All Creatures Veterinary Hospital

All Creatures Veterinary Hospital
4549 HW 62 West
Mountain Home, AR 72653
(870) 425-5175


Diabetes in Cats

Diabetes Mellitus is a complex and common disorder in cats. It is caused by either insufficient production of insulin by the pancreas or by inadequate response of the body to insulin. Insulin is the hormone that allows glucose (sugar) in the blood to be used by the body's cells. Diabetic cats are not able to use the sugar in their blood properly so they develop high blood sugar and sugar in the urine. The sugar in the urine leads to excessive urination, excessive thirst, and frequent bladder infections. Even though diabetic cats have high blood sugar, their bodies cannot use this sugar for nutrition so animals will frequently lose weight despite having a very good appetite. Progression of this disease, if left untreated, can lead to a state called ketoacidosis, which can cause vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, dehydration, and death.

Common clinical signs of diabetes in cats are increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite, and weight loss. As the disease progresses, poor skin and hair coat, liver disease, and secondary bacterial infections, especially of the urinary tract, become more common.

Proper treatment of diabetes is necessary to prevent fatal complications such as liver disease and ketoacidosis. Regulating a diabetic cat's blood sugar may take several adjustments in medication, frequent recheck visits to the veterinarian, and can be a long and frustrating process. It requires lots of patience and dedication on the parts of both the veterinarian and owner. Managing a diabetic cat is a serious commitment and usually requires changes in medication and doctor visits throughout the entire life of the cat.

Some diabetics can be successfully managed on an oral medication called glipizide. Glipizide works by lowering the blood sugar levels. If the cat cannot be regulated on glipizide after one to two months, it should be discontinued and insulin therapy started. Usually diabetic cats require insulin therapy to be successfully managed. Insulin is given as an injection under the skin once or twice daily. Each cat responds differently to insulin so proper choice of insulin type, dose, and frequency of administration needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The proper dose of insulin may change over time and may need to be adjusted based on blood glucose profiles, recheck visits, and response to therapy.

If the insulin dose is too high for an individual, the cat's blood sugar will get too low. This is called hypoglycemia. Signs of hypoglycemia include weakness, stumbling, listlessness, incoordination, convulsions, and coma. If any of these signs occur after giving insulin, the cat should be immediately offered its normal food if it is able to eat. A tablespoon of Karo syrup should be rubbed on the gums, or given by a syringe if the cat can swallow. Your veterinarian should be contacted immediately if your cat experiences any of these signs.

Diet is very important in a diabetic cat. If a diabetic cat is overweight, diet should be designed for the cat to lose weight gradually (no more than 3% of body weight per week.) High fiber, high complex carbohydrate diets are useful in helping to control blood glucose levels after eating. There are a number of prescription diets such as Science Diet W/D and Purina DM for diabetic cats that help maintain weight and control blood glucose levels.

It is very important that a cat eat before receiving insulin. If a cat is not eating and receives its insulin treatment, hypoglycemia can develop. If a cat has not eaten before an insulin treatment is due, give half the scheduled insulin dose and watch for signs of hypoglycemia. If a cat has not eaten again before its next dose of insulin is due, DO NOT give the insulin and call your veterinarian.

Below are some important things to remember about your cat's insulin:

Insulin handling and storage:

1. Keep insulin refrigerated

2. Use insulin before expiration date on bottle. Discard any insulin remaining after the expiration date.

3. Do not shake insulin bottle. Roll gently in hands before using.

Managing a diabetic cat requires good communication between you and your veterinarian. A diabetic cat may live many healthy years with owners who are willing to put forth the effort of monitoring the cat's condition daily. Cats tend to be difficult to maintain on the same regimen for long periods of time, and increases or decreases in medications may be necessary.

If you have any questions regarding diabetes in your cat, call us at (870) 425-5175.