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Diabetes in cats can be seen in felines of all ages i, breeds and sexes and is commonly seen in overweight cats and senior cats.

Also known as diabetes mellitus, diabetes is a condition that occurs when cells in the body are unable to absorb glucose from the blood. Glucose is essential for providing cells with energy and its levels in the blood are normally tightly controlled by the hormone insulin, which is produced in the pancreas. Diabetes is the result of the body failing to respond normally to insulin, or the pancreas not producing enough of the hormone. This lack of insulin activity results in:

  • the cells in the body being unable to take up enough glucose from the bloodstream
  • excess glucose accumulating in the blood leading to 'hyperglycaemia’.

Diabetes in cats is more commonly seen in female cats but is seen across sexes.

Types of Diabetes in Cats

Diabetes in cats is a lot like a type of diabetes in humans, called type 2 diabetes. It happens because the pancreas, an organ in the body, doesn't work properly. The pancreas is responsible for making the hormone called insulin, which helps control blood sugar levels. If the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin, or the body's cells don't use it properly, the body’s blood sugar levels go up – this is diabetes.

In people, there's another type called type 1 diabetes, where the body's immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys the insulin-making cells. This type is very rare in cats, unlike in dogs.

Sometimes, diabetes in cats can happen as a result of another health problem or certain medications they're taking.

The Symptoms of Diabetes

In healthy Cambridgeshire cats, glucose shouldn’t be lost through urination, thanks to the kidneys. However, diabetes in cats means there is too much glucose in the blood which overwhelms the kidneys and causes glucose to be lost through urination. This will lead to more frequent urination and your cat will feel thirstier. They will also want to eat more food to restore the glucose that they’re losing through urine.

Diabetes can lead to weight loss because of this. If they’re not able to restore the lost glucose by eating more food, your cat won’t be getting sufficient energy to their cells.

Here are the signs to look out for:

  • urinating more regularly - they could need to urinate through the night or have accidents
  • increased thirst
  • weight loss
  • increased appetite
  • lethargy
  • cataract formation (sometimes quite suddenly. Although it can be worrying to see your cat drinking excessively, water should always be available to them.

NEVER stop them from drinking water.

How is Diabetes in Cats Diagnosed?

Some of the symptoms of diabetes are commonly seen in other diseases, so your vet will need to take blood and urine samples for testing. Occasionally, diabetes can co-exist alongside other conditions like Cushing's Syndrome and acromegaly.

Diabetes in Cats treatments

Diabetes in cats is usually irreversible, but your cat can still live a normal, happy life. Once we have a diagnosis, Cromwell Vets will guide, teach and support you in the home management of diabetes. With an established routine we can improve their quality of life. We want to avoid any long-term harm caused by diabetes by managing the symptoms across the body.

Treatments and advice available from Cromwell Vets in Cambridgeshire

Book an appointment

Insulin injections

Diabetes in cats can be effectively controlled with insulin administration. Insulin injections contain a dose that can either be administered with a pen or drawn into a syringe. It is injected beneath the skin and should be given to cats once or twice a day on schedule, preferably after mealtimes.

It can take some time for you to notice an improvement in your cat. Their response to treatment should be noticeable after a week or two, but it can depend on the individual cat. The insulin they take will be modified appropriately and you should always follow the advice from your vet about administering it. You may be required to adjust your cat’s diet and it is crucial that you follow your vet’s advice. Always consult with them about any changes you may make.

Managing diabetes in cats

  • Follow the storage instructions for the insulin that your cat has been prescribed. Typically, you will need to store this in the fridge and return the insulin to your vets for discarding once the bottle has been opened for 28 days
  • Please never throw away the used syringes in your household bin. Insulin syringes should be brought back to the vets to be properly disposed of in our designated sharps container
  • Regular urine testing for ketones and glucose may be required, using dipsticks that we may provide. You will learn the basic method from us
    Some cats may require a drop of blood for testing which some owners feel comfortable collecting but this may not be necessary
  • You will be required to keep a daily diary or chart, recording your cat’s daily routine. In some cases a glucose monitoring system fitted to your cat may be appropriate. If so, our veterinary team will discuss this with you
  • Weight management is important in the control of diabetes as obesity is a risk factor for diabetes. We can offer support and advice on weight control to help with this. We have more advice about weight management here
  • We frequently make special arrangements to neuter female diabetics because their condition can be affected by their hormones each time they enter reproductive cycles.

Hypoglycemia symptoms in cats

Hypoglycaemia occurs when the blood sugar level drops abnormally low. Hypoglycaemia is a critical situation and can become life-threatening if not addressed promptly.
Hypoglycaemia can occur in your cat if they have:

  1. received too much insulin
  2. eaten less than usual
  3. vomited
  4. refused to eat.

Signs of hypoglycaemia in cats include:

  • weakness
  • unsteadiness
  • confusion
  • twitching
  • unusually high appetite
  • vomiting
  • seizures (fits)
  • collapse.

Be prepared in an emergency

If your cat experiences any of the symptoms of hypoglycemia mentioned above, this is an EMERGENCY situation. Take the following actions right away:

Put glucose gel, sugar, or honey on their tongue and call your closest vets in Cambridgeshire.

If your cat won’t eat, please contact us at Cromwell Vets before administering insulin for advice on the next steps from your vet.

Find out about our emergency service

Book an appointment for your cat at Cromwell Vets in Cambridgeshire for a health check-up

If you think your cat is showing signs of diabetes or if you’re worried, call us on 01480 52601 to speak to a member of the team. Our Vets will get back to you as soon as possible.

Spread the cost of essential healthcare for your pet

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To spread the cost of routine and essential healthcare for your pet, we offer our Pet Health for Life plan, which includes 2 vet consultations and 2 nurse consultation per year.

Click here to find out more and to sign up online