar. Blood sugar is maintained by a group of hormones, the most important of which is insulin, which is manufactured by the pancreas, a small organ near the intestines. Insulin lowers the blood sugar after a meal, and deficiency of insulin, or an insensitivity of body cells to available insulin, leads to diabetes.

Two Types of Diabetes in Cats

There are two basic forms of diabetes: type I and type II. Absolute deficiency of insulin leads to type I diabetes. This is due to an insufficient number of insulin-producing pancreas cells. Type I diabetes, often called “juvenile-onset diabetes” in people, represents the most serious form of the disease. Effective treatment for type I diabetes requires a combination of controlled diet, regular exercise and insulin therapy. Cats are most often affected by type I diabetes but some may have type II. People and pets with type I diabetes require daily injections of insulin to maintain a regular blood-sugar level.

Adult onset or type II diabetes is the more common form of diabetes in people. This condition combines a relative lack of insulin production with a resistance of body cells to the effects of the hormone. Type II diabetes is treated with a combination of diet, weight control and medicine that makes cells more sensitive to insulin. This form of diabetes is observed more often in cats than in dogs. Keys to successful treatment are a high-fiber diet, weight control and occasionally, medicines designed for humans to control the glucose level.

Cats Drink Excessively

Left uncontrolled, diabetes can become life threatening. Among the notable symptoms of diabetes in both people and cats are increased thirst and urination. While there can be other explanations for these problems, diabetes should always be considered when these symptoms are observed. Most pet owners notice that their diabetic cat drinks excessively and has a need to use the litter box more often.

Diabetic cats, like people, need medical care. Uncontrolled elevation of glucose leads to dehydration and body chemistry disorders that can eventually cause coma and death.

The first step in treating the disease is getting a correct diagnosis. This requires a veterinary examination and appropriate tests, such as a urinalysis (to detect spilled “sugar”) and blood glucose determination. Additional tests often are needed to assess the overall medical situation. Once the diagnosis is made, however, the cat owner and veterinarian can work together to effectively control diabetes mellitus.

To learn more, please read Diabetes Mellitus.