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Diabetes is a condition in which the body can’t produce or respond to insulin correctly. Insulin is essential for regulating blood sugar, called glucose, and allowing it into the body’s cells to provide energy. Insufficient insulin means that glucose can’t reach the cells as it should. The body then starts breaking down fats and proteins for energy as glucose builds up in the blood. Untreated, this condition can lead to severe health complications.
Diabetes doesn’t just affect humans. It can occur in cats, too. As with humans, cats can develop one of two types of diabetes. Type 1 occurs when the body can’t produce insulin anymore. Type 2 occurs when the body doesn’t make enough, or the organs and tissues become insulin-resistant. It's estimated that diabetes affects between 0.5% and 2% of felines, with Type 2 being more prevalent.
For pet parents, understanding how diabetes occurs in cats can help them lower the risk of this condition developing in the first place. Should a cat develop diabetes, being able to recognize the symptoms is vital. The sooner pet parents notice that something’s wrong, the sooner they can get their cat the appropriate treatment. When caught early, 60% of cats diagnosed with diabetes can go into remission with appropriate treatment and holistic lifestyle changes.
A cat can’t tell their pet parents that something’s wrong, but there are some symptoms that can point to diabetes. Being able to recognize these symptoms and schedule an exam with the cat’s primary vet is essential.
There are a couple of significant signs that a cat might have diabetes. The first is an increase in thirst and urination. The second is weight loss despite a healthy appetite. Issues with insulin production keep sugar from reaching the cells, so the body turns to fats and proteins in the body for energy. So, despite an increased appetite, the cat loses weight.
Other symptoms that may point to diabetes include:
There aren’t any studies that show that pet parents can prevent diabetes in their cats, but knowing the risk factors may help. One of the most significant known risks of developing diabetes is obesity. Pet parents can help their cats maintain a healthy weight by feeding them a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet and limiting treats. They should also make sure their cat gets plenty of physical activity. Providing space to run, toys to play with, and items to climb can help.
Additional risk factors for diabetes include the use of glucocorticoids, which pet parents may use to treat other conditions such as feline asthma. Some breeds experience higher rates of diabetes. Genetics may also play a role in their cats developing the disease.
While pet parents may not be able to prevent diabetes entirely, they may be able to lower the risk. A healthy diet, exercise, and routine checkups can help.
Pet parents may be relieved to know that if their cat is diagnosed with diabetes, there are things they can do to treat and manage the condition. Treatment involves administering daily insulin injections. The thought of giving their cat a shot every day can be intimidating at first for many pet parents. The process, however, is pretty straightforward and involves the following steps:
Before giving the injection, feed the cat (unless their primary vet says otherwise).
Fill the syringe with the prescribed dose of insulin.
Offer plenty of love, comforting words, and a small treat to calm the cat before giving them the shot (have a second person hold them if necessary).
Pinch the skin near the shoulder blade or hip and insert the needle into the fold (alternate injection sites to avoid soreness).
Push the plunger gently to administer the dose.
Remove the needle carefully and place a cap on it to dispose of it in a sharps container.
Reward the cat with plenty of love (and possibly a healthy treat).
In addition to giving insulin injections, pet parents will need to alter their cat’s diet to help manage their weight. It is essential to alter a diabetic cat's diet and exercise routines to ensure their blood sugar levels remain as stable as possible throughout the day so that they will be able to live a longer, healthier life. The cat's primary veterinarian will likely insist on a strict diabetic cat diet to reduce the regular dosage of insulin needed. They may also need to take their cat in for regular exams to monitor blood sugar levels and adjust treatment as necessary.
Discovering that a cat has diabetes can be scary for pet parents. Fortunately, treatment can help keep the condition under control. While caring for a diabetic cat does require a more significant commitment to cat care routines, pet parents can help manage the cat's diabetes and ensure that their cat lives a long, happy, healthy life.
For cat advice reach out to Fuzzy vets 24/7 for expert guidance as soon as it may needed or whenever a feline health question pops up.