Diabetes mellitus is the second most prevalent endocrine disorder in cats but believed to be underdiagnosed. Be informed on how to detect and manage diabetes in cats as you continue reading.
What is diabetes in cats?
Diabetes in cats is a pancreatic disorder. This health problem occurs when the beta cells, which are found in the pancreas and responsible for insulin hormone production, fail to regulate blood sugar levels.
This results in the body becoming resistant to insulin. In turn, it leads to the abnormal increase of glucose levels in the bloodstream and impedes the ability of the cat’s body to use glucose as its source of energy.
How prevalent is diabetes in cats?
Experts estimated that between 0.2–1% of felines will be diagnosed with diabetes during their lifetime. Commonly, those affected have type II diabetes mellitus.
Moreover, they believe that approximately 0.5–2% of the feline population are said to be affected by this disorder. However, the true incidence remains unknown.
Thus, many vets believe that diabetes in cats is underdiagnosed and may have affected more felines than estimated.
What are the different types of diabetes in cats?
Diabetes in cats is classified into 3 different types. Let’s take a look at how each of them differs from one another.
Type I Diabetes in Cats
This type of diabetes is rarely seen in felines. It happens due to the complete or nearly total damage of the beta cells.
Type II Diabetes in Cats
In type II diabetes, some beta cells remain intact. However, the production of insulin is inadequate. This can be caused by a delay of insulin secretion or the cat’s body tissues have become insulin-resistant.
Type III Diabetes in Cats
This type of diabetes in cats is commonly induced by insulin resistance. This immunity is typical brought on by other hormones, pregnancy, or tumours.
What causes diabetes in cats?
The main cause of diabetes in cats is unknown. But it is thought that obesity is linked to type II diabetes mellitus, which is very prevalent in cats.
Note that a cat weighing over 1.3 kilos (3 pounds) her ideal weight is considered obese. Average domestic cats weighing 5.8 kilos (13 pounds) or more are more prone to suffer from type II diabetes.
What are the other risk factors of diabetes in cats?
Obesity is not the only presumed factor that causes diabetes in cats. Listed below are other risk factors that heighten a feline’s susceptibility to this disease:
- Male cats have higher chances of developing diabetes than females
- Having a high carbohydrate diet
- Using corticosteroids such as prednisolone in treating certain health issues
- Older or senior cats over 7 years of age
- Presence of other hormonal disorders including hyperthyroidism and Cushing’s disease
How can you tell if your cat has diabetes?
Know the symptoms of diabetes in cats before it is too late. Below are the most common clinical signs:
- Sudden weight loss
- Extreme hunger
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination
- Extreme fatigue
- Sudden mood changes
- Motor weakness
- Breathing problems
Get your cat checked by the vet right away if she shows these symptoms of diabetes.
Why do these signs of diabetes in cats occur?
Let us take a close look as to what triggers the occurrence of feline diabetes symptoms to know how this disease affects a cat’s body.
1. Sudden Weight Loss and Excessive Hunger
If a cat has diabetes, she will exhibit sudden weight loss because she cannot use the calories for energy. Her body then starts breaking down fat as a replacement. When this happens, the cat begins to lose weight.
The situation is mirrored in the case of excessive hunger. Since cats do not produce enough insulin to move sugar to the cells, the cat will end up eating more. The cat displays increased appetite but continues losing weight.
However, in the later stage, the cat may start losing her appetite if she is constantly not feeling well.
2. Extreme Thirst and Increased Urination
A diabetic cat will have excess sugar within her body that she is supposed to eliminate through metabolism. However, the lack of insulin makes this impossible.
As such, the body will try to excrete the excess sugar through the kidneys through urination. In this case, the cat’s body will go through a cycle of increased urination and thirst.
3. Extreme Fatigue and Mood Changes
When a cat is having difficulty getting enough food and water into her system, she will become lethargic. The cat will then become irritable and grumpy or sleep more than usual because she is not feeling well.
4. Vomiting and/or Diarrhoea
Vomiting and diarrhoea may be signs of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). However, this is often exhibited by cats that have been diagnosed with diabetes and have been taking insulin.
