Diabetes mellitus, the clinical name for "sugar diabetes," is a condition that affects the concentration of glucose, a type of sugar, in a cat's blood. Diabetes in cats is rarely the result of a shortage of insulin (Type I Diabetes). More commonly, diabetes results when a cat's body has trouble using the insulin it has made properly (Type II Diabetes).
Insulin affects the way a cat's body uses food. When a cat eats, food is broken down into very small components that the body can use. One component, carbohydrate, is converted into several types of sugars, including glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the blood. Once in the bloodstream, glucose travels to cells where it can be absorbed and used as a source of energy-if insulin is present. Without enough insulin, glucose can't enter cells and builds up in the bloodstream. So a cat may act hungry all the time and eat constantly, but still lose weight because its cells can't absorb glucose.
Most cats develop Type II Diabetes, in which their cells no longer respond normally to the amounts of insulin produced by the pancreas. While many cats initially require daily insulin injections, the treatment goal is to correct the factors or conditions causing insulin resistance. If these factors, such as obesity, can be adequately controlled, many cats will experience temporary remission or permanent resolution of their diabetes. Many cats with Type II Diabetes will experience marked improvement in their insulin sensitivity when changed to a species-appropriate high protein, low carbohydrate food. However, not all cats with diabetes are suited to this type of diet. Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough evaluation and recommend the most appropriate diet and treatment for your cat's diabetes.
Diabetes Risk Factors for Cats
If you think your cat may be at risk, make an appointment today to get your cat checked for diabetes.
We’re here to help! Visit VCApetdiabetes.com to watch a video on how to give an insulin injection, monitor blood glucose with our eDiary, find expert advice and get support from our interactive community to help manage your cat’s diabetes.
Diagnosis and Detection
Diabetes is one of many conditions that can affect your cat and cause visible changes in behavior and other signs. That's why it's important your cat be thoroughly examined by a veterinarian at least once a year or more frequently, if your veterinarian advises.
Knowing the signs of diabetes is the first step in protecting your cat's health. If any of these statements describes your cat, speak with your veterinarian about the possibility of diabetes:
When evaluating your cat for diabetes, your veterinarian may ask about these signs and will check your cat's general health to rule out the possibility of other conditions or infections.
A sample of your cat's urine may be tested first for the presence of glucose, ketones, and/or a urinary tract infection. If glucose is present in your cat's urine, your veterinarian will want to determine your cat's blood glucose concentration and fructosamine concentration. If the blood glucose concentration is consistently higher than normal, your cat's pancreas may not be secreting enough insulin or your cat's body is "resistant" to the insulin being produced. Regardless of the cause for increased blood sugar, your pet is suffering from diabetes mellitus.
A diabetes diagnosis is considered definite when glucose is found at a persistently high concentration in blood and in urine.
After the Diagnosis
It can initially be overwhelming when your cat is diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that you can manage successfully and your VCA veterinarian is here to help. Once the diagnosis has been made, ask your veterinarian to schedule a specific "diabetes appointment" during which you can discuss all of your questions or concerns. During this appointment, make sure to address the following topics with your VCA veterinarian: