Understanding feline diabetes


If your kitty has been urinating excessively or drinking a lot of water, it may be a warning sign, indicating diabetes. Follow us in our journey of what, how and why of feline diabetes.
What is it? Starting with the basics, let’s understand what actually feline diabetes is. Diabetes is a disease
Kritika Manchanda
that is caused either due to lack of insulin production or an inadequate response to the insulin produced in the body. Glucose, a form of sugar, is the main fuel of the body. It is derived when the food breaks down into various components. Glucose enters the blood stream and is then used by the body cells for energy. To utilise glucose as energy, the body needs a hormone called insulin, produced and released by the beta cells of the pancreas. For diabetic cats, the body either does not produce enough insulin or does not utilise the produced insulin in a desired manner.
Although feline diabetes is less common than canine diabetes, nowadays the cases are on the rise. The good thing is that even if your cat has diabetes, their life span won’t be affected drastically.
Types of diabetes : There are three types of feline diabetes.
Type I: In type I diabetes, the body does not produce insulin and the result is absolute shortage of insulin in the body. The cats affected by type I diabetes need insulin injections every day.
Type II: If the pancreas is producing insulin and the body cells are not responding to it in the desired manner, it is called type II diabetes. This condition is also known as Insulin Resistance. Dietary changes, lifestyle modification and oral medication can go a long way in helping cats affected by type II diabetes.
Type III: Type III or Transient Diabetes is a condition wherein the cats affected by this type require insulin injections initially. Gradually over a period of time their body re-utilises the insulin that is being produced by the body and they can go off injections.
Causes of diabetes: The exact cause of feline diabetes is unknown. Genetics and pancreatic diseases like inflammation of the pancreas, etc are also some of the other causes of feline diabetes.
Dr Munmun De from Calcutta Canine adds, “Feline diabetes can result from a variety of causes like primary pancreatic disease, endocrinopathy (disease marked by the dysfunction of the endocrine gland), hyperadrenocorticism (also known as Cushing’s Syndrome. It occurs when the adrenal gland produces excess cortisol, which is a steroid hormone that is mainly released as a response to stress) and acromegaly (condition that results due to the excessive secretion of growth hormones in the body) or drug therapy.”
Some of the common factors that play an important role in feline diabetes are: Obesity – overweight cats are at a relatively higher risk of being affected by diabetes; Age – age is believed to be a major contributing factor for feline diabetes; and Gender – research shows that males are usually affected more by diabetes than females. They are at twice the risk as females.
Symptoms: It is important to be aware that the symptoms of diabetes would appear gradually in your pet. Some of the most common symptoms to look out for include: Increased thirst, Frequent Urination, Urinating in places other than the litter box, Change in appetite, Weakness in legs, Fatigue, Characteristic sweet smelling breath, Dehydration, Difficulty in breathing, Lethargy and loss of energy, and Malnutrition. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is advised that you visit your vet. The diagnosis would include – blood test and urine analysis.
Treatment of diabetes: Just in case your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, don’t lose heart. A large number of cats lead a healthy and happy life even after being diagnosed with diabetes.
Each and every pet responds to the treatment differently. The treatment plan is based on the individual cat’s condition. Your vet might suggest some dietary changes and lifestyle modification in addition to the oral medications and injections. Dr Munmun suggests that the lifestyle should be maintained, depending on the severity of the disease.
The daily insulin dosage is formulated depending upon age, severity of the condition, weight, gender and several other factors. The dosage should not be changed without consulting the vet.
General DOs and DON’Ts

  • Whatever the form of exercise be, it is important that your kitty does regular exercise. But ensure that strenuous activity is avoided.
  • It is essential that you regularly monitor the blood sugar level of your cat.
  • Since cats are very choosy eaters, you should not make all the dietary changes at once. Go slow.
  • Cats affected by diabetes should be given a diet with less carbohydrates and lot of proteins.

Medications and dietary changes would only be good if you and your pet take them positively. A pat on the back when he licks clean the bowl and a treat once a while when her sugar level is under control would surely be a great encouragement!