You might be familiar with some signs of diabetes mellitus in cats. You know that if your cat starts drinking a lot of water and always seems hungry, he could be diabetic. A lesser-known sign of early diabetes is neuropathy, or weakness in his legs. Insulin can treat the condition.
Feline Diabetes Mellitus
If your cat is diagnosed with feline diabetes mellitus, also called sugar diabetes, that means his body doesn't produce sufficient amounts of the hormone insulin or the insulin it does produce isn't used properly. Created in his pancreas, insulin regulates the amount of glucose that goes into his bloodstream. If his body fails to receive enough insulin, your cat's body begins breaking down its fat stores to make up the difference. Besides neuropathy, symptoms of diabetes include increased drinking and urination, along with weight loss even though Kitty eats well or is constantly hungry.
Neuropathy occurs in diabetic cats because high glucose levels affect hind leg nerve tissues. Your kitty's muscles become weaker, and he starts walking abnormally. Signs of diabetic neuropathy include an odd manner of walking, less agility, dragging the hind legs or moving while crouched over. In rare cases, the nerve degeneration also affects the front legs. Take your cat to the vet as soon as you notice symptoms. The sooner his diabetes is diagnosed and treated, the sooner the neuropathy disappears and he can walk normally again.
Treating the diabetes treats the neuropathy. To diagnose diabetes, your vet takes blood and urine samples, testing them for high levels of sugar. Most cats require once- or twice-daily insulin shots, along with dietary changes. Generally, the neuropathy gradually diminishes once the insulin adjustment is made, but your vet might also give Kitty injections of vitamin B-12 to help reverse any nerve damage. If your cat experienced neuropathy for a long time before treatment, he might never recover completely because of extensive nerve damage.
Although the overwhelming majority of feline neuropathy cases relate to diabetes, a few other causes are known. If your cat had a leg amputated, he could suffer from post-amputation neuropathic pain. There are instances of feline orofacial pain syndrome noted in Burmese cats. While the odds are that these causes won't affect your cat, it is possible that if Kitty suffers from feline interstitial cystitis, neuropathic pain could be present. Chronic cystitis is a difficult condition, as the cat experiences pain while urinating or inability to urinate. Any cat with this issue should be under veterinary care. Your vet can advise you about cystitis treatment, and may also prescribe pain medication for Kitty.
- Glendale Animal Hospital: Diabetes in Dogs and Cats
- VetInfo: Feline Diabetic Neuropathy -- What You Should Know
- Vet Info: Feline Neuropathy
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Feline Diabetes
- DVM360: Neuropathic Pain, Part 2 -- Conditions That Cause Pain Signals to Go Awry
- American American Hospital Association: AAHA Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats
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