Untreated Diabetes in Cats

One in 400 cats will develop feline diabetes, especially if overweight.
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If you notice your cat eating like there's no tomorrow but losing weight, don't be jealous of his ability to keep a slim figure. Odds are your skinny kitty actually has feline diabetes, a serious health condition that prevents his body from absorbing glucose properly.

What is Diabetes

Feline diabetes sounds like a dieter's dream, as it prevents the body from absorbing glucose, or blood sugar. No sugar means no fat gain, which is good, right? Not really, as your cat needs that glucose to give his body enough energy to stay healthy and metabolize his food properly. Diabetes occurs when your cat doesn't produce enough insulin, which helps his body's cells absorb the glucose in his blood. Not enough insulin means the glucose stays in the bloodstream until it works through his kidneys and is eliminated through his urine.


Your cat will not simply wake up one day and have full-blown diabetes. It's a slow progression with various seemingly unrelated symptoms that all stem from the excess sugar in his body. Because he can't absorb the glucose from his food, he'll feel hungry more often and eat much more than usual. Despite this increase in appetite, he may lose weight. You may notice more frequent trips to the water dish as he tries to remove the excess sugar in his bloodstream by flushing it out through his kidneys. You may also find yourself needing to clean his litter boxes more often as his trips there increase.


When it comes to diabetes, ignorance is not bliss and your cat will not eventually get better if you just buy him the right high-priced specialized food from the pet store. Serious complications can develop if your cat's diabetes is left untreated, causing a decrease in his quality of life and even an early death. As his condition worsens, his symptoms may evolve into ketoacidosis, marked by a loss of appetite, dehydration and lethargy. In severe cases, he may develop diabetic neuropathy, characterized by overall muscle weakness and lame hind legs.


Unfortunately for your cat, who will no doubt find the whole process annoying, there is no simple or quick test to check for feline diabetes. You'll most likely see your vet more often during testing than you've ever seen him before. Blood sugar levels vary depending on various factors, and what may register as high today may read as normal tomorrow, so he'll need numerous blood tests over a few days to get a good overall view of his average levels. Your vet will take your cat's symptoms, his blood sugar levels and any sugar present in his urine into consideration when evaluating for diabetes.


Treating feline diabetes requires dedication and a change in thinking — on your part. Your pet is pretty much along for the ride at this point, whether he likes it or not. Depending on how advanced his condition is, he may require oral medications, or insulin injections numerous times a day. For cats in the more severe stages, more intensive care from your veterinarian may be necessary, such as fluid therapy. All cats with diabetes require dietary changes to maintain a healthy weight and help control blood sugar levels. Diabetes treatment is not a one-size-fits-all deal, so work closely with your veterinarian to create a treatment plan to help your cat get healthy and enjoy life again.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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