Diabetes in Cats


Diabetes mellitus, or “sugar diabetes”, is a commonly diagnosed disease in cats. Male cats have twice the risk of females, and at greatest risk of females, are older male cats.

There are two types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 – in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin
  • Type 2 – in which the pancreas produces insulin, but the cats body does not use it properly. This is the most common type of feline diabetes.

Both types result in the glucose level in the blood becoming too high, which could damage almost every organ in the body.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a complex metabolic disorder caused by a deficiency of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells of the body to absorb glucose.

The cells of the body need glucose (from digested food) as their energy source. Without insulin, the cells cannot absorb the glucose, and they effectively starve. Since the glucose in the bloodstream is not being taken into the cells, the concentration of glucose in the blood increases. This may lead to elevated blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) and subsequent glucosuria (sugar in the urine).

In diabetic cats, excess glusose is excreted through the kidneys, producing frequent urination. The cat then drinks more to compensate for the fluid loss. Hence, one of the first symptoms of diabetes mellitus is increased thirst and increased production.

Increased thirst is usually combined with an increased appetite, yet despite eating more, the cat tends to lose weight. The body tries to feed its starving cells by breaking down the stored fats which can lead to the production of ketones. Ketones are excreted in the urine and if present, can make them feel ill. Left untreated, diabetic animals will eventually become seriously ill with a condition known as ketoacidosis. This is a true medical emergency requiring aggressive management with intravenous fluids and intensive monitoring.

Symptoms of feline diabetes

Diabetes is a life-threatening disease, so it’s vital you know what to look for. Symptoms include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness in hind legs
  • Bad breath

As diabetes develops slowly over time, you may not notice all of these symptoms. That’s why it’s important to ensure your cat has regular health checks. Most diseases are controllable if caught in the early stages.


Treatment of diabetes

A diagnosis of diabetes mellitus can be confirmed with blood and urine tests. Early management is essential to a more favourable outcome but nearly all affected cats will go on to require medical management with injectable insulin. Diet can also influence blood sugar levels so a diet suitable for your pets needs will be recommended.

Monitoring is a very important part of treating a diabetic cat. Blood and urine testing will be required regularly in order to confirm the cat is receiving the correct dose of insulin. The dose may require adjusting at this time.

Although a permanent cure of this life-threatening disease has not yet been discovered, your cat can live a normal life with the help of regular monitoring, medication and an adjustment to diet and lifestyle.

If your cat is displaying any of the above symptoms, and you would like the schedule a health check, please give us a call on 6583 5677.