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

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In-hospital therapy generally includes insulin administration with frequent dose adjustment (every few hours), intravenous (IV) fluids, administration of electrolytes (blood chemicals), treatment of secondary problems, and antibiotics. Multiple blood glucose samples are taken to determine the insulin dose and urine samples to determine the presence of ketones. The insulin given in this situation is a short acting insulin and will not be the insulin used when you go home.

The process is slightly different with every cat but will generally require two to four days of intense hospitalization.

What are Signs of Diabetic Keotacidosis (DKA)?

Symptoms include weight loss, lack of appetite, increased thirst, frequent urination, lethargy, disorientation, vomiting, and some people notice a fruity smell to the breath (acetone odor).

If you suspect your cat is having symptoms of DKA, this is a life-threatening emergency. Call your veterinarian immediately. Treatment includes hospitalization, intravenous fluids, and frequent doses of short-acting insulin. For more information, go to: Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) in Cats.

Beginning Treatment With Your Diabetic Cat

If your pet is still feeling good, eating with no vomiting, you will be taught to give insulin injections to your cat and start them on a special diet. Below is information on what and when to feed your diabetic cat.

The goal of diabetes treatment is to control the blood glucose so it is close to the normal range, as it would be if the pancreas were still producing insulin naturally.

In cats, the ultimate goal is for diabetic remission. This is possible in diagnosed obese or previously obese cats. Dietary therapy and weight loss are essential in addition to the insulin therapy.

What Diet Should I Feed My Diabetic Cat?

Your cat's weight and what your cat eats has a direct impact on his blood glucose levels. Diet is thought to be a CRITICAL part of diabetes management in cats.

Current research suggests that a high protein, low carbohydrate diet is best for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores and they don't they don't have the proper enzymes to digest plant-based protein. So offering them plant based foods can be difficult for the diabetic cat to digest and process. Feeding to obtain and ideal body weight is critical.

Excellent foods include:

  • Hills Science Diet m/d dry and canned
  • Purina veterinary diets DM dry and canned
  • Royal Canin diabetic DS 44 dry
  • Evo
  • Young Again

Previously, diets high in fiber and complex carbohydrates were recommended for dietary management of diabetic cats. These are not longer recommended.
Several studies have shown that cats started on insulin and a high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet were 4 times more likely to achieve clinical remission of their diabetes. In cats that did not achieve remission, their insulin requirement was reduced by half.

Canned diets are significantly lower in carbohydrate content than most dry kibble and often can help in better dietary management of diabetes.

IMPORTANT: The most important aspect to a diabetic diet is that it be complete, balanced, your cat likes it, you are feeding the calories your cat needs and you are consistent. Feed the same food and the same amount of calories every day. This will help keep glucose levels steady.

How Do I Calculate How Many Calories My Cat Should Eat Per Day?

Your vet can help you with this. Here is a method for calculating your cat's calorie requirements.

Can I Treat My Cat with Diabetic Pills?

Oral anti-hyperglycemic pills are commonly used in humans to treat adult onset type II diabetes. Some cats can respond to oral medications for milder cases of diabetes with very strict weight loss and diet modifications. Some studies suggest it can take 3 to 4 months for cats to optimally respond to oral medications. Common medications used in cats include: Glipizide.

Severe cases of diabetes are only controlled with insulin injections.

My Cats Hates His New Food, What Should I Do?

If your cat won't eat his new food, go back to his regular food for a while. It is important that your cat eat. Then do a gradual change. Mix in maybe 10% the new food with 90% of the prior food. Each day, add a few more kibbles of the new food to the old food until have obtained a 100% change to the new food. If he still will not eat the new diet, refer to the list of recommended foods above and discuss a different option with your veterinarian.


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