Accessibility View Close toolbar

Diabetes in Cats: Prevention and Treatment

image of a cat.

Diabetes in cats, also known as feline diabetes mellitus, is an increasingly common disease affecting 1 out of every 400 cats. Obesity is the leading risk factor for diabetes.

"Overweight or obese cats are two to four times more likely to develop diabetes than cats with a healthy body weight," says board-certified veterinary nutrition specialist Dorothy Laflamme, DVM, PhD, DACVN.

Warning Signs

Diabetes is a progressive disease. In the early stages, a cat may try to compensate for the body’s inability to metabolize glucose by increasing food consumption. Symptoms of early diabetes are frequent urination, increased thirst and appetite, and unexplained weight loss. Kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are two diseases that can mimic the symptoms of diabetes. A veterinarian can diagnose diabetes using blood and urine tests.

Treating Diabetes

All diabetic cats are started on insulin. Your veterinarian will decide which kind of insulin to use, what dose should be administered, and will show you how to give these injections at home. Don't worry, the needles are very small and many cats don't even know they're being injected. Your cat will need monitoring to determine the response to treatment, this may include both blood tests and indicators you use in the litter box. Dietary changes to a high protein, low-carbohydrate diet are essential to help diabetic cats regulate blood sugar levels. The good news is that 70% of these patients eventually do not need insulin.

Advanced Diabetes

Some cats may require hospitalization following a diabetes diagnosis. These cats are typically suffering from a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which occurs when fatty-acid by-products build up in the blood stream. These byproducts, known as ketones, build up because of the cat’s inability to metabolize glucose. Symptoms of DKA include the smell of acetone on the cat’s breath (similar to nail polish remover), extreme lethargy, vomiting, and rapid, labored breathing.

Without intervention, a severely diabetic cat may slip into a diabetic coma and even die. Diabetes can also lead to other health complications, including kidney and bladder infections, abnormal gait due to a neuropathy, and muscle loss.

Life After Diagnosis

Most cats do not require hospitalization. Dietary changes and appropriate treatment can help manage diabetes. A low carbohydrate, high protein canned diet can help control diabetes and may even lead to remission. Your veterinarian can make specific dietary recommendations for your cat.

If you suspect that your cat may be diabetic, contact your veterinarian for an immediate appointment. Early diagnosis is essential to managing diabetes in cats. Dietary changes and appropriate treatment can help manage this condition in cats and prevent further health complications.

Sources:

American Animal Hospital Association

Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine

Location

"Making the best years for your best friend"

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

8:00 am-4:00 pm

Tuesday:

10:00 am-6:00 pm

Wednesday:

2:00 pm-9:00 pm

Thursday:

10:00 am-6:00 pm

Friday:

8:00 am-4:00 pm

Saturday:

9:00 am-2:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

Testimonials

Feedback from our clients

  • "We have taken our furry friends to Dr. Nicoletti for a very long time. He is wonderful! Everyone there is great! Thanks for getting our newest furry in and taken care of. She came to us damaged and they helped us help her."
    Jennie Lewton Strubel
  • "Attila and Daisy say all 8 paws up for Dr Nicolleti, Anna and staff!!!"
    Nora Custer
  • "I couldn't take my animals any other place. Dr.Chico has so much love and compassion for not only my fur babies, but for me as their owner.. His charges are so reasonable, and his care for them is beyond words..
    I would like for them to give their birds names.. How about Bonnie and Clyde, or Frick and Frack..."
    Bert J Dinsio
  • "Dr. Nicoletti and the St. Kitts Veterinary Clinic staff are great people, kind and compassionate friends who love our pets as much as we do. Our cats -- and your pets -- will be in good hands if you need to visit St. Kitts."
    Robbie Lewis
  • "Dr. Nicoletti and the St. Kitts Veterinary Clinic staff are great people, kind and compassionate friends who love our pets as much as we do. Our cats -- and your pets -- will be in good hands if you need to visit St. Kitts."
    Robbie Lewis
  • "Dr. Nicolette was my vet for years. I trust him completely. He really cares about the animals under his care. My husband took our one dog to another vet once. That vet ran unnecessary test and ran the bill up double of what Dr. Nicolette charged me to treat the problem. We moved to Florida 3yrs ago and I still haven't found a vet I trust as much as Dr. Nicolette."
    Kassey Thomas