Diabetes in Cats: Symptoms, Care, Causes & Treatments

Diabetes in cats is a major risk factor to most cat owners and if not properly handled could lead to the death of the cat.

Diabetes is generally regarded as a disease of the human race.

More commonly called type 1 diabetes, it is often called an epidemic among cats, caused by the ongoing overconsumption of carbohydrates.

This situation cannot be avoided by breeding better and healthier cats, because only cats of low genetic fitness, diseased, and with poor immune systems, can be bred.

That’s why cats are dying out among the human race. Of those that survive, many die from complications due to diabetes.

At the same time, most diabetes cases are preventable and almost completely resolved with early and proper intervention.

Of course, even with good veterinary care and self-care, there may be adverse effects to kidney and liver functions, with the risk of dialysis and/or liver transplants.

Without testing, self-diagnosis of diabetes is often a subjective process.

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Diabetes in cats

When a cat becomes diabetic, the diagnosis is typically straightforward.

The disease in cats is characterized by swelling of the liver or pancreas. Complications are often seen in diabetics.

Of those complications, the most common is kidney failure. Other conditions include diabetes-related blindness and arthritis.

Diabetes has also been associated with tumors of the eye or the retina, inflammation in the liver, gall bladder problems, and urologic disease.

In severe cases, it can affect other organs.

Diabetes in cats causes changes in blood pressure and heart function. Blood-borne infections, including bacteriuria, feline hemochromatosis, and Kaposi’s sarcoma, can also cause diabetes.

The disease also causes problems with blood platelets, the cells that clot blood, and the platelets can become stuck in the arteries, which leads to strokes and heart attacks.

Because diabetes can have a wide variety of causes, it is often difficult to identify the exact cause in a cat.

The condition can also cause abnormal blood glucose levels. With diabetes, those normal blood sugar levels can cause excess fatty and greasy blood.

In cats when these abnormalities reach their peak, the blood will not coagulate properly.

When there is not enough blood coagulation, it can result in vomiting or severe diarrhea in cats.

In other cases, diabetes causes abnormally high blood sugar levels, which can cause serious complications. The most important cause of diabetes in cats is prolonged hyperglycemia.

It is important to diagnose diabetes early when it is still relatively mild. At that time, it is easy to keep it under control. In the worst cases, diabetes results in death.

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What Causes Diabetes In Cats?

Diabetes is a complex disease and will often begin as a mild manifestation of an autoimmune disease.

In cats, these include epilepsy, lymphoma, and leukemia. Other factors may include arthritis, upper respiratory disease, and intestinal damage due to chronic diarrhea.

Blood-borne illnesses can also cause diabetes. This could be due to disease of the pancreas, kidney, liver, thyroid, or lymphoma.

Other factors may include infections of the skin, kidneys, lymph nodes, or blood vessels.

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Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats

Here are some common symptoms of diabetes in cats you should always keep close tab on;

  • Darkening of the fur
  • Skin lesions
  • Loss of hair
  • Seizures
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Changes in behavior
  • Persistent Fever
  • Persistent weakness
  • Epilepsy
  • Swelling of the liver or pancreas

Caring for Cats With Diabetes

Diabetes in cats can be treated with insulin therapy, oral medications, oral antidiabetic drugs, ketogenic diets, medical visits, fluids, and antibiotics.

Many cats can also be successfully treated with an endocrine diet, a treatment that specializes in eliminating fat and stimulating weight gain.

In rare cases, diabetic cats are treated with chemotherapy and immunosuppressive drugs.

Once the complications have been controlled, diabetes can be effectively managed by regular medication, reduced food intake, early intervention, oral diet, oral medications, fluids, and monitoring.

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Stopping Diabetic Complications In Cats

If diabetes in cats is caused by an autoimmune disease, the cure is to stop the autoimmune attack.

The diseases that cause diabetes in cats include lymphoma, melanoma, renal disease, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.

In some cases, diabetes can be directly caused by bacterial infections.

Antibiotics and antifungal drugs can be used to treat skin infections caused by those bacteria, or even to treat the underlying infection.

Diabetic cats need more fluids than non-diabetic cats.

Patients who have diabetes in cats should have their renal values checked regularly.

Certain infections, like rheumatoid arthritis, may cause diabetic symptoms in cats.

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Treating Diabetes in Cats

If diabetes is diagnosed in cats, the diagnosis is usually made in primary care, but it can be a challenge to diagnose it because the condition may not cause symptoms or signs.

