Uh Oh, My Cat Has Diabetes-Now What?

The Stinky Cat Chronicles Returns With A Twist!

Miss Garfield sits pretty after her treatment for diabetes

Yes, the Tidy Cat Whisperer  is back, and is pleased to announce that The Stinky Cat has a new friend, “The Sugar Cat”. It’s not easy finding a friend when the word “stinky” is part of one’s name, but Sugar Cat is willing to overlook Stinky’s obvious faults. Of course, Sugar Cat has his own baggage:  you see, The Sugar Cat is diabetic.

Cats (and dogs) can often suffer from many of the same ailments that plague humans, including thyroid issues, hypertension, renal issues, and diabetes. “Just how does a cat get diabetes?” one might ask. Certainly a poor diet, stress and other factors may play a role in your cat developing diabetes. The similarities between human and cat diabetes make it easy to diagnose, and fortunately there are treatments. In humans, diabetes is classified into types.  And so now we come to the “tech-talk” part of the article-but we’ll try to be as “user-friendly” as possible!

In people, Type I diabetes is considered insulin-dependent (IDDM), and is often termed juvenile onset because it usually develops in young people. Approximately 50-75% of cats with diabetes mellitus have  IDDM, or Type I. With this type of diabetes, the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, and the cat must be given supplemental insulin, usually by injection. Cats with this type of diabetes are often thin, and can develop serious, life-threatening conditions (ketoacidosis) as a result of the body’s inability to use fat instead of glucose for energy. In these cats, insulin therapy is absolutely necessary for life.

Type II diabetes in humans is called non-insulin-dependent (NIDDM), or mature-onset because it usually develops in older people. Approximately 25-50% of cats with diabetes mellitus have NIDDM, or Type II. In this type of diabetes, the pancreas is still capable of producing insulin, although the cells of the body do not react to the insulin as they normally would. In this form of diabetes, the cat can continue to survive without additional insulin, however, a managed diet is essential to alleviate the signs of diabetes and maintain weight control, as cats with this type of diabetes tend to be overweight. An oral   medication may also be necessary such as glipizide. It is possible later on for the disease to progress to Type I/insulin-dependent.

It is also possible for another disease to cause “secondary” diabetes, i.e. hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis and Cushing’s disease. In secondary diabetes, the other disease (Cushing’s, pancreatitis, etc) causes the body’s cells to not react adequately to insulin. These cats may or may not need insulin. Secondary diabetes may or may not be reversible, depending on what caused it.

So How Do I Know If My Cat Has Diabetes?

An observant cat owner will notice certain changes in their cat’s appearance, behavior, eating, drinking and litterbox habits. And, the symptoms that cats display have similarities with the human symptoms as well.

  • Does your cat appear to be drinking more water than usual?
  • Does your cat appear to have lost weight (a sign of the cat’s inability to process or handle glucose)?
  • Is your cat urinating excessively? The increased urination may result in the cat not always urinating in the litter box-which may be one of the first signs of diabetes in cats. With my foster cat Miss Garfield, I immediately noticed that she was urinating an extreme amount-and that she would have accidents outside the litterbox.  Cats with diabetes can often develop urinary tract infections, which may also result in inappropriate elimination.
  • Other symptoms that may be a sign of feline diabetes include vomiting, loss of appetite and general weakness.
  • Diabetic cats may also have poor skin and coat condition as well as breathing abnormalities.
  • Some cats with diabetes mellitus develop diabetic neuropathy, an abnormality of their nervous systems which results in them walking with their hocks touching the ground.

If you notice these symptoms, a trip to the vet is warranted.

Since these symptoms can also occur with other diseases, it is essential to have your cat’s blood and urine checked to accurately diagnose the cause. A diagnosis of diabetes is made when persistent high sugar levels are found in the blood and glucose is found in the urine. In addition to high blood glucose levels, increased liver enzymes, and high levels of cholesterol may be seen. Potassium, sodium, and phosphorous levels may be below normal.

If ketones are also found in the urine, then the diagnosis of ketoacidosis is also made. “Okay, so what is a ‘ketone’?”, the Stinky Cat wants to know. A new instrument?  “Mom, I want to join the marching band and play the Ketone…”

Although it has a musical-sounding name, a Ketone is a dangerous thing. Ketones are break down products of fat. When cells don’t get the glucose they need for energy, the body begins to burn fat for energy, which produces ketones. They are a warning sign that the diabetes is out of control. High levels of ketones can poison the body. When levels get too high, one can develop diabetic ketoacidosis. This is true for people as well as animals.

Next Blog Post Will Discuss How We Treat Feline Diabetes, Including Home Blood Glucose Testing, Insulin Injections, Types of Food, Diet-And How It Is Possible To Get Your Cat Off Insulin!


Filed under Pet Tips, Pet Tips - Cats

2 responses to “Uh Oh, My Cat Has Diabetes-Now What?

  1. Pingback: Feline Diabetes Part II: Treat, Manage, Control | Animal Coalition of Delaware County

  2. Lester Biehle

    diabetes mellitus is quite hard on the patient and anyone suffering from it.”

    Remember to find out more about our web site

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