Cats Diabetes in Cats

Published on February 16th, 2018 | by Debbie Martin


Diabetes in Cats – How to Spot it and what to Do

Diabetes in cats can be a very serious illness, and can cause long term damage – it is a lifetime ailment. It can be difficult to care for your cat if they have diabetes but hopefully this useful information will help you to understand the illness a little better.

What is it?

What exactly is diabetes and how does it affect your cat? Diabetes affects the production of the hormone insulin in the pancreas. Glucose, which is a sugar, is one of the main sources of energy for most cells in the body. When food is digested it releases glucose into the blood stream and stimulates the production of insulin.

The insulin acts like a key, opening up the “doorways” of the cells and letting the glucose in, so that the cells can benefit from the energy. Unfortunately, when a human or an animal has diabetes there can be a lot of glucose in the bloodstream but the cells will remain “locked”. This is because there is a lack of insulin – or perhaps because something is preventing insulin from opening up the cells.

This results in an unhealthy amount of glucose in the bloodstream, because it has nowhere else to go. The glucose levels rise and dangerous signs start to develop. This can have a serious effect on the kidneys because they filter waste products from the bloodstream.

Diabetes mellitus is actually a commonly diagnosed disease in cats – it develops in around 1 in 400. Recent studies are noting that this disease is becoming increasingly common in cats. It is unusual for cats younger than 7 years old to develop disease, so if your cat is older you should pay close attention to their health.

The Effect of Diabetes

If the glucose levels in your cat’s blood are too high, their kidneys will struggle to retain the glucose and it will escape into their urine. The extra glucose in the urine will drag water with it, which increases urine production and stimulates thirst. This is why it can be a sign of diabetes if you see your cat drinking and urinating more than usual.

Normally, a low level of glucose in the body stimulates the appetite. The body is receiving the signal that it needs more fuel, so the cat seeks out something to eat. You might notice that your cat has a ravenous appetite no matter how much they eat, because they have plenty of glucose in their body but it isn’t getting into their cells so they still feel hungry.

What Happens if Diabetes Progresses?

If diabetes is not diagnosed and treated in your cat quickly, it can cause a lot of damage as it progresses. The body will start to use fat as an energy source, which results in the production of fat breakdown by-products that are called “ketone bodies”. These by-products can be useful in the short term, but if too many of them are produced they can cause lethargy, vomiting and weakness and will eventually be life threatening. This is why it is so crucial to make sure that your cat receives treatment as soon as possible for their diabetes.

Signs of Diabetes in your Cat

There are certain signs of diabetes that you should keep an eye out for in your cat. First of all, if you notice that they have an increase of thirst, appetite and urination this can be a sign. However, you might not notice this if you have an outdoor cat that urinates and drinks outside of the house so pay close attention to the other signs.

Another strange symptom of diabetes in cats is a weakness of the hind legs, which will make your cat walk in a bizarre flat-footed way. Their back legs will be very weak and they might walk with a wobbly or stilted gait.

In other animals, high glucose levels cause cataracts and cloudy changes in the eye. However, this is quite uncommon in cats.

Other signs of diabetes in cats can include a noticeable thinning of the skin and fragility, because the cat is breaking down muscle and fat to survive. If your cat goes limp or if their breath smells of acetone, this is a very serious sign that they need emergency care right away because they are in a severe state of ketoacidosis.

Diabetes in cats can be treated, but it will be life-threatening for your feline friend if it is left untreated. Early diagnosis is the most important thing – so pay attention to the behaviour and symptoms of your cat and let your vet know about anything that is unusual.

Diagnosing your Cat

So you think that your feline friend may have diabetes? How is a cat diagnosed with his disease?

The diagnosis of diabetes in your cat is based on elevated blood glucose and the presence of glucose in the urine after fasting. Sometimes a normal cat will have a high glucose level due to stress, so your vet might need to make several tests until they can get an accurate reading of the urine glucose levels. Another veterinary blood test for fructosamine can also be used to confirm diabetes in cats. Sometimes body screening samples are advised, because the diabetes can have a negative effect on other organs of the body.

I Suspect my Cat may have Diabetes – What Should I Do?

So you have noticed that your cat is drinking a lot of water, is urinating frequently and is losing weight despite being always hungry and eating lots of food? If you have observed these symptoms and you are concerned that your cat might have diabetes, you should make an appointment with your vet so that you can discuss your concerns. Your vet will use their expertise to recommend any necessary tests that should be performed on your cat.

If you have any suspicion that your cat has diabetes, it is important to talk to your vet right away. Letting this condition persist can have a very negative impact on your cat, especially if it is left untreated for a long time, it could end up being fatal unfortunately.

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About the Author

Debbie has worked for Beeston Animal Health for a number of years and although generally involved with the marketing these days she has a great deal of knowledge on many things to do with small animals.

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