Cats and Diabetes: Not Such a Sweet Pair

sibirian forest catThe incidence of diabetes in this country is at an all-time high, and many people are surprised to discover that their pets are not immune to the epidemic. Diabetes is a serious disease in our four-legged friends. In particular, cats are affected by a similar form of the disease as humans.

Just as with people, cats and diabetes can be a frustrating combination to manage. Learn what you can do to prevent your feline family member from being affected.

Understanding Diabetes

The body needs insulin in order to convert the starches and sugars in our food into usable energy. The body’s cells depend on this hormone, which is secreted by the pancreas, to keep them going.

In diabetes mellitus, the body is experiencing one of two major problems:

  1. There is not enough insulin being produced
  2. The body’s cells are less responsive than normal to insulin, requiring a larger amount than the body is able to produce

In both cases, this lack of enough insulin causes sugars in the form of glucose to accumulate in the bloodstream. The resulting high blood sugar can have serious consequences.

Cats and Diabetes

Chronic high blood sugar results in some very noticeable symptoms in cats. These often include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Urinating more than normal
  • A dull, unkempt coat
  • Decrease in activity
  • A plantigrade stance in rear limbs (walking/standing on the soles of the feet)

Other diseases may present similarly to diabetes, but we are able to diagnose this disease quickly via blood and urine testing.

If diabetes goes untreated, affected cats may develop a condition called ketoacidosis. This resulting overproduction of ketones (a cellular byproduct) can make diabetic animals very sick. Pets suffering from ketoacidosis require intensive therapy to keep them hydrated and correct electrolyte imbalances.

Just as in people, there is no cure for diabetes in cats. Thankfully, though, most cats suffering from diabetes respond well once treatment begins. Diabetic cats are treated using a specialized diet and insulin injections. Close monitoring is required throughout life.

What Cat Owners Can Do

Cats and diabetes aren’t the best mix. While not all cases of diabetes are preventable, we do know that cats who are overweight are predisposed to developing the condition. You can help keep your cat healthier by:

Cutting calories – Even a few extra calories a day can make a big difference to a cat. Measure out your cat’s meals rather than using a free feeder, and be mindful of extra treats and table food. Ask your veterinarian for help in determining how many calories your kitty needs per day. Never cut a cat’s calories drastically, as a sudden decrease in consumption can make kitties quite sick.

Discussing a meal plan – Sometimes a diet change is in order. You cat might benefit from a low carbohydrate diet or a prescription diet formulated for animals with a slower metabolism.

Getting in the groove – Exercise is the name of the game when it comes to keeping your feline ferocious. Even the biggest couch potato can get up and move a little bit every day. Rotate your cat’s toys to get him or her interested. Fishing pole style toys and laser pointers are usually favorites. Make your cat work for his or her dinner, too, by rotating where the food bowls are or placing them far away from favorite sleeping spots.

Diabetes affects a large number of cats, but a little effort at home can go a long way towards preventing it. Maintaining normal wellness visits can also mean detecting this disease long before ketoacidosis develops. If you suspect that your cat might be showing signs of diabetes or other illness, do not delay in having him or her evaluated. Diabetes and cats don’t mix, and you are an important player in keeping your feline friend purrfectly healthy.

posted in:  Pet Safety  |  The Cats Meow