Cats can suffer from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but the most common form of cat diabetes is type 2.
What is diabetes?
In simple terms, diabetes (also called diabetes mellitus) is a condition where your cat has difficulty using blood sugar as an energy source.
After eating, the digestive system breaks food down into its component parts. One of these parts is sugar (glucose). The cat’s body absorbs glucose from the digestive system into the blood stream and it is then used by the various organs in the body as energy to fuel their activities.
However, for the body to use glucose it needs insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. If there is an abnormality with insulin production or usage then glucose cannot be transferred from the blood to the organs in the body. In effect, it stays in the blood and results in higher than normal levels of blood glucose.
When the organs in the body are starved of glucose, they begin to use fat and protein as an energy source instead, which leads to weight loss and muscle wastage.
Signs of diabetes in cats
Usually your cat will show signs of increased drinking, urinating and eating – while at the same time losing weight. Your cat may also have recurrent urinary tract infections. Your cat’s coat may also deteriorate in condition and appearance.
Diabetic cat care
Overweight cats are very prone to type 2 diabetes. The good news is that once type 2 diabetic cats lose enough weight, many no longer need treatment – so long as they maintain a healthy body weight.
If your vet suspects diabetes, the first step is most likely to take blood and urine samples from your cat. Depending on the results, your vet will then try to stabilise your cat’s blood glucose levels, usually by dietary control or administering insulin or both, which may seem daunting at first but can be easily managed and will greatly improve your cat’s wellbeing.
You may be given insulin to inject at home on a daily basis and also some advice about food and feeding times. Scientifically formulated diets like PURINA® PRO PLAN® VETERINARY DIETS Feline DM St/Ox Diabetes Management have been proven to help reduce insulin requirements in diabetic cats. Follow your vet’s advice about feeding and insulin to ensure successful treatment of your cat.
Repeat visits to the vet will be required to monitor progress, and perhaps change diet or insulin levels depending on the results. If your cat is overweight, helping them achieve a healthy weight could lead to the necessary insulin injections being halted for good.
Although it does need some time and commitment from you as an owner, successful treatment of cat diabetes is usually possible – meaning your cat can lead a happy, healthy life.