Hi there. It’s CAT Stanley again. Today, I’d like to talk to you about a really serious issue for your cat. That issue is diabetes.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. So, it seems a good time to talk about diabetes in your furry friends. You may not even be aware that your cat can get diabetes. But it’s true. We can get diabetes. In fact, diabetes is an increasingly common disease in cats.
What causes diabetes? Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce adequate amounts of insulin or when your cat’s body cannot use the insulin properly to metabolize your cat’s blood glucose (sugar). In both cases, the result is an abnormally high blood glucose level.
In most cats, diabetes starts out similar to the non-insulin-dependent, or Type II, form of diabetes seen in people. While your cat’s pancreas may be able to produce at least some insulin, your cat’s body is not capable of using that insulin properly. With time, this form of diabetes can “wear out” the pancreas, eventually causing the organ to become unable to produce insulin. At this point, your cat will require insulin injections on a permanent basis. However, if caught and treated early on, there is a good chance, with adequate control of the glucose level, that your cat may enter remission and not require permanent insulin injections. Now, how’s that for a good reason to make sure your cat gets regular veterinary examinations!
How can you tell if your cat has diabetes? Knowing the signs of diabetes is a good first step. Here are some of the most common.
- Increased thirst
- Increased urine, increased litter box usage
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
In addition to those symptoms, some cats develop an abnormal gait, walking in a crouched position. This is a result of nerve damage and is referred to as diabetic neuropathy. In most cases, the hind quarters are more severely affected but, in severe cases, the front legs may become involved as well.
As the disease progresses, your cat’s symptoms may become much worse and may eventually become life-threatening without intervention.
How is diabetes diagnosed? You will need your veterinarian’s help to diagnose diabetes. There are other diseases that can cause similar types of symptoms. So, your veterinarian will need to do an examination and perform some blood tests to help diagnose the condition and to rule out other types of disease.
Is diabetes treatable? Diabetes is a treatable disease. Once diagnosed, your cat will likely need insulin injections and you’ll want to follow your veterinarian’s feeding instructions very carefully. In some cases, oral hypoglycemic medications can be used in place of insulin injections but that’s something about which you’ll need to talk to your veterinarian. Each case is different and your veterinarian will be able to counsel you about what’s best for your cat.
Diet is another thing you’ll need to discuss with your veterinarian. High protein low carbohydrate diets are often used as an adjunct to treatment of diabetic cats but they are not right for all cats. Your veterinarian can help you find the best diet, taking into account your cat’s individual health requirements.
Is there a way to prevent diabetes? It may not be possible to prevent diabetes in all cases, like when genetics contribute to the disease. But there are some things that predispose a cat to developing diabetes that can definitely be controlled. The two biggest contributing factors are obesity and an inactive lifestyle.
Feeding us to keep us lean is a good start. Feeding small amounts frequently throughout the day is likely to keep us more satisfied than one giant meal offered once a day. Of course, if your cat tends to overeat, you’ll need to measure out the food portions.
Making sure we exercise through the use of interactive play and environmental modifications that encourage activity is also helpful. Particularly for those of us that tend to lean toward the plump side, food puzzles are useful as are other games that require us to seek out our food rather than simply finding it in the same bowl day in and day out. Spreading our food out and hiding it in various locations throughout the house can not only encourage us to exercise but can also keep us entertained.
One of the most important things that you can do for your cat is to schedule regular veterinary examinations. Routine examination and blood testing can often detect early cases of diabetes (and other problems) before your cat begins to get sick. Treatment is much more likely to be successful if intervention occurs early.