Other factors may also lead to this condition, including kidney failure, stress, and infections in the urinary and respiratory tract. DKA is a dire clinical pet emergency and must be treated immediately.
5. Motor Weakness and Breathing Problems
When cats are not getting enough sugar, they will not have sufficient energy. Thus, if a cat has diabetes, she will feel weak.
Other than weakness, poor nutrition can also affect her central nervous system and respiratory system. This condition is called diabetic neuropathy, which may cause loss of muscle function.
Watch out for the “plantigrade stance” or when the cat’s hocks are always touching the ground whilst walking.
What happens to a cat with untreated diabetes?
A cat with untreated diabetes is highly at risk of developing other health problems, which can complicate her condition.
Some diseases concurrent to diabetes in cats are neuropathy, depression, renal issues, and ketoacidosis. Without proper treatment, diabetes in cats will continue to progress, leading to coma and later on, death.
What is the life expectancy of a cat with diabetes?
Generally, the average life expectancy of healthy indoor cats is around 13–17 years. Cats with diabetes have similar average longevity if they receive proper treatment.
However, expect a different outcome if the disease is left untreated. They will have a lower life expectancy as they are likely to develop other health issues caused by diabetes.
Can you reverse diabetes in cats?
No, diabetes in cats cannot be reversed, but it can be controlled. Treating this disease is primarily about regulating blood glucose levels through insulin injections.
Other diabetes in cats treatments such as diet changes and exercise also help. So long as the recommended treatments are followed consistently, cats with diabetes will have a good quality of life.
How does a vet test a cat for diabetes?
The vet will need to run various tests to accurately diagnose diabetes in cats. Generally, they may take blood tests and urine samples from your cat.
Aside from that, serum biochemistry profile and fructosamine concentration may also be necessary. The results will show the severity of diabetes and the health complications linked to it.
How to treat diabetes in cats
There is no permanent treatment for diabetes in cats yet. Thus, life-long management is currently the only top solution.
Managing diabetes in cats commonly involves insulin therapy and administering oral medications that help lower blood sugar. Diabetic overweight cats and obese cats will need low-carb diets to avoid blood sugar level spikes.
How often are insulin injections administered?
Most diabetic cats will need daily insulin injections. Generally, this will be administered twice a day, approximately 12 hours apart and after a meal. The insulin is commonly injected into the scruff of your cat’s neck to make its application painless.
Are you worried that you might do insulin injections incorrectly? Not to worry as the vet will teach you how to carry it out. Just make sure to pay close attention. Although it can be challenging on the first try, you will get a hang of it as time goes.
Monitoring your cat’s blood sugar is also a must. The vet can do this, but so can you if you are willing to invest in a glucose testing kit. The glucose curve is the ideal tool to use.
By learning how to monitor her glucose levels at home, your visits and expenses to the vet will be minimised.
Warning: Insulin Overdose
Insulin overdose can cause the blood sugar levels to drop alarmingly low. This condition is called hypoglycaemia. Avoid this problem by administering the right amount of insulin dose as instructed by the vet.
Always double-check the dose of insulin before injecting it into your cat. It is also a good idea to be knowledgeable of the symptoms of insulin overdose. Unsteadiness of gait, lethargy, weakness, shaking, and convulsions are the most common signs.
What is the best food for a diabetic cat?
The ideal food for diabetic cats is low in carbs but high in proteins. Most canned cat foods possess both qualities. On the other hand, dry cat foods are rich in protein and also starch, which makes them full of carbs.
With this in mind, work with the vet to create a specialised diet for your diabetic cats.
Diabetes in cats’ treatment cost
The cost for lifetime treatment of a diabetic cat can add a significant amount to your monthly bills. The total expenses for her supplies including syringes, insulin injections, and prescription cat food is around £19–£26 per month.
The fee for every session of blood glucose testing at the vet’s ranges between £60–£90. If you prefer to do it at home, the cost will be lower. The price tag for the metre is around £19, whilst £22 for around 50 strips, which can last for many months.