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How To Tell If Your Cat Has Diabetes

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What Is Diabetic Remission

What If My Cat Is Diabetic?

“Diabetic remission occurs when a cat maintains a normal glucose level for more than four weeks without insulin injections or oral glucose regulating medications.”

The primary goal of treating diabetes is to regulate blood glucose quickly and reach a point where the cat no longer needs insulin therapy. Diabetic remission occurs when a cat maintains a normal glucose level for more than four weeks without insulin injections or oral glucose regulating medications.

Not all cats go into remission, but those that do may stay that way for months or years. One estimate states that 17 to 67% of cats experience remission after insulin therapy. Other estimates predict remission is possible in 90% of cats.

The key factors in achieving remission are quick institution of insulin therapy post-diagnosis and strict adherence to a low carbohydrate diet. Frequent monitoring with appropriate adjustments of insulin dosage increases the odds of remission.

Symptoms Of Cat Diabetes

It is crucial that cat owner understand how to spot the symptoms of cat diabetes. Eventually around 1 percent of all cats will suffer from diabetes somewhere. Diabetes is a disease in which the body produces excess glucose levels, either because it does not produce enough of the hormone insulin or because the body does not respond appropriately to the insulin .

Type II is the most common type of feline diabetes, and it develops over time. The good news is that cats with diabetes have plenty of treatment options and many can lead long , healthy lives.

Made A Treatment Mistake

If you make a treatment mistake or something unexpected happens , dont panic. Contact your vet for advice. Treating a diabetic cat requires teamwork between you and your veterinary practice they will always be on the end of the phone to give you advice, support and arrange regular check-ups for your cat.

If you leave your cats diabetes untreated, it will cause suffering, severe illness and eventually be fatal.

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How Is Diabetes Mellitus Treated In Cats

Diabetes mellitus is a treatable condition. Although long-term treatment requires commitment and dedication, it can be rewarding to manage this condition successfully in a beloved cat.

Initial steps in treating a diabetic cat include removing potential predisposing causes for the diabetes. For example, some medications such as corticosteroids predispose cats to develop diabetes, and withdrawal of these drugs may lead to resolution of the condition. Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes in cats, so weight normalization may actually lead to resolution of diabetes in some cats.

“All cats with diabetes mellitus benefit from being fed a well-balanced diet.”

All cats with diabetes mellitus benefit from being fed a well-balanced diet, and your veterinarian is the best source for guidance about which nutrient profile will best benefit your cat. Many cats with diabetes mellitus benefit from a diet that is high in protein and relatively low in carbohydrates because a relatively low carbohydrate diet decreases the amount of glucose absorbed from the intestinal tract and lowers the requirement for insulin. Unfortunately, while nutrition is a critical element of diabetes management success in cats, it is generally not as easy as making a simple nutritional choice.

What Are The Signs Of Diabetes

Things to Know When Your Cat Has Diabetes

“The common signs of diabetes include increases in appetite, water consumption, and urination, along with weight loss.”

Without insulin to steer glucose into the cells, the cat’s body looks for alternative sources of fuel and breaks down reserves of fat and protein stored in the body. Fueling the body is not efficient without the insulin/glucose team, so the cat loses weight despite eating more.

Meanwhile, the accumulation of glucose in the blood stream is eliminated in the urine. The cat urinates more which makes him thirsty and he drinks more water. The common signs of diabetes include increases in appetite, water consumption, and urination, along with weight loss.

If untreated, diabetes results in vomiting, dehydration, lethargy, coma, vision loss, and even death.

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Cost Of Insulin For Cats

An avid Petful reader wrote in to tell us she couldnt find Lantus for under $285 a bottle for her diabetic kitty.

She was correct. In the course of a few short years, the cost of Lantus more than tripled!

It is very expensive and very crazy, this reader told us. We agree.

Unfortunately, youre at the mercy of greedy Big Pharma when it comes to filling human scripts, such as insulin, for your pets.

Your vet may go to another insulin, PZI , when Lantus has not worked. Unfortunately, these other, less expensive insulins dont seem to work as well in cats.

Here are some simple facts about the cost of treating cat with diabetes today:

  • Lantus is, according to most specialists, the best choice for diabetic cats.
  • Newly diagnosed diabetic cats given Lantus as the first insulin have the best chance of remission. This means they may return to being a normal, non-diabetic cat.
  • Lantus means easier control of diabetes, which translates to fewer trips to the vet, which translates to less money spent.
  • Lantus is expensive, no matter how you cut it. The product will probably not be available as a generic for several more years.
  • Feeding Recommendations And Diet

    To help keep the diabetes under control and to prevent further damage, your cat needs to maintain a healthy weight. As with humans, a healthy diet and active lifestyle can make your cats treatment more effective, and improve their quality of life. Your veterinarian will determine your cats ideal weight, then you both can agree on a low carb diet to help your cat achieve and maintain that weight. Try using a baby scale at home for an accurate weight.

