How to care for a diabetic cat

How to care for a diabetic cat

If you recently learned your cat has diabetes, take heart…

A diabetic cat can have a fairly normal life, particularly if:

  • Your cat regulates glucose well and
  • You’re committed to your kitty’s care

And yes, your cat may be able to live a fairly normal life expectancy!

While there isn’t a complete cure for a diabetic cat, it IS possible for your cat to stop showing diabetic symptoms for a while with the right feeding and care.

Here are 4 diabetic cat tips to help you do your best with feeding, insulin shots and glucose checks.

Tip #1: Consider prescription foods that are formulated just for diabetic cats

Diabetic prescription foods tend to be the best foods for diabetic cats.

These foods are usually higher in protein than regular cat foods.

You can find diabetic cat foods from Royal Canin and Purina (to name a few brands).

Some people shy away from prescription cat foods because they cost more, and we certainly understand that concern.

If your goal is to help your kitty live as long as possible, though, your costs may actually work out to be less.

When you commit to one of these foods:

  • Your cat’s glucose tends to be easier to regulate, so…
  • You don’t have to recheck your cat’s blood glucose as much, so…
  • You’re paying for fewer visits to the vet. Your veterinary expenses are lower, offsetting the prescription food costs.

Tip #2: Make sure your diabetic cat eats before receiving an insulin shot

Our veterinarians are often asked:

“How many times a day should I feed my diabetic cat? What’s a good feeding schedule?”

In most instances, it’s okay to leave food out and let your cat graze.

The important thing is to make sure your cat eats before you give an insulin shot.

You do not want to run the risk of dropping your cat’s glucose level too low.

This means your cat should eat twice a day before receiving insulin injections.

A lot of our cat families feed their cats several spoonfuls of canned food before an insulin shot. Then, they just leave the dry food down.

If your cat does not eat anything, DO NOT give the injection.

(Be sure to contact your veterinarian ASAP if your cat doesn’t eat for a day or so.)

Let’s say your cat has a healthy appetite…

Your cat could easily gobble up all the food in one sitting.

In these instances, go to two equal servings of food a day before the insulin injections.

Veterinarians, like ours, can help you calculate the exact amount to feed your cat, so your cat maintains an optimal weight.

Tip #3: Come up with a game plan for feeding your diabetic cat when you have another cat in your home

Ideally, you don’t want your non-diabetic cat eating your diabetic cat’s food. (Or vice versa!)

There are a range of strategies you can consider, such as:

  • Placing food in strategic places around your home
  • Feeding your cats in separate rooms
  • High-tech solutions like special collars that trigger the lid to open on the right cat’s bowl (yep, that’s actually a thing!)

Because each situation with multiple cats is unique, it’s best to chat with your veterinarian for tips for your cat family.

If you live in the Castle Rock area, our veterinarians are happy to help.

Tip #4: Stick to a consistent insulin shot schedule (twice a day) and follow your veterinarian’s suggested schedule for glucose checks

To help your diabetic cat feel better, the first step is to start on a treatment plan. Your plan may include:

  • Changing your cat’s diet
  • Giving your cat more activity
  • Providing insulin shots, or
  • Some combination of the above

After one to two weeks of home care, you’ll bring your cat to veterinarians, like ours, to check whether your cat’s glucose is regulated.

This means your cat is getting the right amounts of insulin to move glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells for energy.

You don’t want the glucose to be too high or too low.

Typically, diabetic cats will come in 3 to 5 times (every couple of weeks) before their glucose levels are where they need to be.

It varies by cat and how diligent you are with home care.

How to care for a diabetic cat

Once your cat’s glucose is at a regulated level, your cat’s check-ups will start to spread out

For example, they may start to go to 3 months and then to 6 months.

If your cat’s glucose gets out of whack, you’ll go back to a visit every few weeks until it’s back on track.

As we mentioned above, a prescription diabetic cat food can make it easier to regulate your cat’s glucose than a regular cat food, which may reduce your vet visits.

