November is American Diabetes Month, and my friend Parker always asks us kitties to help increase diabetes awareness this time of year. But I thought I would take a slightly different approach and talk about feline diabetes. Yes, we kitties can suffer from this too, even die from it if it is not properly controlled. And like humans, obese kitties on a poor diet seem to have it more frequently than those with normal weights who eat a species-appropriate diet. Diet and weight are not the whole story, of course, but they are important factors, and something that is easy for humans to control (in their lives and their cats’ lives).
Most feline diabetes resembles human type 2 diabetes: although your cat’s body is still making insulin, the insulin is no longer helping glucose, or sugar, move from the bloodstream into the cells. When sugar builds up in the bloodstream, the cat will start having symptoms such as increased thirst and urination, and increased appetite. If nothing is done about her condition, she will lose weight, lose her appetite and become lethargic. The longer a cat goes without treatment, the more dangerous it becomes for her, and she could go into a coma and die.
It is important that you take your cat to the vet if she is displaying these symptoms, and if she is diagnosed with diabetes, it is crucial that you follow the vet’s orders about treatment and diet. Usually, the treatment involves giving the cat insulin and a high protein, wet food diet. Yes, you will probably have to give your cat shots, but I will tell you a secret — it is nowhere near as bad as giving shots to humans! With our fur and looser skin, we don’t feel it anywhere near as much. Your cat’s feeding schedule must be regulated around these injections.
Here is something you should also remember: diabetes and insulin resistance do not stay the same, so your cat’s blood glucose levels should be tested regularly. Your vet should be doing this once diabetes has been diagnosed, but you can also do it at home. In fact, if your cat is going through a radical diet change — say, from low-quality, dry kibble to high-protein, grain-free food — you should have her retested right away, not days or weeks later. Sometimes a cat’s metabolism will respond quickly to a diet change, and if the insulin dosage is not adjusted right away, it could cause a hypoglycemic crisis that may result in brain damage, or even kill your kitty.
In spite of all my dire words, the truth is that once your cat’s diabetes is under control, it is not that big a deal. With proper treatment (that is not all that complicated) and good communication between you and your vet, your cat should remain healthy and happy for many more years. In fact, some cats, once they lose weight and eat better, go into remission and no longer need insulin injections. But — again, just like human diabetes — they are not considered cured. You still need to keep an eye on her for any symptoms that show that diabetes is acting up again.
Here are some great online resources to read more about feline diabetes. They are not meant to replace your vet’s care, but they may prove helpful: