Diabetes in cats: symptoms, causes and how to take care of it

How can we tell that the cat suffers from diabetes? Here’s how to pinpoint the cause and what to do to help it heal.

The most common form of diabetes in cats is type 2 mellitus, although they can also develop type 1 diabetes. A diagnosis of diabetes, after a first and understandable shock reaction, can be managed. So we do not think that our cat is condemned to an unhappy life: he will have the opportunity to live exactly like his fellow humans, with a few more tricks on our part.

Diabetes in cats: type 1

When we talk about diabetes in dogs and cats, we mean a disorder due to the ‘bad’ functioning of blood sugar. Type 1 is an autoimmune form, meaning it is the cat’s body itself that destroys the cells that are useful for producing insulin. Not only older cats are affected , but also young ones. When the cat eats, its digestive system separates the sugar from the rest of the other substances contained in the food. Glucose is absorbed by the blood and carried to the various organs, which transform it into energy.

This blood ‘disposal’ operation is done through insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas. If the latter does not do its ‘job’ well, glucose risks remaining in the blood and accumulating here: in this case we are talking about high blood sugar levels. To obtain energy, therefore, the organs will begin to use fats and proteins, as an alternative to glucose: this is why diabetic cats are often very thin and without muscles.

Diabetes in cats: type 2

When we see an obese cat, it is likely that it has type 2 diabetes mellitus. In some cases, the luckiest ones, cats just need to lose weight and maintain a regular and healthy diet to keep the disorder under control. It is a resistance of the cells of the cat’s body to insulin: it is produced but, as the cat eats too much, the cells no longer do their job of disposing and the pancreas begins to produce less and less. With this depletion of pancreas function, blood sugar remains high and diabetes develops.

Finally there is a type of diabetes, called ‘Diabetes Insibitus‘, which is a disorder defined by the excessive production of urine and incontinence. It is very rare and is usually managed with prescription hormone treatment.

Diabetes in cats: symptoms

We pay attention to even the slightest signals that our cat sends us, especially as regards its habits. If the cat eats often but does not get fat, so it does not seem to assimilate food, and urinates often, there may be something wrong with it. In addition, this debilitated state also leads to frequent urinary tract infections and a loss of luster of the coat.

The main symptoms of feline diabetes are four, and it is no coincidence that they are called ‘the four P ‘s’: polyuria, polydipsia, polyphagia, weight loss. These symptoms are often accompanied by infections, enlarged liver and neuropathies. Furthermore, this debilitated state also affects walking: the hind legs may no longer support its weight and create balance difficulties. Added to this are problems with vision, up to blindness in the worst cases.

The terminal phase of the disease is diabetic ketoacidosis: the waste ketone bodies, produced by the cells, acidify the blood and lead the feline to death.

Diabetes in cats: what to do

For the diagnosis, the veterinarian will carry out blood and urine tests: these operations may require hospitalization for 24 hours. Depending on the results of the tests, the doctor will proceed to keep the amount of glucose in the blood stable through a specific diet. In fact, the treatments will be different depending on the type of feline diabetes.

In the case of type 1 diabetes, there is only one solution: insulin. The cat should always receive the same amount of insulin to maintain control of the blood glucose level. In type 2, a change in lifestyle and eating habits will be essential.

The owner will often be ‘forced’ to learn how to use insulin meters: he takes a drop of blood and rests on it. Naturally, the cat will also have to get used to this operation, which at the beginning could annoy him a lot. To see if the therapy is working, you can measure the presence of glucose in the urine, glycosuria, with special test strips.

Diabetes in cats: recommended foods

Our domestic cat, which has become accustomed (through our fault) to eating industrial foods is often prone to diabetes. Therefore, first of all it will be necessary to eliminate foods that are tasty for cats but which will fall within the prohibited foods for cats, such as chicken in jelly, duck in sauce, fish mousse etc. the cat is carnivorous and needs proteins, not so much carbohydrates. The spasmodic use of canned products, easily purchased on the market (which we often prefer for convenience), contain fillers such as plant derivatives (i.e. carbohydrates) that lead to diabetes. When the pancreas becomes overloaded with work, it no longer works. Plus dry food, which contains less water, risks concentrating urine and subjecting the organs to excessive strain.

With a studied diet, diabetic cats will be able to keep their blood sugar levels under control. In addition, having many small meals a day helps with the operation.

In the case of an obese cat, he will have to lose weight, but not too quickly to avoid liver failure. If the cat is excessively thin, it must provide for weight gain.

Diabetes in cats: physical activity

If the cat is too sedentary we will have to ‘force’ him to move to avoid the risk of obesity. In addition to maintaining a healthy weight, physical activity also stimulates the production of insulin. We have to stimulate the cat to go out and maybe equip the house with accessories that can stimulate him to play and move. In short, it will all be a matter of habit.

Diabetes in cats: is it cured?

Being a generally chronic disease it does not always resolve with the administration of insulin (type 1) or with a balanced and balanced diet (type 2). But certainly following these precautions will help the cat to live a life as normal as possible. In particular, the symptoms could disappear for a period and recur: this is why it is essential that the cat always follows a correct diet … to have a normal life!

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