“Your cat has diabetes!” This is a diagnosis that veterinarians have been making more and more frequently for a number of years. The reason for this is actually positive: our pets are getting older and older. But this also increases the risk of diseases such as diabetes. The good news first: Diabetes is not a death sentence! Your cat can live well with the disease, and it is often curable.
Diabetes in cats – a disease and its causes
As with humans, we differentiate between type I and type 2 diabetes in cats. Both have in common a permanently increased blood sugar level: If the blood sugar value (glucose value) in healthy cats is between 70 and 100 mg/dl, it can rise to values of over 600 mg/dl in sick cats.
Risk group Moppelkiezen: Overweight and lack of exercise
Too much body fat means that the body has to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar levels in balance. This exhausts the pancreas and the sugar metabolism gets out of whack.
Cat Diet and Blood Sugar Levels
Cats are carnivores and need high levels of protein but low levels of carbohydrates. Velvet paws who mainly find high-carbohydrate dry food in their bowl are at higher risk of developing diabetes.
Other risk factors for feline diabetes
These include previous treatment with cortisone, inflammation of the gums, genetic tendencies in certain breeds, and age: especially older males are prone to diabetes.
Symptoms – off to the vet!
The following symptoms can indicate feline diabetes:
The cat drinks a lot
Many cats are almost never seen by their water bowl, especially if they eat a lot of wet food. However, when the blood sugar level is high, the cat’s body tries to excrete excess sugar through the urine. As a result, the cat urinates more often and drinks more accordingly. In addition to diabetes, kidney problems can also make your animal companion very thirsty. Recommendation: If your cat drinks conspicuously frequently for several days in a row, take your cat to the vet.
The cat eats a lot but loses weight
Diabetes messes up the metabolism: diabetic cats often eat a lot, but still lose weight. Because your body can no longer utilize the energy from sugar, but instead draws it from fat and muscle reserves. The cat eats a lot but remains hungry.
The cat is limp and apathetic
Sleeping and dozing for 16 hours – no problem for our furry friends. But if your velvet paw is noticeably more sleeping, take a closer look: an untreated diabetes disease could be the reason for the tiredness. Because the body can no longer process the sugar from food, it lacks energy.
Other signs of diabetes in cats
If the disease is more advanced, dull fur and an unusual gait caused by nerve damage (“plantigrader gait”) can be noticed. Some cats also go unclean or go blind.
Diagnosis: blood sugar disease – no reason to euthanize!
Important values: measure blood sugar
Your vet will likely do a blood count after describing the symptoms. It is not enough to determine the current blood sugar level. Because this skyrockets very quickly in stressed cats, in other words: an increased blood sugar value would not be meaningful. However, your vet can have fructosamine and HbA1, a hemoglobin value, determined in the blood count. These provide valuable information about blood sugar levels over the past few weeks.
Left untreated: feline diabetes can be fatal
The sooner you go to the vet with your furry friend, the sooner therapy can begin. This increases the chance that the pancreas will regenerate again. In around 50 percent of cats, diabetes is curable if treatment starts early enough. But thanks to insulin therapy, the others can also lead a long and symptom-free life. If left untreated, diabetes is usually fatal in cats.
Spades in the ear: home monitoring
You can only effectively control your cat’s diabetes and react to hypoglycemia through daily home monitoring. Test strips (Ketostix) for urine are imprecise and are now considered out of date. You can find good instructions for home monitoring here.
Therapy: syringes instead of tablets & proper nutrition
It is important to start therapy early because this increases the chance of remission. Since tablets only have an effect on very few cats – and mostly only temporarily – veterinary medicine relies on insulin therapy with injections instead of tablets.
Don’t be afraid of the injection: insulin therapy
Your vet will likely prescribe insulin for your cat – please follow the storage instructions. Let the vet show you how to inject twice a day – it is best to “practice” with him with saline solution. The insulin should always be injected into a small fold of fat. The needle is so fine that most cats will not notice it. It is important that you exude calm and serenity. After the injection, give your cat lots of praise or give her a treat that is suitable for diabetics – for example, freeze-dried snacks. This is how she connects the syringe with something positive.
Dangerous hypoglycemia – prevent and treat
A blood sugar level below 60 mg/dl must be avoided at all costs. To prevent hypoglycemia, you should always feed your cat before the injection and measure the blood sugar level via home monitoring 15 minutes after the meal. Only then should you inject. If the blood sugar is already in the normal range, insulin can be dangerous. Getting it right can take some time – talk to your vet about this. If your cat has not eaten, you should also not inject insulin – otherwise, life-threatening hypoglycemia could occur, which can manifest itself in restlessness, cramps, and apathy. Dissolved glucose can help in an emergency – contact your vet as soon as possible.
Change of diet instead of diet: slow weight reduction
Our tip: Avoid dry food if your cat has diabetes. This also includes the diabetes food that you can buy from the vet. In nature, cats only consume one to two percent carbohydrates through their diet. The optimal food for a diabetic cat is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Dry food is ruled out because even diabetes food consists of at least one-fifth of carbohydrates. However, it does not have to be expensive special feed: Many normal wet feed types from the trade are suitable. Our tip: the NfE calculator for cat food.
Of course, only approximate costs can be given, but diabetes therapy costs between 40 and 50 euros per month including insulin, syringes, and test strips for home monitoring. The test strips can offer savings potential because there are relevant price differences here.
Homeopathy for Cat Diabetes?
There is no study of effective homeopathic remedies for feline diabetes. If you want to resort to homeopathy, this should only be done in addition to insulin therapy and a change in food and after consulting your veterinarian.
Chance of remission: cat diabetes is curable
Almost half of the cats with diabetes go into remission, which means the body can regain control of blood sugar levels without injecting insulin. Remission is more likely if you start therapy early with an adjusted dose of insulin and a change in food. After remission, it is essential that you keep the changed lifestyle of your cat (healthy body weight, low-carbohydrate food) and check your blood sugar level once a month.
Forecast & tips: life expectancy for cats with diabetes
The good news almost at the end: If diabetes is treated consistently in cats, life expectancy is not restricted. Tip: If necessary, learn about any holiday care workers in good time so that they can administer insulin while you are away.
Conclusion: Long live the cat – even with diabetes!
Diabetes in cats – no reason to lose heart! You and your furry friend now have numerous treatment options available to help your diabetic velvet paw grow old with a good quality of life. However, the setting can take a few weeks.