Diabetes in Cats: Prevention and Treatment

image of a cat.

Diabetes in cats, also known as feline diabetes mellitus, is an increasingly common disease affecting 1 out of every 400 cats. Obesity is the leading risk factor for diabetes.

"Overweight or obese cats are two to four times more likely to develop diabetes than cats with a healthy body weight," says board-certified veterinary nutrition specialist Dorothy Laflamme, DVM, PhD, DACVN.

Warning Signs

Diabetes is a progressive disease. In the early stages, a cat may try to compensate for the body’s inability to metabolize glucose by increasing food consumption. Symptoms of early diabetes are frequent urination, increased thirst and appetite, and unexplained weight loss. Kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are two diseases that can mimic the symptoms of diabetes. A veterinarian can diagnose diabetes using blood and urine tests.

Treating Diabetes

All diabetic cats are started on insulin. Your veterinarian will decide which kind of insulin to use, what dose should be administered, and will show you how to give these injections at home. Don't worry, the needles are very small and many cats don't even know they're being injected. Your cat will need monitoring to determine the response to treatment, this may include both blood tests and indicators you use in the litter box. Dietary changes to a high protein, low-carbohydrate diet are essential to help diabetic cats regulate blood sugar levels. The good news is that 70% of these patients eventually do not need insulin.

Advanced Diabetes

Some cats may require hospitalization following a diabetes diagnosis. These cats are typically suffering from a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which occurs when fatty-acid by-products build up in the blood stream. These byproducts, known as ketones, build up because of the cat’s inability to metabolize glucose. Symptoms of DKA include the smell of acetone on the cat’s breath (similar to nail polish remover), extreme lethargy, vomiting, and rapid, labored breathing.

Without intervention, a severely diabetic cat may slip into a diabetic coma and even die. Diabetes can also lead to other health complications, including kidney and bladder infections, abnormal gait due to a neuropathy, and muscle loss.

Life After Diagnosis

Most cats do not require hospitalization. Dietary changes and appropriate treatment can help manage diabetes. A low carbohydrate, high protein canned diet can help control diabetes and may even lead to remission. Your veterinarian can make specific dietary recommendations for your cat.

If you suspect that your cat may be diabetic, contact your veterinarian for an immediate appointment. Early diagnosis is essential to managing diabetes in cats. Dietary changes and appropriate treatment can help manage this condition in cats and prevent further health complications.

Sources:

American Animal Hospital Association

Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine

Location

1253 SW Regional Airport Blvd. Bentonville, AR, 72713

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

7:30 am-6:00 pm

Tuesday:

7:30 am-6:00 pm

Wednesday:

7:30 am-6:00 pm

Thursday:

7:30 am-6:00 pm

Friday:

7:30 am-6:00 pm

Saturday:

9:00 am-1:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Absolutely amazing people. They were very honest about my dog’s chances and made the difficult choice and the experience after much easier. If I weren’t already a client at the Centerton location I would come here in the future in a heartbeat."
    Michael M.
  • "First time here: Staff and doctor were very friendly. Quick service. We just adopted our dog a month ago, and they answered all my questions to double-check I was taking care of her correctly. Nice place!"
    Wendy C.
  • "I decided to try this new vet's office and was so glad I did. The staff is friendly, helpful, and professional. The waiting area is clean and welcoming. They were also extremely caring and gentle with my cat who is usually very frightened during an exam. I highly recommend this animal hospital."
    Susan D.
  • "Have always like the Vet here, first when they were at Rose Animal Clinic and now here. Great caring staff."
    Mark J.
  • "Hands down the best Vet Clinic I've ever visited. I switched after recently moving and this great location opened only a few blocks from my house. The team was great and worked to really let me know how my animals were doing and took the time to let me ask about any concerns. Even during covid the schedule is flexible and they're very accommodating. I fully trust them with my pets. If you choose to visit them, know you'll be in good hands."
    Kevin S.