Ultimately, though, it depends on your cat.

Some regulate quickly.

Others take some time.

For more insights on cat diabetes, check out:

If you want to make sure your diabetic cat is getting the right care and you live in the Castle Rock area, call us at 303-688-3757 or:

Cherished Companions Animal Clinic is a veterinary clinic in Castle Rock, Colorado. Specializing in the care of cats and dogs, our goal is to help you and your pet feel more comfortable, keeping your stress to a minimum.

This article is intended to provide general guidance on diabetic cat tips, including feeding schedules, insulin shots and glucose checks. If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact your local veterinarian. (If you live in or around Castle Rock, we welcome your call.)

If your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, there are several treatment options available to help your feline live a long, healthy life. But is there a way for cat parents to avoid regular insulin shots and rely on natural remedies alone? Not exactly, says Dr. Tara Koble, DVM of The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital, in Boise, Ida.

“Some diabetic cats can be managed on a low-carb food alone, without insulin,” says Koble. ”This is the only ‘natural’ treatment that sometimes works by itself. Many cats need a combination of a low-carb food and insulin.”

Most veterinarians agree that natural supplements that tout diabetes remedies don’t work as effective treatment options. Insulin shots may be a necessary means to managing a diabetic cat’s health.

“There is no ‘natural’ replacement for insulin. However, insulin itself is a naturally occurring hormone, and in cats who need it, we are just technically replacing what is lacking,” says Koble. “Other natural supplements that are marketed for diabetes just help support the overall health of the cat but they don’t treat the disease directly.”

On the other hand, there is a natural approach to preventing diabetes in cats that is highly effective. Koble recommends pet parents pay close attention to diet and exercise. “The two best things any cat parent can help do to protect from diabetes would be to feed the highest quality canned, low-carb or raw diet that is possible,” she says. “The second critical thing to help prevent diabetes is to get your cat moving. Exercise is protective against diabetes, and indoor only cats are usually lacking severely in activity.”

What Causes Diabetes In Cats

Not dissimilar to type 2 diabetes in people, most cases of diabetes in cats occur when a cat’s blood sugar rises because its body is no longer responding to insulin in a normal manner. The pancreas can initially respond by producing more insulin, but the cells that make insulin eventually “wear out.”

While diabetes is more likely to happen in obese, middle-aged, indoor cats, it can affect any feline at any age and weight.

If your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, there are several factors that could have led to the development of the disease. Koble explains that some of the causes include, “genetic predisposition, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diet (high-carbohydrate, dry kibble), and the deposition of amyloid in the islets of the pancreas.”

Koble notes that diabetes in cats is not just caused by one of these issues—it is usually a combination of multiple problems.

How To Tell If Your Cat Has Diabetes

While there are a few things to look out for, Dr. Erika Raines, DVM, CVA, CVSMT, of the Holistic Pet Vet Clinic in Tigard, Ore., says more frequent drinking and urination is the biggest sign of diabetes in cats. She notes that cats may also develop diabetic neuropathy, “where they start to lose nerve function in their back legs and have weak hind legs as a result.” Raines says that the most common sign of neuropathy is a cat who walks flat on his back legs with his hocks on the ground.

A change in eating and drinking routines may also signal the onset of diabetes in cats. “Without insulin, [a cat’s] body can’t use glucose. So in the beginning you notice your cat is really hungry and is still losing weight,” says Koble. “The body also tries to dilute the high sugar by increasing the thirst, so cats that are diabetic will drink and urinate much more than a healthy cat.”

If you notice any of these signs, take your cat to the veterinarian immediately. If untreated, diabetes in cats can lead to severe issues, including weakness in the legs (diabetic neuropathy), diabetic ketoacidosis, infections, cataracts, nausea, kidney failure, severe dehydration, seizures, coma, and even death, explains Koble.

