Guide to a Diabetic Cat – What You Need to Know to Effectively Care for Your Cat

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Diabetes mellitus, commonly known by the shortened name “diabetes”, sugar diabetes or "sugar", is one of the most frequent and important medical disorders of both humans and cats. As a pet owner with a newly diagnosed cat with diabetes, it is difficult to know what you need to do. We created this article to help you know step by step what you need to know and what you need to do.

The 6 keys to treatment of diabetes in cats include:

  1. Change your cat's diet
  2. If your cat is overweight – help your cat lose weight! (this is critical)
  3. Give insulin every 12 hours
  4. Monitor for response to treatment
  5. Maintain a consistent diet, exercise and insulin treatment plan
  6. Monitor for complications of the disease

We will help you understand more about diabetes, how and when to give insulin how to deal with complications. We also included answers to the most common questions diabetic cat owners have as they start their journey as a diabetic cat owner.

What is Diabetes?

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.

With good care, your cat can have a very good life with diabetes. We will help tell you how.

What Cats Get Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus usually affects middle-aged to older cats of either sex. The peak age seen in cats is 11 years. Juvenile-onset diabetes may occur in cats less than 1 year of age but is uncommon. Any breed can be affected but some breeds are at higher risk.

Breeds at increased risk for diabetes mellitus include Burmese cats.

What Causes Feline Diabetes?

The cause of diabetes has a lot to do with genetics and bad luck. There are risk factors which can potentiate diabetes such as obesity, recurring pancreatitis, Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism), and drugs such as glucocorticoids and progestogens that antagonize insulin.

What are Common Symptoms of Diabetes?

Common symptoms of diabetes in cats include thirst and increased water consumption among others. For more detailed information about the diagnosis, treatment and complications of diabetes, go to: Diabetes in Cats.

Uncontrolled elevation of glucose leads to dehydration and body chemistry disorders that can eventually cause coma and death. Left uncontrolled, diabetes can become life threatening.

Why Does My Diabetic Cat Urinate More?

When a pet is diabetic, the body tries hard to fix the problem. For example, the kidneys will try to get rid of excess glucose in the urine. To get rid of extra glucose they also end up getting rid of a lot of extra water. So they urinate more. Because they urinate more and are getting rid of a lot of extra water, they are thirsty and drink more.

Classic signs of diabetes is drinking more and urinating more. The medical term for this is polydipsia (drinking more) and polyuria (urinating more).

What Does the Term Spilling Glucose Mean?

Some clients hear their vet say this term – their cat is “spilling glucose”. This term means that their cat has glucose in the urine. This is the body's way of trying to get rid of excess glucose in the cat's blood.

How is the Diagnosis Obtained?

The first step in treating diabetes in your cat 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, you and your veterinarian can work together to effectively control diabetes mellitus.

What Type of Diabetes Does My Cat Have?

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, and 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.

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