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    Early Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetes In Cats

    • Excessive thirst : Many owners report their cat drinking from the dogs water bowl, or the sink, bathtub, or toilet. This sign could also indicate kidney disease, certain liver disorders, and certain other hormonal disorders, amongst other conditions.
    • Excessive urination : Often the first indication that a cat is urinating excessively is that there are more and larger clumps of urine in the litter box or urine spots outside the litter box. It is important that cats with excessive urination be evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause.
    • Increased appetite often accompanied by weight loss: Many diabetic cats have a ravenous appetite, often pestering their owners for more food after clearing out their bowl. What many owners may not immediately realize, especially if their cat has long fur, is that in spite of their cats limitless appetite, they are actually losing weight. This is very dangerous regardless of the cause, so if you are noticing this sign, have your cat evaluated by your veterinarian sooner rather than later.

    Oral Diabetes Drugs For Cats

    Feline Diabetes, What you need to know about your diabetic cat

    Oral diabetes medication, such as Glipizide, can be used, but most veterinarians prefer that cats be treated with injectable insulins. The oral medications do not work as well in cats, and its often easier for people to give a cat injections rather than pills. However, there are some circumstances in which oral medication may be used. Some people are very uncomfortable around needles, and some cats will not allow injections, but will eat the oral medication in food.

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    Feeding Tips For A Cat With Diabetes

    Like people, cats can get diabetes. WebMD explains cat diabetes symptoms, causes, and treatments.

    When Randy Frostig took his cat, Bill, to the veterinarian six years ago, he was seriously worried. âHe was lethargic and he wasnât eating, and his urine was sticking to his paws,â Frostig recalls.

    The diagnosis — diabetes — surprised Frostig. âI didnât even know that a cat could have diabetes. I didnât know what it meant,â he says. He was concerned about having to give his cat regular shots of insulin, and how the disease might affect his petâs life.

    In reality, a diagnosis of feline diabetes is not a death sentence, and caring for a cat with the disease is far easier than Frostig had envisioned.

    âGiving him insulin is like brushing your teeth. Itâs no big deal,â he says. Thanks to regular doses of insulin and a special diet, the gray tabby started acting more like their old self. âHe was running around, and he gained his appetite again.â

    Signs Your Cat Has Diabetes

    Diabetes mellitus is a chronic, and potentially debilitating, condition in cats. The disorder is most prevalent among obese cats, male cats over eight years old, and those on a diet high in carbohydrates.

    Cases of feline diabetes are on the rise, and given the severity of the condition, it is important to take early measures to prevent or manage the health of your diabetic cat.

    Typically, diabetes mellitus is a disorder that results when the cells develop a resistance to insulin, a hormone that aids the entry of glucose into the cells. This causes a build-up of the glucose levels in the bloodstream.

    Diabetic cats mostly suffer from Type II diabetes, where the body cells can no longer adequately respond to insulin, leading to elevated levels of glucose.

    A complete diagnosis always requires a visit to the vet, but a closer look at your cat at home can tell you if theres a problem. Bring your cat to Dr. Minta Keyes for a check-up if you notice any of these signs:

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    What To Expect When Your Cat Goes Into Diabetic Remission

    This week I received an email from one of our readers asking what to expect as her cat seems to be going into diabetic remission. So I got out my crystal ball and Wait! I dont have a crystal ball. How it plays out varies from pet to pet. I suppose what I can share with you is what I have seen over the years with some of my feline patients who have gone into remission. And I can offer some pointers to help keep the kitty in remission.

    Cats are usually type 2 diabetics, meaning they may yet produce insulin but dont react to it as well as they should. This is called insulin resistance. Factors that commonly cause insulin resistance include obesity, high carbohydrate diets , infections and lack of exercise . If we address these issues and provide them with supplemental insulin, a good portion of cats can go back into a non-diabetic state. This is called remission. How amazing is it that we can turn the situation around and actually cure these cats!

    Ive had a few cats present to the clinic in hypoglycemia and weve never had to give insulin again. Ive also seen kitties present in hypoglycemia and weve had to progressively lower the insulin dose. When a diabetic pet owner is observant, it is more common for us to gradually wean the cat off insulin.

    Thanks to our reader who suggested this weeks article idea! If you want to get in touch with me, you can email me at

    Communication Is Essential For Treating Feline Diabetes

    How do I know if my cat has diabetes?

    The most important step is maintaining good communication with your veterinarian. Talk to your vet about any changes you observe in your cat. Ask questions about anything you do not understand theres a lot more to properly caring for a diabetic cat than is described here.

