Cat owners should know about feline diabetes mellitus because it can be ultimately fatal. The disease presents itself as one of two types. Owners should know the signs and symptoms of this disease. Feline diabetes mellitus is a treatable disease.
Diabetes mellitus is a disease that causes a cat’s pancreas to stop producing, or properly use, insulin (Feline 2). This results in the body not properly balancing the blood sugar levels (Cat par. 1). Feline diabetes mellitus is classified as type I, exogenous insulin dependent, or type II, non-insulin dependent (Wingfield 844). Type I diabetes mellitus is caused when the pancreas is unable to produce adequate amounts of the hormone insulin Cat par. 3). Roughly one-half to three-quarters of cats present with Type I diabetes (Feline 2). The rest of the cats that are infected present with type II (Feline 2). Type II is caused when the cells in a cat’s body are unable to respond to the insulin (Cat par. 3). However, type II infected cats most likely also require insulin injections (Feline 2). Because the cats’ body is unable to process the glucose available, both types of diabetes mellitus result in high blood sugar levels (Cat par. 3).
There are four classic signs and symptoms of this disease: increased appetite, weight loss, increased urination, and excessive thirst. The cat’s body begins breaking down fat and protein stores in the body to use as alternative energy sources when insulin is deficient, or ineffective (Feline 2). This results in weight loss, even though the cat is increasing its food intake. In addition, the cat develops high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. The glucose is then eliminated in the urine, which leads to excessive urination and thirst (Feline 2). Another side effect, and potentially life-threatening complication, is iatrogenic hypoglycemia. Iatrogenic hypoglycemia is usually caused by an overdose of insulin (Feline 5). A cats insulin requirements can change without warning, causing an acute hypoglycemic episode (Diabetes par. 33). The additional symptoms associated with hypoglycemia include nervousness, anxiety, vocalization, muscle tremors, ataxia, and pupillary dilation (Wingfield 849). Honey or corn syrup must be administered by putting it on the gums as soon as an episode occurs to stabilize blood sugar levels (Diabetes par. 33). The cat should then be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible after the episode (Diabetes par. 33).
Diabetes mellitus is a treatable disorder and need not be a death sentence (Cat par. 9). Although there is no cure for feline diabetes mellitus, some cats may lose there need for insulin (Feline 6). Insulin injections and a managed diet are the most commonly used methods of treatment. Diet is a crucial component of treatment, and in many cases can be effective on its own (Diabetes par. 5). The reasoning behind this is that a low-carbohydrate diet decreases the amount of insulin needed, and keeps the variations in the blood sugar low and easy to predict (Diabetes par. 5). Cats are carnivores, and thus have specific nutritional requirements (Meredith 10). “The new protagonist in the realm of pet nutrition is the animal naturopath, who advocates disease prevention and cure through diet…” (Meredith 8). Sufficient control of most diabetic cats’ requires insulin injections to be given once or twice daily. Because each cat’s response to insulin is different, a veterinarian is likely to perform a glucose curve to determine the best course of therapy. This procedure requires the cat to be hospitalized, given insulin injections, and blood glucose levels tested throughout the day (Cat par. 11). A single, slow-acting dose twice daily, along with a low-carbohydrate diet, is the most commonly used method of treatment (Cat par. 9).
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