Insulin Treatments: A Common Option

While lifestyle and dietary changes may assist a cat in managing diabetes, Koble notes that many cats will need to receive insulin shots “before going into remission.”

Insulin, as Koble explains, is a hormone that is made in the pancreas that regulates blood sugar (glucose) levels. The more insulin secreted, the lower the blood sugar will drop. The less insulin that is secreted, the higher the blood sugar will remain. When there is not enough insulin, blood sugar remains high, resulting in diabetes.

For cats that do require insulin, most cats need a dose every 12 hours. Koble adds, “All insulin is safe when used properly.”

Any cat with diabetes will have to maintain visits with their vets based on their diagnosis. “Some [vets] require frequent office visits for blood sugar measurements and some prefer to empower clients to do monitoring at home,” Koble explains. “If a cat is well regulated and doing well, there may be up to six months on average between recommended visits.”

Natural Options to Help Manage Diabetes in Cats

While insulin may be necessary to ensure effectiveness in managing diabetes in cats, pet parents can also take a natural approach to diet and lifestyle changes following a diabetes diagnosis.

Raines recommends a low-carb diet without the addition of grains, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and green peas. “If you are feeding raw or home cooking your cat’s diet, definitely make sure that it is balanced appropriately,” she says, “This can be done by purchasing a supplement designed to balance a home prepared diet, or by purchasing commercially prepared complete raw diets.”

In addition to natural dietary changes, Raines says diabetic cats may also benefit from a cranberry-based urinary supplement since “diabetic cats can be at a higher risk for bladder infections.”

When searching for a natural urinary supplement, look for companies that perform independent testing and for products that have the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) label. It’s best to work directly with your veterinarian to ensure safe and proper supplementation for your diabetic cat.

Most importantly, never change your cat’s insulin dose or diet without first talking to your veterinarian. Oftentimes, a cat’s insulin needs will change when they start eating a different food. A mismatch between diet and insulin can result in serious and even fatal complications.

How to care for a diabetic cat

Treatment Regimen

Your cat’s treatment regimen will include: medications to reduce its blood sugar level, dietary adjustments and exercise. Beyond these items, it will be very important that you establish an ongoing relationship with your primary care veterinarian, who will serve as a resource and expert on how you can best care for your feline pet.

Administering the Insulin

Controlling your cat’s diabetes will first require that a long-acting insulin be injected twice a day. The frequency and dose is determined on an individual basis. Your veterinarian will determine the dose and often initially administer it at his/her practice. It will then be important that you fine tune the dose over time, working closely with your veterinarian as you monitor your cat at home.

Your veterinarian or his/her technician can demonstrate how the injections should be given. There are also a lot of online resources that can guide you. Follow these tips for properly administering the insulin injection:

  • You should always give the injection shortly after your cat eats and at the same time (AM and PM), every twelve hours.
  • Do not reuse syringes
  • Be sure you are using the syringes that came with the insulin product you are administering.
  • Alternate injection sites (e.g., inject on the right in the morning and left side in the afternoon)
  • Use petting, treats and praise to establish a trust with your cat

Monitoring your Diabetic Cat

The blood sugar level of some cats is harder to control than others and monitoring your diabetic cat is a key element of caring for your diabetic cat. This should be a collaborative effort between you and your veterinarian. Serial blood sugar curves performed at your veterinarian’s office enable the effect of insulin to be determined and dose adjustments made as necessary. Periodic blood fructosamine assays may also assist with regulation. Some cat owners are willing to take on the task of home blood glucose monitoring with a glucometer, but this requires you to regularly prick your pet’s paw or ear to get a blood sample. Your veterinarian can discuss with you whether this is appropriate for you and your cat.

Changes in dose are usually done by your veterinarian, and we recommend that you evaluate the change by checking blood sugars 3 to 7 days later and always before making further changes to dose.

Monitor your cat on a daily basis as to his/her appetite, weight, water consumption and urine output. Any significant variation in these things can be a sign that the diabetes is unregulated and veterinary care is needed. Be sure to keep your veterinarian informed of changes that you observe.

