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Feline Health Conditions

Pet health problems are stressful for owner and pet alike. Understanding certain health conditions your cat might be facing can help bring you one step closer toward nutritionally managing the problem.

Feline Health Conditions

Pet health problems are stressful for owner and pet alike. Understanding certain health conditions your cat might be facing can help bring you one step closer toward nutritionally managing the problem.

Diabetic Cat Needs

I just found out my cat has diabetes. What care will he need?

The following article is taken from the "Purina® Animal Instincts" Podcast Series. Learn more at www.purina.com.

Cats tend to suffer quietly. But don’t be fooled by a stoic cat, especially if it’s diabetic. Diabetes strikes cats in different ways and they’ll react to treatment in their own way.

There are two types of feline diabetes and each requires different levels of care. In some cases, the illness can be controlled through a strict dietary regime. But quite often, feline diabetes requires more on the part of the owner. Daily injections of insulin may be called for, although in some cases insulin can be squirted into the kitty’s mouth.

So it goes without saying that a diabetic cat, stoic or not, takes a bit of effort. But most owners find they get used to the regime, and so does the cat. The effort ensures that both will be in good company for a long time to come.

– Dr. Larry McDaniel, DVM

Feline Diabetes

Feline diabetes mellitus: a serious, but usually controllable disease

Today, it’s estimated that one in 200 cats seen by veterinarians is affected by feline diabetes. If your cat is one of them, you should know that cat diabetes is a serious disease that may require your active participation on a daily basis. But with proper care, most diabetic cats can lead active, playful lives.

Feline diabetes, or a deficiency of insulin, can be diagnosed at any age. Cats at the greatest risk for developing diabetes are most often over six years of age and/or overweight.

Understanding diabetes in cats

After a meal, glucose is released into a cat’s bloodstream. When this occurs, the pancreas secretes insulin, which allows glucose to enter cells where it can be used for energy. But when a cat has feline diabetes:

  1. The pancreas is impaired and the cat can experience an insulin deficiency.
  2. As a result, glucose continues to be produced, but it can’t enter cells to produce energy, and glucose builds up in the blood.
  3. The glucose levels rise in the blood and eventually in the urine, drawing water out of a cat’s body. This results in increased urination and thirst.
  4. As the cells of the body are deprived of glucose, the cat must find another energy source and starts breaking down its own fat and muscle for energy. That’s why your cat may lose weight, despite an increase in appetite.
  5. When a cat’s body breaks down fat for fuel—instead of glucose—the liver converts some of that fat into “ketones.” Excess ketones in the blood and urine can lead to additional complications, including acidosis, an accumulation of acid in the blood. Other potential problems of diabetes include hepatic lipidosis (excess fat in the liver) or urinary tract infections. 

Diagnosing feline diabetes

Your veterinarian may perform blood tests and/or a urinalysis to screen for excess levels of glucose and ketones. To confirm a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, a fasting blood glucose test is required to determine feline diabetes.

During the first few weeks, if your cat requires insulin, you may need to return to the clinic to adjust the dosage, frequency or type of insulin injection. Careful monitoring of your cat’s water intake, urine output, urine glucose and overall health are extremely important during this time.

Effective treatment for your diabetic cat

Your cat’s treatment program will depend on the severity of its feline diabetes. In some instances, your cat may require hospitalization, fluids and other medications to stabilize its condition.

While some cats’ diabetes may be controlled with oral medications and diet, many require daily insulin therapy. Giving your cat injections isn’t difficult. Injections are usually performed with a very thin needle under loose skin to minimize discomfort. Your veterinarian or staff will review proper injection techniques for you.

The goal of this therapy is to maintain blood glucose within a safe range throughout the day and to prevent further complications. As the glucose level is stabilized, you may notice that your cat’s symptoms, such as excessive thirst and urination, dissipate.

The importance of diet

Your veterinarian will also recommend dietary therapy as an important adjunct to the treatment of feline diabetes.

  • Timing of meals. Maintain consistency in the timing and nutrient content of meals as they relate to insulin injections.
  • What you feed is just as important as when you feed your cat. Provide a consistent amount of calories and furnish complete and balanced nutrition to minimize extreme fluctuations in glucose. Increased amounts of protein and decreased amounts of carbohydrate help slow glucose absorption from the intestinal tract and help control blood glucose after meals.
  • Weight control. Obesity can lead to insulin resistance, so diet can also be instrumental in controlling diabetes. Consult your veterinarian if your cat needs to lose weight.

Signs Of Feline Diabetes

The following article is taken from the "Purina® Animal Instincts" Podcast Series. Learn more at www.purina.com.

Diabetic cats need a bottomless water bowl and food dish. But even if you give them both, they would still lose weight. They would still be parched. These are the main signs of diabetes in cats. And they can baffle the owner of an animal so afflicted.

Feline diabetes occurs when your cat cannot properly process or dispose of sugar. Insulin, produced in the pancreas, is the hormone that regulates sugar in cats as well as humans. A lack of it causes trouble in both. Extreme urination is another symptom of feline diabetes. The disorder is treatable with medicine and diet. If you notice any sign of extreme hunger or thirst in your cat, contact your veterinarian immediately.

– Dr. Larry McDaniel, DVM