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Diabetes in Cats: Prevention and Treatment

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“Does My Cat Have Diabetes?”

Know the Warning Signs:

Early symptoms:
•   Excessive water consumption
•   Increased urine production
•   Increased appetite
•   Weight loss
•   Lethargy

Advanced stage symptoms
•   Dehydration
•   Vomiting
•   Labored breathing
•   Acetone smell on breath
•   Diabetic coma

If you suspect that your cat may be diabetic, contact your veterinarian for an immediate appointment.  Early diagnosis is essential to managing diabetes in cats. Dietary changes and appropriate treatment can help manage this condition in cats and prevent further health complications.

Diabetes in cats, also known as feline diabetes mellitus, is an increasingly common disease affecting 1 out of every 400 cats. Obesity is the leading risk factor for diabetes.

"Overweight or obese cats are two to four times more likely to develop diabetes than cats with a healthy body weight," says board-certified veterinary nutrition specialist Dorothy Laflamme, DVM, PhD, DACVN.

Diabetes is a progressive disease. In the early stages, a cat may try to compensate for the body’s inability to metabolize glucose by increasing food consumption. Symptoms of early diabetes are frequent urination, increased thirst and appetite, and unexplained weight loss. Kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are two diseases that can mimic the symptoms of diabetes. A veterinarian can diagnose diabetes using blood and urine tests.

All diabetic cats are started on insulin. Your veterinarian will decide which kind of insulin to use, what dose should be administered, and will show you how to give these injections at home. Don't worry, the needles are very small and many cats don't even know they're being injected. Your cat will need monitoring to determine the response to treatment, this may include both blood tests and indicators you use in the litter box. Dietary changes to a high protein, low-carbohydrate diet are essential to help diabetic cats regulate blood sugar levels.  The good news is that 70% of these patients eventually do not need insulin.

Some cats may require hospitalization following a diabetes diagnosis. These cats are typically suffering from a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which occurs when fatty-acid by-products build up in the blood stream. These byproducts, known as ketones, build up because of the cat’s inability to metabolize glucose. Symptoms of DKA include the smell of acetone on the cat’s breath (similar to nail polish remover), extreme lethargy, vomiting, and rapid, labored breathing.

Without intervention, a severely diabetic cat may slip into a diabetic coma and even die. Diabetes can also lead to other health complications, including kidney and bladder infections, abnormal gait due to a neuropathy, and muscle loss.

Most cats, however, do not require hospitalization. Dietary changes and appropriate treatment can help manage diabetes. A low carbohydrate, high protein canned diet can help control diabetes and may even lead to remission. Your veterinarian can make specific dietary recommendations for your cat.

Sources: 

American Animal Hospital Association

Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine

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Testimonial

Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.

The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.

Sung L.
Rupert, ID

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