Diabetes mellitus affects approximately 1 in 400 cats. Obesity is the number one contributing factor to feline diabetes. However, not all cats that develop diabetes will be overweight. Early symptoms of diabetes include: increased appetite, increased urination, increased drinking, and unexplained weight loss. Advanced symptoms include: loss of appetite, vomiting, ketone breath (sweet odor), and diabetic coma.
Diagnosis of feline diabetes mellitus is based on symptoms, elevated blood sugar levels, and glucose in the urine. When the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin or the cells fail to respond to insulin, the body cannot properly handle blood sugar. This leads to elevated glucose in the blood, which spills over into the urine. The inability to properly use blood glucose can lead to an increased level of ketones. Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition caused by elevated ketones in the blood.
There are three types of diabetes mellitus in cats. Type I diabetic cats are insulin dependent, meaning their pancreas is not producing enough insulin. These cats will need to receive regular insulin injections. In cats with type II diabetes, the cat’s pancreas may make enough insulin but the cat’s body does not use it properly. This is the most common type of feline diabetes. Often, these cats will respond to oral medications and dietary restrictions.
Some cats are Type II, but initially need insulin injections. However, eventually, their system re-regulates and they can go off insulin. These cats will still require a special diet.
Treating diabetic cats can be an expensive and frustrating endeavor. The best treatment is prevention. By maintaining your cat at a healthy body weight, you will significantly reduce the chances of her developing diabetes.