Diabetes in Cats

Diabetes in Cats

Diabetes mellitus is not something that just affects us humans. It can commonly affect cats as well. Recognizing and diagnosing diabetes in cats early on is important for their overall health and wellness. If you diagnose and treat it early on, the prognosis is much brighter. Let’s take a look at some of the signs and symptoms that come along with diabetes in cats so that you can be well aware of what to be on the lookout for.

The Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats


First, we will look at the symptoms that come along with diabetes. The symptoms that your cat experiences will depend greatly on the amount of insulin that is being produced.

If it is severe, they may have the following signs:

  • frequent thirst
  • frequent urination
  • urinating outside of the litter box
  • appetite changes
  • weight loss
  • changes in how they walk and carry themselves
  • a decrease in activity
  • weakness
  • depression
  • vomiting

Unfortunately, these symptoms can also be indicators of other conditions in cats. For this reason, diagnosing diabetes should be left up to lab work done by your veterinarian. Therefore, if you notice any of these signs or symptoms, make sure that you get in with your vet right away so that they can confirm it as diabetes, or determine other possible causes of these signs.

The Seriousness of Ketoacidosis

Ketoacidosis in cats is a medical emergency and requires prompt medical attention. This is a condition where the ketones build up in your cat’s blood stream. This causes a decrease in their pH, and makes them more acidic. Signs to watch out for include weakness, changes in appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes even respiratory issues. Intensive care is required for cats with ketoacidosis in cats. Treatment usually involves IV fluids, medications to normalize potassium levels, antibiotics and insulin.

Diagnosis of Diabetes in Cats

Diabetes in cats is diagnosed when there is a presence of high glucose levels even after fasting. Clinical signs are not ideal for diagnosis, because other health problems including hyperthyroidism in cats and kidney failure can also cause these clinical symptoms. This is why lab work is also important. While it is important, it cannot be used solely to diagnose. Here are a few important tests that will help to lead to an accurate diagnosis:

#1 – History

First, your veterinarian will talk to you about your cat’s history. The onset, duration and intensity of the symptoms are really important when it comes to diagnosis. Make sure that you answer all of the questions to the best of your ability when talking to your veterinarian.

#2 – Physical Exam

Next, they will want to do a physical exam. They will look for signs such as dehydration, unkempt coat, and changes in their weight or appetite. They might also look for enlarged kidneys and an enlarged liver, because this is common in cats with diabetes.

#3 – Lab Evaluation

Finally, they will do some laboratory testing to verify the disease. Persistently high glucose levels found in the blood or urine is typically a tell-tale sign. If there are ketones in your cat’s urine, then they will also diagnose and treat for ketoacidosis. They may also look for higher levels of liver enzymes and cholesterol, because they are common in diabetic cats. Their sodium, potassium and phosphorus, however, may be below the normal range.

It is important to understand that high blood sugar may not always be an indicator of diabetes, but rather a result of stress. This is known as stress induced hyperglycemia. It is difficult to determine whether or not the elevated sugars is related to diabetes, or if it is just due to stress. Testing the amount of fructosamine in their blood can help to accurately diagnose.

Type I vs Type II Diabetes in Cats

Now, we will take a closer look at the difference between Type I and Type II Diabetes. Type I Diabetes is an insulin dependent diabetes. About 50-75% of cats who are diagnosed with diabetes have this form of diabetes. It basically means that the cells in the pancreas that help to produce the insulin have been damaged or destroyed. Typically, insulin therapy will help them to have a normal life.

Type II Diabetes is non insulin dependent, and occurs in 25-50% of cats with Diabetes. The cells that produce the insulin are still there, but it may not be secreted properly. They may require additional insulin, but more often than not this type of diabetes can be controlled through a proper diet and weight maintenance plan.

What Happens if Diabetes is Left Untreated

When a person has diabetes and it is left untreated, it can lead to a plethora of other medical conditions and problems. The same is true for cats. If you leave their diabetes untreated, it can result in kidney or liver failure, malnutrition, poor eye function, and a variety of other problems. Over time, it can even be fatal! This is something that you don’t want to mess around with. It is important to talk to your veterinarian about any symptom of diabetes so that they can properly diagnose and treat to help improve the prognosis.

As you can see, diabetes in cats can be very dangerous. It is, however, usually easy to treat. The key is to make sure that you keep a look out for the warning signs so that you can catch it early on. The earlier you catch it, the easier it is for them to treat it effectively. Don’t let it go unnoticed. Also, make sure that you plan regular visits to your vet because they will be able to notice signs that you may not be able to notice. It is recommended that cats, regardless of their health, see the vet at least twice each year just for a checkup. Cats with health problems, however, will need to go more often than that.



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Misty Weldon

Misty Weldon

They say some people are ‘dog people’ and others are ‘cat people’. I’m a cat person! I got my first cat when I was in the 2nd grade. I had to beg my mom to let me keep him. He was an orange tabby, and I have been partial to them ever since! We currently have three cats.

Being a cat person, I am always trying to learn more about why cats do the things they do. Cats are such loving animals, but they can be so fickle. I guess I can kind of relate to their behavior, and that is probably what attracts me to them.

Misty Weldon

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