Some cats that are diagnosed early and respond well to treatment, can go into remission. This means that their diabetes resolves, and their pancreas recovers enough function for them to come off insulin shots. It occurs in 10-25% of cats, generally new diabetics; however the remission is often temporary and the diabetes can recur. Remission can be a reason some cats become hypoglycemic, where if they continue to receive insulin after they have achieved remission, they are at risk of insulin overdose.

Diet

In conjunction with the insulin, another key element of the treatment regimen is diet modification. If your cat is overweight, a program that is aimed at gradual weight loss should be employed. Two dietary approaches are commonly used in overweight and healthy weight diabetic cats. High fiber, lower calorie diets can be beneficial in two ways: weight loss and delayed absorption of glucose from the intestine. Another approach is to use low carbohydrate, high protein diets, but the caloric intake must be monitored because some of these diets are often high in calories. Canned food can be beneficial in preventing dehydration. Some patients may require special therapeutic (veterinary only) diets. Work closely with your primary care veterinarian to determine the best dietary program for your diabetic cat.

Exercise

Because many diabetic cats are overweight, an intensive exercise program is not something you want to engage in without consulting your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help you develop a basic exercise program that will build over time. Take 5-10 minutes several times a day to get your cat moving and active. For example, play with a string or a cat toy, play with a small ball or do things to get him/her to move around the house. You can place the daily meals around the house or use a food-dispensing interactive toy if your pet is food motivated. You can also move the litter box further away so that your cat will have to spend more time walking. Keep the exercise consistent as too much variation will disrupt the effectiveness of the insulin you are administering.

Caring for your diabetic cat will require some education and patience. Like with any chronic illness, it will be important to maintain ongoing communication with your primary veterinarian. Just as important…take the time to understand what you need to do to maintain the health and welfare of your feline companion.

How to care for a diabetic cat

You've just been told that your cat is diabetic and you're probably panicking because you don't really know what this means. The first thing that you need to do is to relax and start calmly thinking about how you're going to deal with this. Gaining a full understanding of what it will mean to care for a pet that is diabetic can help you make the choice as to how to move forward. In doing so, you will need to learn how to properly care for the cat but this is something that isn't really that difficult as long as you've made the commitment to do it.

Here are the steps that you should take to start properly caring for a diabetic cat:

  1. Do your research. Start reading about what it means for an animal to be diabetic. The better an understanding that you have of the situation, the better you're going to be able to care for your cat.
  2. Make an informed decision about whether or not you want to care for the cat. The reality is that some people don't have the time or inclination to care for a diabetic pet. After reading about what it will take to care for the cat, decide whether or not you're really willing to make this commitment. If you aren't, you need to take responsibility for finding a great new owner or no-kill shelter for the cat. Otherwise, make the full commitment to caring for your sick cat so that you can move forward with providing proper care that comes from your whole heart.
  3. Get a great vet. There will be a lot of things that you're going to do in the home to care for the cat but there will also be plenty of things that require a vet. Make sure that you have a great vet that can help you through this issue. If your current vet doesn't have experience with diabetic pets then ask for a recommendation to someone who does.
  4. Invest time in the early stages. It is the first few weeks or months that are going to be toughest as you adjust to this new change in your life. First of all, the cat is going to need to start medication and may even need to be hospitalized to get the diabetes under control. Sometimes this is simple; the vet gives you medicine and the cat takes to it perfectly. Other times, it's more complicated with repeated trials of medication and doses having to be tried out before the right combination is found. Make sure that you have the time to deal with these first few weeks; cut back on other commitments and even consider taking time off at this time.
  5. Start your cat on a healthy diet. The thing about diabetes is that a cat needs to eat right to prevent the disease from getting out of control. Your vet will prescribe a diet based on the information uncovered during those first few weeks. It is going to be your responsibility to purchase the right food, measure out the amounts that are given to the cat and make sure that the food is given at the right time of day. You will also need to monitor the cat's eating to make sure that your pet is getting the right amount of good food.
  6. Regularly give your cat medicine. In most cases, this is going to mean that you have to give a daily shot of insulin to your cat. Have the vet train you as to how to properly do this. Make sure that you understand the time of day and amount of insulin that is supposed to be given.
  7. Monitor the cat's urine glucose. This isn't fun but it's part of the job when you're caring for a diabetic pet. You will need to purchase glucose test strips and catch the cat's urine on them to monitor glucose. This needs to be done regularly but not daily; ask your doctor about the exact plan for this type of monitoring.
  8. Monitor the cat's blood glucose. This is done more rarely but is important to giving you updated information about the status of the cat's health. You can pay to have the vet do this (it's done two or three times per year) or you can get a kit that lets you do this at home.
  9. Spend time with your cat. Basically, the only way to really know if your cat is getting better or worse is to spend time with your cat. This will allow you to notice changes in the daily habits of the cat. Changes should alert you to the fact that something might be wrong. Medications may need to be changed or there may be other health complications that occur in conjunction with diabetes.
  10. Get help. The reality of your life is that you're probably not going to be able to do all of this stuff every day without a break. You need to keep other appointments and take vacations. Make sure that you have someone in your life who is reliable to take care of the cat when you need to be somewhere else. A spouse, an older child, a good friend or a paid pet sitter can help out in this way. Make sure that they are trained in advance to take care of the cat in case an emergency comes up that requires you to leave the cat.

