What is Feline Diabetes?
Diabetes in cats, just as it is in humans, is on the rise. In Canada, an average clinic will diagnose 8 in 50 cats with feline diabetes. This number may be higher due to non-diagnosed animals! (Source: Ipsos Survey 2008) Diabetes mellitus or “sugar diabetes” is caused by a lack of available insulin in your pet’s body due to insufficient production by the pancreas, or failure of the body cells to respond to insulin, or both. In a healthy cat, food is broken down during digestion into nutrients that can be used by the body. Carbohydrates (starches) are converted into sugars, including glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood and provides the body cells with energy. Insulin transfers the glucose from the bloodstream to the body cells – but this can only occur if enough insulin is present. In a cat with diabetes, the pancreas, a special gland situated near the intestines produces insufficient insulin for this to occur, resulting in blood glucose concentrations that exceed the “glucose threshold” of the kidneys. When this happens the excess glucose is excreted in the urine, causing your cat to drink and urinate more. Since this energy source is being lost, your cat may eat more than normal, but still lose weight.
Signs of Feline Diabetes
- Increased thirst
- Excessive urination and/or inappropriate urination in the house
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Lethargy, weakness in hind legs
- Deterioration of coat and/or body condition
- Lowered resistance to infection-especially urinary tract infections
Feline diabetes has been diagnosed in cats of all ages, sexes and breeds. Although diabetes most typically occurs in middle-aged to older cats, a pet that is overweight has a higher chance of becoming diabetic. Castrated male cats are most commonly affected. The exact cause of diabetes mellitus in cats is not known, although genetics, obesity, pancreatic disease, hormonal imbalances and certain medications (certain corticosteroids) are all possible factors.
Prevention through early diagnosis is the best treatment you can give your pet.
Diagnosis of diabetes mellitus
If you suspect your cat may be suffering from, or may be predisposed to developing diabetes, take your cat to your veterinarian for a general examination. Symptoms of diabetes mellitus can also be seen in other conditions and infections, and some diseases can be obstacles to treatment. Early screening and a confirmed diagnosis is essential to establishing the right care. Your veterinarian will check your cat’s general health to rule out the presence of other diseases and/or infections. He or she will also conduct the following tests:
- Urine samples (to determine if there is glucose in the urine and/or a urinary tract infection.)
- Blood samples (to confirm the diagnosis and determine the blood glucose concentration in your cat’s blood.)
If the blood glucose concentration is consistently higher than normal, it may indicate that your cat’s pancreas is not secreting (enough) insulin. Or it may indicate that your cat’s body is “resistant” to the insulin its pancreas is producing, or both situations may exist. In both cases, your cat suffers from diabetes mellitus.