When you find out your kitty has diabetes, it can be scary. I am here to tell you that it can be managed and we can help! First, you must know what type of diabetes your kitty has, as well as come up with a treatment plan with your veterinarian. Constant monitoring is also crucial.
Let’s start with finding out that your cat has diabetes. He or she may have a ravenous appetite and experience significant weight loss. You may also notice that he or she is drinking more and in turn is using the litter box more often. Kitty’s breath may also have a unique smell. You may notice some or all of these symptoms. As vets, we can run diagnostics at the clinic to find out for sure that your kitty has diabetes. We check for high levels of sugar in the blood and urine.
Now that you know your kitty has diabetes, you must know which type so your vet can determine which treatment plan is right for him or her. There are 2 types: Insulin-dependent (IDDM) and Non-insulin dependent (NIDDM). Both can be managed through medications and diet. Half to ¾ of kitties have insulin-dependent diabetes that requires insulin injections daily. Non-insulin dependent diabetes is less common; however, older, obese cats are more at risk for both types of diabetes.
So, how do we treat and manage diabetes in our kitties? Well, there are several treatments depending on the severity of the case and how your kitty responds to treatment. If your cat is severe, he or she may suffer from a condition known as ketoacidosis. This is a serious, and sometimes fatal condition if left untreated. Kitties have an extreme loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, dehydration, and sometimes breathing abnormalities. This condition can lead to diabetic neuropathy where your kitty’s back legs become extremely weak and cause them to walk on their hocks. We want to immediately hospitalize these patients to stabilize them. We will administer IV fluids and short-acting insulin injections to get them to a safe and stable glucose level. Kitties that are not this severe do not usually require hospitalization. We can start by managing their diet and sometimes adding an oral medication to help control glucose levels.
Most kitties receiving insulin injections require two injections per day. They also receive scheduled feedings versus free feedings to help control and monitor their glucose levels. As an owner, you want to check several times daily for signs of increased thirst and urination as well as any other abnormalities/symptoms as described above. If there are any significant changes you need to contact your veterinarian immediately. Your kitty’s insulin dosage may need to be adjusted. It may need to be adjusted throughout your kitty’s life based on weight and how your kitty is responding to treatment. We usually monitor these changes by performing glucose curves at the clinic.
We will also want to change your kitty’s diet. It is important that your kitty maintain a healthy weight and consume a diet that is high in fiber and has a high-complex-carbohydrate diet. This will help control blood sugar levels after eating. Available diets include DM by Purina, W/d and M/d by Science Diet, and Diabetic by Royal Canin. Talk to your vet to decide which is best for your kitty.
Sometimes your kitty may still experience complications while undergoing treatment and management. The most common is hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This can happen initially when we are working on getting your kitty regulated, but it can also occur when your kitty is overdosed. This is why it is important to work with your veterinarian and technicians to learn how to read insulin syringes properly and give the appropriate doses. In the event that your kitty does get overdosed, immediately offer him or her their normal food. If they can’t eat you can rub corn syrup or Karo syrup on the gums or shoot it into the mouth if they are able to swallow. Contact your veterinarian immediately for additional instructions and treatment.
Now you ask, what is my kitty’s prognosis? Well, diabetes is not curable; however, as described above it can be manageable and some patients may lose the need for insulin months to years after the initial diagnosis. If your kitty has obtained diabetes due to a weight problem, the diabetes is likely to improve a great deal or even resolve itself after the kitty’s weight is under control. Again this all depends on how your kitty responds to treatment and how your kitty is medically managed. Once your kitty is regulated and managed properly, he or she can live many healthy, loving years.