Taking care of a diabetic pet isn't easy but it's really not all that difficult either. You'll get used to measuring out the right kind of food. You'll adjust to giving insulin to your cat. You'll become conscious of changes in the cat's behavior that indicate that there may be a problem. And you'll probably continue to have many good years with your cat. Be aware that it's time-intensive and that it can get expensive. (You might want to look into options for pet insurance if you don't already have that.) But as long as you're willing to make the commitment to caring for the cat, it shouldn't be a problem that you can't handle.

You may have not known that your dog or cat could even get diabetes. But they can, and veterinarians are seeing more and more of it due to diet and sedentary lifestyles in our dogs and cats.

The good news is, early detection means diabetes is treatable. However, like many diseases, it can require some serious lifestyle changes.

First, What is Diabetes?

Just like in humans, diabetes mellitus in pets means your dog or cat’s body is unable to produce insulin. Therefore, “the body cannot convert glucose, or sugar, into energy,” as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) explains. “This creates toxic compounds called ketones that, if left untreated, can result in serious illness or death.” Managing diabetes in pets usually requires the same techniques as in humans: insulin dosing, special diets, and plenty of exercise.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” diabetic treatment that works for all pets. As AAHA says, “As different etiologies become better understood, treatment can be more specifically tailored to the individual patient. Treatment that is more specific to the underlying etiology will presumably lead to better control of clinical signs of DM and possibly increase remission rates.”

How to care for a diabetic cat

All of this means, if your dog or cat is diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll work closely with your veterinarian to create a new healthy lifestyle for your pet and monitor it. Your pet will require strict meal times and a daily exercise regimen. You’ll also learn about providing a daily insulin regimen, if needed.

How to Care for Diabetic Dogs

Fortunately, dogs can enjoy a high quality of life if you manage their diabetes well. Part of that management requires lifestyle changes in the diet and exercise realm. Most veterinarians will recommend a high-fiber, low carb diet for your dog because a high-fiber diet will keep your pet full without packing on the calories.

Your veterinarian will probably recommend an increased exercise schedule, too. Depending on your dog’s age and overall health, you and your veterinary team will be able to determine if one longer walk or several shorter walks throughout the day would be better for his health.

You’ll also learn how to test your dog’s blood sugar and manage insulin injections since most diabetic dogs require them daily. It’s all very doable.

