PETS & VETS: What should you do if you think your cat is diabetic?

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Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common hormonal conditions in cats, and thought to affect up to 1% of cats.

We diagnose and treat many diabetic cats and dogs here at St Vincents and if diagnosed early the prognosis can be very good.

Diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin, which is the hormone that is essential for regulation of glucose levels in the blood. If there is not enough insulin, glucose levels increase and so the body is unable to use it as well.

This results in a variety of clinical signs, the most common being increased urination, increased thirst, weight loss and increased appetite.

In more severe diabetes, there are other signs including enlargement of the liver, weak back legs and unkempt coat. Cats with diabetes are also susceptible to urinary tract infections so other signs may include straining to urinate and blood in the urine.

We are able to diagnose diabetes with blood tests and analysis of urine. We can usually give you the results on the same day as we are able to process the samples in house. Blood tests in a diabetic patient would show elevated glucose.

We may also test a marker called fructosamine which is a shows an average of blood glucose over the weeks leading up to the blood test.

Urine analysis shows glucose in the urine and also sometimes ketones. Ketones are the result of a more serious complication of diabetes called diabetic ketoacidosis which happens when the body runs out of insulin.

Diabetic ketoacidosis can become life threatening if undiagnosed. Cats can sometimes have high blood glucose and glucose in their urine if they are stressed so sometimes we need to repeat tests.

Diabetes can be more difficult to manage when there are other conditions present such as dental disease or pancreatitis as the animal is less sensitive to insulin. We commonly test for common concurrent conditions and address these as well as the diabetes.

Diabetes is very treatable, usually with once or twice daily injections by the owner at home. However, ongoing careful monitoring is important and often involves regular check-ups and blood tests to look at glucose and frustosamine levels.

Diabetic patients are often overweight so we will advise to normalise body weight through diet and exercise. We also commonly assess and change the diet as there is a lot of evidence which shows low carbohydrate, high protein diets are much better as carbohydrate rich diets cause spikes in the cat’s blood glucose levels.

The long term prognosis for diabetic care is usually very good, especially if the cat is younger and there are no other diseases present. Diabetic cats will lead very happy healthy lives when managed well.

St Vincents

Katie Love is a veterinary surgeon at St Vincents Veterinary Surgery, an independent practice offering personal care for all your pets. Katie has a keen interest in feline medicine and can be contacted at the surgery if you have any concerns about your pet’s health. Find out more at www.stvincentsvets.co.uk

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