Concerned about possible symptoms of diabetes in cats, or what to do once your cat has been diagnosed? If you're looking for help and advice on this increasingly common issue in cats, read our guide.
Diabetes affects the control of blood sugar levels and usually occurs in middle-aged and older cats, particularly those who are overweight. In a healthy cat, food is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. Glucose, a form of sugar, is the result from this digestion and provides the body with energy. As the glucose level begins to rise after a meal, the pancreas releases insulin and allows glucose to enter the body cells where it is needed as a source of energy.
In a diabetic cat, the pancreas either doesn't produce enough insulin or the body doesn't respond to it properly. Once the glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is unable to reach the body cells - this results in high levels of glucose circulating around the body. As the glucose can't be used, other substances such as fat or muscle protein are used to provide energy. If diabetes isn't treated, the process will create by-products and will make the cat extremely ill.
Some cats are more at risk than others in developing this health issue. Obese cats are four times as likely to develop diabetes, while older cats (those over seven years) and male cats are at higher risk. It is also common for diabetic cats to suffer from other diseases too, such as inflammation of the pancreas or urinary tract infections.
The signs of diabetes can be similar to a number of other diseases and include:
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To diagnose diabetes, your vet will want to take blood and urine samples from your cat to assess glucose levels. They will not be allowed any food for several hours before the blood test is taken. Your vet may also want to monitor your cat's body weight.
Diabetes is often treated more successfully if detected and treated in the early stages. Treatment may include:
Providing that treatment is received and your cat responds well, there is no reason why diabetic cats should not live a relatively normal life for years. If you have any other concerns, speak to your vet.