It is not all that uncommon for pets, especially cats to have a form of Diabetes. The incidence is very similar for both dogs and cats. Male cats are more prone to the condition with the risk increased in neutered cats as well as overweight and older cats.
Some of the signs and symptoms can be very subtle at first in a diabetic feline. It is unfortunate that most times the diabetes is accelerated by the time you note that your cat is always thirsty and urinating quite often. There may also be signs of sadness and lethargy as well as weight loss, even with a ravenous appetite. These are all diabetic symptoms, and your cat may also develop neuropathy which is a muscle weakness due to nerve damage. A classic sign of nerve damage and neuropathy is a ‘plantigrade’ stance where your cat walks on its entire back hocks instead of just walking on its back toes. As a result, he/she will have difficulty climbing stairs, jumping and getting in and out of the litter box.
Your cat can also get a condition called Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which happens when a severe lack of insulin causes the cat’s body to break down fat to use as energy, creating chemicals called Ketones. The Ketones build up in the blood and urine and your cat needs emergency care when symptoms occur. Symptoms for this condition are typically extreme lethargy, weakness, diarrhea, fruity breath, vomiting, rapid breathing and loss of appetite (many of the same symptoms of diabetes). If you attend to your cat at the onset of diabetic symptoms, he/she should be safe from developing this accelerated diabetic condition.
To diagnose your cat, your doctor will begin with a medical history and many questions about the symptoms you have witnessed. A thorough physical will be performed as well as some lab and other tests to measure fructosamine in the blood, hemoglobin levels, and further extensive tests, if your cat is a senior. Additional blood and urine tests along with an ultra sound and x-rays of the abdomen and chest may also be performed for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan.
Some cats may respond well to oral medications as a treatment if they only require a low dose; however, most vets prefer the insulin injections as a way of effectively regulating your cats’ blood glucose level.
Along with the prescribed medication by your veterinarian, diet and exercise play an immense role in controlling the diabetes. There are several foods developed specifically for the needs of your diabetic cat. You may need to experiment with different foods to find the one that works best for your feline best friend.
If your doctor prescribes a specific diet for the diabetes, he/she will also need to consider the overall health of your cat as well. A diet for a diabetic cat that is overweight will be prescribed a different diet than the diabetic cat with pancreas or kidney problems.
Generally, a diabetic diet generally approximately 45-50% protein, 40-45% fat and just 3-5% carbohydrate. After all, those little mousers generally do not need many carbohydrates in their diets. Many of the cats following this diet plan have showed improved clinical signs, reduced insulin needs, and improved blood glucose levels. It may take time to find a good food plan that your cat will not turn his/her nose up to . . . but don’t give up. Work with your vet to find a diabetic diet that prince or princess will love.
Try to incorporate several 5 – 10 minute play times with your cat for some much needed exercise. Also, feed small meals throughout the day in several locations so he/she will have to “walk” to get to the food. Any little tricks you can imagine to get your cat moving (not strenuously) is a healthy option. Just try to be consistent with your exercise/play regimen and start slow, gradually building up to more time.
Following your doctor’s orders with the prescribed medications, specific diet plan and an effective daily exercise plan, your cat can live a very normal, very happy life. What more can you ask for!