Hi Weirdos! I hope you enjoy today’s blog. As a Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetic of 30 years, leadership and I felt it was important to discuss this topic as it pertains to our feline friends. We hope that you will read on, so that you will be able to identify the signs and symptoms of diabetes in your fuzzy family and how to help them, should the need arise.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is the body’s inability to produce or to properly utilize insulin. Produced by the pancreas, insulin allows the body to use the calories ingested as energy. If the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or isn’t able to properly use the insulin produced, blood sugar becomes elevated and the body may begin breaking down fat and protein to use for energy. Although diabetes in cats can be due to things like chronic pancreatitis, hormone issues or certain medications, it is most often linked to obesity in cats. If a cat is diabetic due to being overweight, weight loss may result in remission of the condition, but it cannot be cured.
Increased thirst and urination
When a cat becomes diabetic, the body is unable to process glucose and blood sugar rises. The kidneys filter out this excess glucose, which causes cats to urinate more. It also makes them excessively thirsty.
Urinating outside of the litter box
When a cat has high blood sugar from diabetes, they drink more and have to urinate more frequently. This can result in accidents outside of the litter box if they are unable to make it there in time.
Weight loss, Decreased Energy, Weakness
Insulin acts as a key that allows the body to use the calories ingested as energy. When the body cannot use these calories, they will break down body fat for energy instead, resulting in weight loss. Likewise, you may notice that your cat is weak or acting lethargic because they cannot use the calories for energy.
If diabetes progresses without treatment, your cat may begin vomiting. This is due to a build up of ketones in the blood as a result of the body using their fat for energy. If your cat progresses to this stage, they are experiencing ketoacidosis. This condition is very serious and requires immediate veterinary care.
Change in Gait
In advanced cases, when diabetes remains untreated, some cats will walk “lower” on their haunches instead of their feet because their hind legs become weak due to diabetic neuropathy (nerve problems).
Most cats with diabetes are treated with daily injections. The frequency and dose of these injections will be determined by your veterinary care team. Blood sugar will usually be checked in the office at checkups. Your vet will determine how often this needs to occur, but it may be quarterly or every 6 months. It is possible to check your cat’s blood sugar at home if you wish and this should be discussed with your vet if it’s something you would like to do. It is likely that your veterinarian will recommend a change to your cat’s diet as well, to help them lose weight (if needed) and control blood sugar.
Low Blood Sugar
If you cat is diabetic, it is possible that they could experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Upon diagnosis, you should ask your vet for a treatment plan in case this occurs. Signs of low blood sugar include trembling, lack of coordination, exhibiting unusual behavior (i.e. confusion), blindness, extreme lethargy or unconsciousness. Your vet may recommend karo syrup as an immediate treatment as you prepare to head to the vet’s office should low blood sugar occur. If you notice these symptoms in your diabetic cat, it is important that your pet is seen for treatment immediately.
For additional information and support, please visit the Feline Diabetes Message Board
**Please note, I am not a veterinarian and this is not medical advice. My goal is to help cat owners recognize and understand the signs and symptoms of diabetes, so that they can be caught early and treated accordingly. Please speak to your vet for any and all concerns and medical care for your cat, should you suspect diabetes or any other medical issue.**