Diabetes Mellitus

Insulin is a hormone that is naturally produced by cats and all mammals, and is required for the body to utilize glucose (sugar).  Diabetic cats either do not produce enough insulin, or are insensitive to the insulin that they do produce.  Diabetics can have very high blood sugar as a result.

What are the signs of diabetes?

Cats with diabetes typically are very thirsty and hungry, and frequently lose weight even though they are eating more.  They also tend to urinate a lot, and can develop secondary urinary infections or sometimes urinate in an inappropriate place.  Overweight cats are at a higher risk of developing diabetes than other cats. 

How is diabetes diagnosed?

Diabetes is diagnosed by testing the glucose level of a cat’s blood and urine.  Diabetes is never diagnosed based off a single blood or urine glucose reading, a second or third reading is always required. 

Do cats have Type I or Type II diabetes?

You may have heard of Type I and Type II diabetes in humans.  While these classifications don’t 100% apply to cats, most diabetic cats have a disease similar to Type II diabetes.  These cats are frequently overweight for months to years before they develop diabetes.  Interestingly, if appropriate therapy is instituted early enough, these “Type II” diabetics can sometimes go into remission and no longer require insulin therapy. 

How is diabetes treated?

Diabetes is easily treated by appropriate diet, daily insulin administration, and frequently with home blood glucose monitoring.  This can seem overwhelming at first, but once an appropriate medical and feeding routine is established, most diabetics (and their owners!) live happy and comfortable lives. 

What are the dangers of diabetes?

Ultimately, longstanding untreated diabetes can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition that requires hospitalization and intensive veterinary care.  In addition, having very high blood sugar for any extended period of time can lead to damage in tissues throughout the body.  This is called “glucose toxicity.”  Glucose toxicity can affect nerves, the pancreas, the eyes, and other tissues.  If diabetes is treated in time, some of these changes can be reversible.

What do I do if I’m worried my cat is diabetic? 

Call us for an appointment today.  We will do a full exam of your feline friend as well as run any blood or urine tests that may be appropriate.

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