How to Care for Diabetic Cats

Managing diabetes in cats can be more challenging because cats are often more finicky than dogs. Diet-wise, your veterinarian will likely recommend a high-protein, low carb diet because protein keeps your cat full.

Yes, your cat needs exercise, though you may not be likely to put Fluffy on a leash and take a walk. Alternate ways to get your cat moving include playing “chase” or “pounce” with a feather toy. If your cat likes catnip, try offering toys stuffed with it. Know that while kittens are happy to entertain themselves, adult cats will usually require you to interact with them.

How to care for a diabetic cat

Besides diet and exercise, you’ll also learn how to test your cat’s blood sugar at home and manage insulin injections. There are some oral medications that may work as well. You’ll veterinarian will discuss appropriate options with you.

As you can see, managing diabetes requires monitoring and scheduling. You’ll want to monitor your pet’s diet and make sure they have a normal appetite because if they stop eating, that can mean a dangerous drop in blood sugar. You’ll need to maintain a regular meal schedule and check your pet’s glucose levels regularly.

It’s typical to schedule regular visits to your veterinarian (likely every 3-4 months) for checkups. If you need to schedule one of those appointments, or if you have any questions about your pet’s health, please contact us!

How to care for a diabetic cat

When it comes to house cats diabetes is a pretty common occurrence. Be that as it may, dealing with a cat with diabetes is no easy job, it requires you to pay extremely close attention to your cat’s diet, medication, exercise, and general activities. So be sure not to take it lightly as there is little room for error.

First and foremost you should always be sure to keep in close contact with your veterinarian as they prescribe insulin doses and will help determine what course of action you should take. They should be the first ones to know if you notice something wrong with your cat. Your cat will also need more frequent examinations and check ups. Appetite and water consumption are two of the biggest things you should closely monitor as they are telltale signs if your cat needs a change in dosage.

It’s also very important to pay attention to your cat’s diet. To treat their diabetes you need to modify their diet along with giving them insulin. Diabetic cat food should work just fine as long as you keep track of how much you give them according to your cat’s needs. This goes for cat treats as well, you should try to keep the treat giving to a minimum so as to not disrupt their diet. A good way to keep track of how much to give them and when to do so is to set a reminder in your phone or write it on a post it note and put it somewhere that you’ll be sure to see it.

Handling Insulin Injections

How to care for a diabetic cat

For anyone with diabetes, insulin is a must, including cats. Insulin and food must both be given at the same time. It’s not easy but keep doing it and it’ll become second nature. Change where you inject your cat each time you feed them (Example: Left side in the morning – Right side in the afternoon)

The time you feed your cat and the amount you give them should always be consistent. For example: 7am and 7pm. If their feeding time isn’t consistent then it could cause some really serious problems.

Be sure to reassure your cat when administering insulin and reward them afterwards. Nobody likes getting poked by needles. This goes for cats as well so be sure to give your cat lots of love and affection when giving them insulin. Speaking of which giving your cat insulin is no simple task.

The first thing you need to do is feed your cat (unless the veterinarian says otherwise). While your cat is eating you should prepare your cat’s dose.

  • Mix the insulin according to your veterinarian’s instructions. Some insulin requires shaking the bottle, while others need to be rolled between hands or fingers.
  • Take the time to clean the rubber stopper on the insulin bottle (alcohol wipes usually work best).
  • Prepare the syringe and fill it to the correct dose
  • Find a good injection point, pinch the skin into a little fold, and then insert the needle to administer the dose. Be careful to avoid injecting directly into the bloodstream.

Unlike other cats, diabetic felines require a strict schedule and adherence to a regular routine. Consistent structure is critically important to a diabetic cat’s long term health. These kitties should also be monitored for changes in behavior. A dramatic change in blood sugar levels can require immediate attention to prevent long term damage or even death. If you are unable to keep up with your cat’s schedule, or need to leave town, you should hire a cat sitter to check in on your pet. By following these steps along with any other recommendations by your vet, you and your diabetic cat can live a long and fulfilling life together.