The primary indication of diabetes is when a cat has a change in the number of blood glucose readings.

Because normal blood glucose levels are closely monitored in cats, patients who are diagnosed with diabetes and need medications have an easy way to monitor those blood levels.

Depending on the exact disease, medications can be started or increased as needed. Treatment for diabetes in cats is usually the same as in humans.

Diabetes causes lots of problems for the cat and is not the most ideal treatment for a cats.

But for a cat with diabetes, the good news is that there are many treatment options, and all can help.

Studies in mice and in cats have shown that the same hormones used to treat diabetes in cats may also be used to treat type 2 diabetes in humans.

Those are called glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 receptor agonists) and they are often used to treat obesity in cats.

Because the same problems in type 2 diabetes in cats can also cause diabetes in humans, it is good to keep diabetes in cats under control.

Bacterial infections, including pneumonia and sepsis, can also cause diabetes, so cat owners should take their cats to the vet if they are showing any signs.

Diabetes in cats can also be treated with the following medications;

  • Endocrine diet
  • insulin therapy
  • oral medications
  • oral antidiabetic drugs
  • ketogenic diets
  • Medical visits
  • Fluids
  • Antibiotics

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Few Questions about Diabetes In Cats

Few Questions About Diabetes In Cats
Few Questions About Diabetes In Cats

Here are some frequently asked questions about diabetes in cats and the answers;

Is a cat with diabetes in pain?

Yes, a cat with diabetes is in strong pain because there is a neuropathic pain in the hind legs and this makes the cat uncomfortable at all times.

What happens to a cat with untreated diabetes?

Untreated diabetes in cats leads to increasingly weak legs in cats, and eventually malnutrition, ketoacidosis and death.

It is important to note that early diagnosis and treatment by a qualified veterinarian can not only help prevent nerve damage.

However, in some cases, this can even lead to remission so that the cat no longer needs to be injected insulin.

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How can you tell if your cat has diabetes?

Here are some early signs of diabetes in the cat, be sure to always look out for these signs;

  • Persistent vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive Urination
  • Excessive Thirst
  • Increased Weight Loss
  • Increased Appetite

How do you treat a diabetic cat without insulin?

A natural way of treating a diabetic cat without insulin is to place the cat on a low-carb food and allow things to work itself out.

Note that most diabetic cats are managed with a combination of low-carb food and insulin.

Can diabetic cats eat dry food?

No, diabetic cats need to be on a low-carbohydrate diet and all dry food contain a good amount of carbohydrates which is not good for a diabetic cat.

However, a diabetic cat can still eat dry food if the carbohydrate content of the food is below 7% or less.

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How many times a day do you feed a diabetic cat?

A diabetic cat should be fed 2 times a day with a very low carbohydrate food to help lower and stabilize the blood sugar levels.

Be careful what you feed a diabetic cat always make sure you contact your vet before changing food.

How long does it take to stabilize a diabetic cat?

On average, it takes 3-6 months to stabilize a diabetic cat if you stick to the instructions of your veterinarian.

This may vary according to the severity of diabetes in the cat, as there is individual cat variation in the response to insulin.

How does a vet test a cat for diabetes?

To perform a diabetic test in a cat the veterinarian will have to perform blood tests and an urinalysis. The blood will show an elevated glucose level and the urine will have glucose in it.

What are the side effects of insulin in cats?

Too much insulin in cats may have the following effects:

  • Muscle twitching
  • Hunger
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Restlessness

What are the symptoms of too much insulin in cats?

Here are the symptoms of too much insulin in a cat and you need to contact your vet immediately;

  • Persistent Jerking
  • Lethargy
  • Bumbling behavior
  • Persistent Weakness
  • Changes to eating habits
  • Twitching

What is a normal blood sugar reading for a cat?

The normal blood glucose level of a normal cat is about 80-120 mg/dl (4.4-6.6 mmol/L), anything above this, you should see your vet.

Can I check my cat’s blood sugar at home?

Yes, a handheld glucometer is the easiest way to monitor the blood sugar levels of cats at home. Handheld glucometers are not crucial, but are easy to use and may be worth the investment.

Handle glucometer is the simple equipment to use, this will help you keep the sugar level of your cat in check.

If you feed your cat with too much dry cat food then you definitely need a handheld glucometer.

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