    Communication between family members is also important. Who will give the cat insulin and when? How will you record when your cat has received insulin? What does your cat eat and when? How many and what kind of treats? What are the symptoms of an insulin overdose, and what should family members do to help?

    Taking care of a diabetic cat is a lot of work and needs to be taken seriously. Once their blood glucose is managed, they can go on being a happy cat, and that is the most important thing.

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    Causes Of Type 1 And Type 2 Cat Diabetes

    There often isnt one direct cause of diabetes. It is more appropriate to talk about what factors predispose a cat to develop diabetes. The biggest factor under our control is a cats weight. Overweight cats secrete too much of some hormones and not enough of others, causing the body to not respond as well to insulin.

    Feeding a high-carbohydrate diet can also predispose a cat to becoming diabetic. Cats are obligate carnivores and their metabolism is geared toward a diet thats high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Eating too many carbohydrates leads to chronically elevated blood glucose levels, which can lead eventually to lower insulin secretion, causing glucose levels to go even higher. A low-carbohydrate diet is more easily achieved with canned food rather than kibble.

    Other diseases that are untreated can also predispose a cat to diabetes. An overactive adrenal gland, an overactive thyroid gland, a chronically inflamed pancreas and acromegaly can all contribute to a cat becoming diabetic. In addition, male cats are more likely than females to be diabetic.

    What Might A Serum Biochemistry Profile Indicate If My Cat Has Diabetes Mellitus

    An elevated serum glucose concentration is vital to the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. However, cats present us with a unique challenge because their glucose levels can become markedly increased simply due to stress. The stress of a veterinary office visit or the mild restraint associated with obtaining a blood sample may significantly increase your cat’s serum glucose value. Blood glucose will also be mildly elevated for several hours following a meal. Therefore, confirmation of diabetes may require more than one blood sample collected over a period of several days.

    “Cats present us with a unique challenge because their glucose concentrations can become markedly increased simply due to stress.”

    If there is a question that the high blood glucose concentration is related to stress or diabetes, diabetes may be diagnosed by an elevated serum fructosamine test. This test is described below.

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    Later Signs Of Diabetes In Cats

    If a cat displays a combination of the following symptoms, they could be in critical condition and require intensive care. Later signs of diabetes include the following:

    3. Inability to Jump & Loss of InterestWhile the loss of interest may be a subtle sign, you can tell your cat is sick if you keep proper track of your cats activity. If your cat can no longer jump on furniture they used to be able to, they may be sick.

    4. Change in GaitDiabetes in cats can lead to weakness, which makes them walk flat on the back of the hind legs. Following the elevated blood sugar level, neuropathy affects the nerves in the hind legs, and the condition may result in permanent paralysis if left untreated for long.

    5. Lack of Appetite, Vomiting, LethargyThe health of your cat is in jeopardy if you notice these late symptoms of diabetes mellitus. Hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, and gastroparesis can cause nausea in cats leading to vomiting, lost appetite, and lethargy.

    What Are The Signs Of Diabetes In Cats


    Cohn says cats with diabetes may exhibit these signs:

    • Weight loss. Your cat may lose weight despite eating well, she says. Without insulin, your pets body has to break down other sources of energy, like fat. So while she may be obese when she develops diabetes, Cohn says your cat will eventually lose weight.
    • Increased drinking and urination. You may notice that the litter box has to be changed more frequently and that its heavier and wetter than usual, Cohn says. Extra sugar in the blood leads to extra sugar in the urine. Sugar draws water into the urinea process called osmotic diuresiswhich can increase urine volume and cause cats to have to drink more water to keep up.
    • Plantigrade stance. This is a fancy way of saying that your cat starts walking on her heels, or hocksa condition caused by nerve damage, Cohn says.

    Cats can sometimes develop a complication called diabetic ketoacidosis, but this only occurs in those that have been diabetic for a while but no ones noticed the signs. This is probably the worst case scenario, Cohn says. Cats with diabetic ketoacidosis are very, very sick and can die.

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    Cats Dont Act Sick When Their Diabetes Is Well Managed

    Proper diabetes care for a cat allows many patients to lead normal lives.

    There are certainly exceptions, and some diabetic cats have many problems no 2 diabetics are the same.

    If we catch the illness early, a diabetic cat will stop drinking tons of water, have a normal amount of energy and lead a happy life.

    How To Spot Feline Diabetes

    This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 27,794 times.

    Feline Diabetes is a common condition amongst cats of all ages although it tends to be more prevalent in older cats and male cats that have been neutered. It is important to know what to look for and what to do if you think your kitty could be diabetic. Consult your veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice weight loss, excessive thirsts and/or excessive urination. With early intervention, you could potentially save your kitty and enjoy a long and happy relationship with your furry loved one.

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