You may have not known that your dog or cat could even get diabetes. But they can, and veterinarians are seeing more and more of it due to diet and sedentary lifestyles in our dogs and cats.

The good news is, early detection means diabetes is treatable. However, like many diseases, it can require some serious lifestyle changes.

First, What is Diabetes?

Just like in humans, diabetes mellitus in pets means your dog or cat’s body is unable to produce insulin. Therefore, “the body cannot convert glucose, or sugar, into energy,” as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) explains. “This creates toxic compounds called ketones that, if left untreated, can result in serious illness or death.” Managing diabetes in pets usually requires the same techniques as in humans: insulin dosing, special diets, and plenty of exercise.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” diabetic treatment that works for all pets. As AAHA says, “As different etiologies become better understood, treatment can be more specifically tailored to the individual patient. Treatment that is more specific to the underlying etiology will presumably lead to better control of clinical signs of DM and possibly increase remission rates.”

How to care for a diabetic cat

All of this means, if your dog or cat is diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll work closely with your veterinarian to create a new healthy lifestyle for your pet and monitor it. Your pet will require strict meal times and a daily exercise regimen. You’ll also learn about providing a daily insulin regimen, if needed.

How to Care for Diabetic Dogs

Fortunately, dogs can enjoy a high quality of life if you manage their diabetes well. Part of that management requires lifestyle changes in the diet and exercise realm. Most veterinarians will recommend a high-fiber, low carb diet for your dog because a high-fiber diet will keep your pet full without packing on the calories.

Your veterinarian will probably recommend an increased exercise schedule, too. Depending on your dog’s age and overall health, you and your veterinary team will be able to determine if one longer walk or several shorter walks throughout the day would be better for his health.

You’ll also learn how to test your dog’s blood sugar and manage insulin injections since most diabetic dogs require them daily. It’s all very doable.

How to Care for Diabetic Cats

Managing diabetes in cats can be more challenging because cats are often more finicky than dogs. Diet-wise, your veterinarian will likely recommend a high-protein, low carb diet because protein keeps your cat full.

Yes, your cat needs exercise, though you may not be likely to put Fluffy on a leash and take a walk. Alternate ways to get your cat moving include playing “chase” or “pounce” with a feather toy. If your cat likes catnip, try offering toys stuffed with it. Know that while kittens are happy to entertain themselves, adult cats will usually require you to interact with them.

How to care for a diabetic cat

Besides diet and exercise, you’ll also learn how to test your cat’s blood sugar at home and manage insulin injections. There are some oral medications that may work as well. You’ll veterinarian will discuss appropriate options with you.

As you can see, managing diabetes requires monitoring and scheduling. You’ll want to monitor your pet’s diet and make sure they have a normal appetite because if they stop eating, that can mean a dangerous drop in blood sugar. You’ll need to maintain a regular meal schedule and check your pet’s glucose levels regularly.

It’s typical to schedule regular visits to your veterinarian (likely every 3-4 months) for checkups. If you need to schedule one of those appointments, or if you have any questions about your pet’s health, please contact us!

If your cat was just diagnosed with diabetes mellitus (DM), fear not, you’re in good company. Unfortunately, DM is a growing problem in cats, likely due to the growing rate of obesity.

So what exactly is diabetes? Diabetes mellitus is an endocrine problem where your cat’s pancreas fails to produce enough of the hormone, insulin. With DM, the body doesn’t make enough insulin, which is the hormone that helps push sugar (“glucose”) into the body’s cells. Without the insulin, the body’s cells are starving for sugar; unfortunately, this then stimulates the body to produce more and more sugar (in an attempt to feed the cells). That’s why your cat’s blood sugar is so high (what we call a “hyperglycemia”). Without insulin, the sugar can’t get into the cells; hence, why you need to give it through a tiny syringe twice a day.

