Feline Diabetes: What It Is and What You Need to Know to Treat It
Adopting a pet is a big commitment because it requires a lot of patience, care and time. Pets provide company, love, and can even be good for your mental health, providing relaxation in moments of stress.
Trying to keep a pet healthy is always a top priority for a pet owner, but there are things out there that could take even the most cautious pet owner by surprise, such as feline diabetes.
About Feline Diabetes
According to Thomas Graves, a former feline practitioner who is an associate professor and section head of small animal medicine at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, feline diabetes is under-diagnosed, but it is estimated that 0.5 percent to 2 percent of cats suffer from this condition.
Feline diabetes, also know as diabetes mellitus, is the inability to produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar, or glucose levels. When left untreated in cats, it can lead to weight loss, the loss of appetite, vomiting, dehydration, severe depression, problems with motor function, coma and even death.
The Warning Signs
Some of the typical signs of feline diabetes are increased thirst, increased urination, and increased appetite. If your cat seems to be losing weight rapidly, but seems to have developed a bigger appetite, this could be a sign of feline diabetes. One of the main reasons why this will occur is because the body will no longer create enough glucose to function, resulting in a craving for more food to try to compensate for the lack of glucose.
How to Prevent Feline Diabetes
One of the first steps to take towards recovery and prevention is to adjust your cat's diet. Changing your cat's diet to a low-carbohydrate diet will give the best results. Unfortunately, unlike with humans, a change in diet is not enough and will not necessarily prevent your cat from developing diabetes.
Graves states that not many studies have been done to determine what different diet options there are for preventing feline diabetes. However, he also mentions that “the most commonly held beliefs, based on a handful of clinical studies ... support the use of low-carbohydrate diets in helping diabetic cats control their blood sugar better.”
Furthermore, Graves explains that obesity is a risk factor for most cats and some breeds are more susceptible to developing diabetes than others, suggesting that there may be a genetic component affecting cats as well.
Treatment Options for Feline Diabetes
Currently, insulin therapy is the most common way to treat feline diabetes, and it is also thought to be the most efficient. Although there are some other oral medications, they have additional side effects and are mainly used when insulin can’t be used.
There are blood tests, urine tests, physical examinations and behavioral signals, which are used to establish whether insulin therapy is needed or if it can be used. Unlike with humans, it is not necessary to measure glucose levels on a daily basis and typically blood tests will be done during regular visits to a veterinarian.
However, insulin therapy does have to be administered through shots, which the owner will have to do at home on a daily basis. Insulin therapy is not a costly treatment and can range from $20 to $30 a month for insulin, syringes and other supplies – a small price to pay for the health and safety of your feline friend.
Photo by John Nyboer