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Watkins & Tasker Vets | Factsheet: Diabetes mellitus

Worms are a common problem in kittens and some cats. Some cats just have the right genes for it. Believe it or not, though, cats can get diabetes too. The most common causes of diabetes in cats are obesity, pancreatitis, and amyloidosis of the pancreatic beta cells. It is up to you, the cat’s carer to be observant of your cat and if you notice any signs of sickness, pain or behavioural changes to seek veterinary care immediately. Insulin is a hormone which keeps blood sugar (glucose) at an optimum level. This blood test can also indicate dehydration, which is common in diabetic pets, even though they drink a lot of water.

Animals with diabetes have high blood sugar levels and lose sugar in their urine. They are more thirsty than normal and often lose weight despite having a good appetite. Post the number FIRST and ask for help. If the early signs of diabetes are missed, more serious signs such as vomiting and depression may develop. When there is a lack of insulin, sugar from food builds up in the blood and eventually starts to appear in the urine. Normal breathing for cats is even and smooth. Your veterinarian will be able to determine if the cause of these symptoms is feline diabetes.

Also – are you hometesting your kitty? Obese cats are slightly more likely to develop the disease, but there are many obese cats who do not develop diabetes. There are many cats that benefit from a low fat diet when they need to lose the extra weight, and some cat owners have had success with grain free diets as well. In a few cases treating the other disease will make the diabetes go away for a while, but it is quite likely to come back again later. Most diabetic cats require regular insulin injections to control their blood sugar levels. Try feeding canned food; it’s typically more nutrient-dense, tastes better, and the cost ends up being about the same as kibble when you feed your cat the proper amount. Your vet may need to help you work out a new diet and management plan for your cat.

Some other diseases can cause diabetes to develop and your vet will check to make sure your cat is not suffering from anything else. Once the whole treatment schedule has been set you will have to stick to it in the future. In some obese cats weight loss may control their diabetes for a while. As intestinal parasites develop from eggs to adults sometimes adult worms will be present in the feces. I don’t think that it is wrong to have your cat treated with steroids when it is needed, but you should keep in mind that steroids can have unwanted side effects. The more you can stimulate your cat to play, the better off he or she will be. This allows you, the pet owner, to monitor your cat’s food intake closely so that insulin is given only when the cat is observed to eat a meal.

This has a run on effect of causing pain when your cat eats, therefore a senior cat may be reluctant to eat, and it also has an impact on the kidneys. Insulin is a protein and (as with any other protein), can be digested. Along with insulin cartridges, they allow pet owners to give insulin with minimum preparation time. Insulin injections are given under the skin and do not hurt. VetPens, similar to the epipens used in human diabetes, are now available for cats. Until you are confident your vet will probably see you every day at the veterinary surgery and help you give the injections. Most people are naturally concerned that they will be unable to give injections to their pet.

If insulin were given as a tablet, the tablets would be digested by the acid in the stomach and the insulin would have no effect. In either case, time to have it diagnosed. At other intervals your vet may want to take blood samples from your cat – and may need to keep your pet in hospital for a day to do this. If you have any concerns about any aspect of your pet’s treatment discuss them with your vet. Your vet will probably ask you to monitor how much your cat drinks to help monitor progress. Symptoms come on quickly. If you have any concerns about any aspect of your pet’s treatment discuss them with your vet.

Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) – If this is untreated it may result in permanent brain damage. If your pet is still awake you can offer glucose with food if they will eat voluntarily. The main ones are restlessness, confusion, tremors, twitches, convulsions or coma. At other intervals your vet may want to take blood samples from your cat – and may need to keep your pet in hospital for a day to do this. If your pet is still awake you can offer glucose with food if they will eat voluntarily. Contact your vet immediately if your pet is unwell and they will probably want to take them into hospital.

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