The good news about DM in cats? Unlike diabetes in dogs, DM can be transient in cats. What does this mean to you? If your cat was just diagnosed with DM, don’t panic – with aggressive follow-up, short-term insulin injections, weight loss and a change in diet, it may not mean life-long disease in your cat!

It’s important to recognize the clinical signs of diabetes mellitus in cats, because the sooner you recognize it, the sooner we can treat it and the better the long-term prognosis for your cat. Signs of DM in cats include:

How to care for a diabetic cat

  • Larger clumps of urine in the litter box (e.g., excessive urination) (e.g., excessive drinking)
  • Dilute urine (e.g., less foul smelling urine in the litter box)
  • Obesity
  • Muscle wasting over the back
  • Acting hungrier
  • Walking “lower” in the hind limbs (e.g., hocks) due to diabetes neuropathy (nerve problems)

Types of diabetes mellitus
In veterinary medicine, there are two types of diabetes mellitus seen: Type I DM and Type II DM. Cats develop the latter type called Type II diabetes.

  • Type I DM (which is seen more commonly in dogs) is when the body fails to produce insulin. Type I DM requires life-long insulin therapy.
  • Type II DM (which is seen more commonly in cats) occurs when the body produces small amounts of insulin, but insufficient amounts. Type II DM is often related to obesity, which causes the body to be insulin-resistant. With aggressive treatment for Type II DM, diabetes can be transient and may only require a diet change and short-term insulin therapy (months). Hence, one of the reasons why veterinarians are always fighting against pet obesity!

Treatment of diabetes mellitus
While the diagnosis of DM isn’t a death sentence, it can be a costly disease as it requires treatment. The good news is that if you are a dedicated cat owner, you can help make the diabetes go away quickly – within 1-2 years, if not sooner! That’s because in cats, DM is often transient and with appropriate therapy (including insulin injections, diet changes and veterinary care), your cat can be successfully treated – and even cured. That said, keep in mind that DM can be fatal if not treated, and that the hormone supplement (insulin) and follow-up care can be expensive.

Treatment for diabetes will depend on how early the DM was diagnosed – with DM, the sooner you recognize the signs, the sooner you seek veterinary attention and the sooner we get your cat on insulin, the less long-term damage to your cat’s pancreas there will be! Keep in mind that you’ll have to visit your veterinarian more frequently with your cat, as part of DM monitoring and treatment includes frequent blood tests (e.g., blood glucose curves).

In cats, initial treatment of DM may include dietary changes, oral medications,* weight loss and insulin therapy. Keep in mind that some cat guardians initially just try dietary changes, but recent studies have shown that the sooner you start insulin therapy, the healthier for your cat’s pancreas will be.

Treatment specifics
Diet changes are often recommended for the treatment of DM. In cats, dietary changes include a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet (similar to Purina DM™ or canned kitten food). Concurrent weight loss is a must also!

Oral medications (e.g., glipizide) work by causing a lower blood sugar – they are called hypoglycemic agents; however, they only work in cats, not dogs. While these medications are “easier” to give, they aren’t as effective, so when in doubt, consider jumping right into insulin injections instead. Talk to your veterinarian about this.

Insulin injections may sound intimidating; however, many cat parents get used to them quickly and feel very comfortable with the process. (Once your veterinarian shows you how to do so, it’s easy, as the needle size is miniscule!). Insulin has to be given twice a day, approximately every 12 hours (don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be exactly 12 hours!) under the skin. Unfortunately, oral insulin doesn’t work, otherwise we’d dose it that way instead!

With appropriate care and treatment, cats with DM can live a long, healthy life, although they will require frequent trips to the veterinarian to regulate the blood sugar. Having a diabetic cat is also a big commitment, as it requires dedicated pet parents who can give twice-a-day injections of insulin (especially when you go on vacation).

When in doubt, if you notice any of these signs in your cat, get to a veterinarian right away for some blood work and a urine sample. That’s because with diabetes, the sooner you diagnose it, the better for your cat and the better the chances of success in treatment.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.