Diabetes Mellitus is the second most common endocrine disease in cats. The disease affects the pancreas, which is located along the stomach and small intestine.
The pancreas has two different types of cells. One group secretes enzymes necessary for proper digestion, and the other group, called beta-cells, releases insulin hormone into the bloodstream to regulate blood sugar.
(Image courtesy of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, from the Atlas of Veterinary Clinical Anatomy)
Diabetes mellitus is caused by insulin deficiency. Insulin is what allows the glucose to enter the cells, where it is metabolized for energy. Without enough insulin, the body is unable to receive and utilize glucose.
Are there different types of diabetes in cats?
As in humans, diabetes mellitus is usually classified into two types of disease. Type I is where the pancreas produces no insulin at all. Type II is when the pancreas produces some insulin, but the amount is insufficient, or the cat’s body does not use it properly. Type II diabetes is the most common type of feline diabetes.
What are the chances my cat will develop Diabetes Mellitus?
About 1 in 400 cats develop diabetes mellitus. It is frequently seen in middle to old-age cats and is almost twice as common in male cats.
Obesity is a predisposing factor for all cats and the number of diabetic cats is increasing at a rapid pace due to the alarming increase in the number of overweight cats. A cat is considered obese when it is even 3 pounds over its ideal weight, which could place them at high risk for developing the disease.
- Increased water consumption
- Increased appetite
- Increased urination
- Weight loss
How is Feline Diabetes Mellitus diagnosed?
Diagnosis is made based on clinical signs and blood and urine testing. There are other conditions which may cause a rise in glucose levels, so blood tests for diabetes may require multiple samples being collected over a short period of time to confirm elevated blood glucose concentration.
How is it treated?
Diabetes mellitus is a treatable disease. Most cats will require insulin injections to control the diabetes. A well-balanced diet is essential and your veterinarian may suggest a specialty diet in some patients to help promote weight loss and help regulate glucose absorption.
During the initial stages of treatment, it might take several visits to the veterinarian in order to determine the appropriate insulin dosage.
Monitoring your cat for Diabetes Mellitus
It is important to closely monitor your pet and their treatment to make sure the insulin dosages are correct. You will need to keep daily records of the time the insulin is given, the amounts being injected and keep track of food and water intake. Call your veterinarian right away if you notice any signs of weakness, shaking, a drunken or wobbling walk or if your cat seems groggy or disoriented.
Long term treatment requires dedication and commitment, but diabetes mellitus can be managed successfully by working closely with your veterinarian.