How to Detect Diabetes in Cats

Diabetes isn't a disease that only affects humans. In fact, diabetes also occurs in cats, and just like in humans, it can come in two forms: Type 1 and Type 2. But unlike their Homo sapiens counterparts, felines can't talk and tell their owners that they are feeling poorly. Because of this, many people may wonder how to detect diabetes in cats.

There Are Many Symptoms To Look For In Cats

The main diabetic symptoms to look for if you suspect your cat may have diabetes are increased thirst, changes in behavior, weight loss, changes in the coat, and bad breath. The symptoms are similar regardless of if the cat has type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. But what do each of these symptoms look like? How can you tell, for instance, if your cat is experiencing increased thirst?


Look For Increased Thirst

In both cats and humans, a major sign of diabetes is polydipsia or increased thirst. In cats, this will mean that you may notice that you have to refill your cat's water dish more often. In addition, the litter box may need to be changed more often because of the increase in urination frequency.

Look For Changes In Behavior

Next, your cat may display changes in behavior. Generally, this means that the cat is more lethargic than usual and may seem depressed. The cat will sleep more and play less than usual. Diabetic cats do not tend to become more hyper or energetic.

Look For Weight Loss

Again, similar to humans, a diabetic cat will often lose weight. This is because insulin is not functioning properly to move glucose from the blood into body tissues. This forces the body into a catabolic state, breaking down protein and fat stores to meet energy requirements. If you notice your cat feels lighter when you pick him or her up, or he or she is visibly smaller, this could mean the feline has lost weight.


Look For Changes In The Coat

Next, your cat's coat may change. This could mean an increase in hair loss and shedding, finding more hair than usual on your clothes, furniture, or bed. In addition, the cat may develop dandruff. The skin underneath may be drier and appear unhealthy.
Finally, a diabetic cat may have bad breath. This, again, has to do with the body being in a catabolic state. The body turns to break down fat and this causes the production of ketones which have a strong fruity odor and are expelled in the breath, sweat, and urine. Their presence is most notable in the breath of the cat.

Not All Symptoms May Be Present

Some other symptoms that may be present and give a clue as to how to detect diabetes in cats include appetite changes, either increased or decreased, vomiting, gait changes, and weak hind legs. Of course, not all of these symptoms may be present so it is important to look for any changes in your cat's behavior or disposition that could indicate that something is amiss.


There Are Risk Factors

Finally, one more thing to consider when looking for how to detect diabetes in cats are risk factors for developing the disease. Obese or overweight cats are at an increased risk of developing diabetes, as are male cats. In addition, felines who have previously experienced other health conditions such as Cushing's Disease, hyperthyroidism, or pancreatitis appear to be at increased risk for developing diabetes. Use of corticosteroids is one final risk factor.

Proper Treatment Can Lead To Long Happy Lives

According to Dr. Thomas Graves from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, 0.5-2% of cats will develop diabetes. Knowing how to detect diabetes in cats, you can now look for the signs and take your cat to the vet if you suspect there is a problem. Your veterinarian can do a simple blood test to diagnose diabetes and then develop a treatment plan that could include diet, oral anti-diabetic drugs, or injectable insulin. Although not generally cured, with proper care and treatment diabetic cats have an excellent prognosis and can live many happy years with the disease.

Source: Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Photo: Pixabay


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