Feline diabetes: What is it, and how it could affect your cat?
Everyone loves cats, right? Sure they do. But cats are similar to humans in that they can develop diabetes, specifically known as “feline diabetes mellitus”.
Feline diabetes, like diabetes in humans, is challenging. But it is manageable. If your cat develops feline diabetes, you’ll need to make sure that it is extra fit and healthy.
But how can you identify if your cat is developing feline diabetes? What are the symptoms? Which cats at are risk? We’ll answer all those questions in this article.
What is feline diabetes?
Feline diabetes is similar to type 2 diabetes in humans. It is characterised either by the inability to produce enough insulin, or insulin resistance. This leads to higher than normal blood glucose levels.
Your cat might require insulin straight away, or it might be prescribed other anti-diabetic medication. Most cats eventually require insulin injections to control feline diabetes.
If the condition is diagnosed early on and your cat’s blood glucose levels are normalized, it is possible for feline diabetes to be put into remission and for your cat to come off medication.
What are the symptoms of feline diabetes?
If your cat is overweight and generally leads a sedentary lifestyle, then it has an increased risk of developing feline diabetes.
Common clinical signs of feline diabetes include increased urination (polyuria), increased thirst (polydipsia), increased appetite (polyphagia) and weight loss. These are all symptomatic of high blood sugar levels.
If you notice any other abnormal signs in your cat, such as weakness at the back of the legs, bladder infection, urinating outside the litter box or poor coat condition, it is best to take them to the vets for a check-up.
Which cats are at risk?
Cats that are middle-aged or older are more likely to develop feline diabetes. It is also more common in male cats than female cats, and cats that are neutered.
Burmese cats are more prone to developing feline diabetes in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, but this is not the case in North America, according to Cornell Feline Health Center.
As previous mentioned, cats that are overweight and don’t get much exercise are more likely to get feline diabetes. It is therefore essential for indoor cats to live healthily.
How do I manage feline diabetes?
Aside from making sure your cat receives their medication as required, which your vet will inform you about, it is important that they get daily exercise and eat the right foods.
This can all take a little while to adapt to, but it is important that you make these changes. If feline diabetes is not properly controlled, it could lead to further complications such as neuropathy, which will restrict your cat’s ability to move properly, or diabetic ketoacidosis.
Your vet will discuss with you the best dietary options for your cat; low-carbohydrate and high-fiber diets are among those that can help cats lose weight, but medication might be an integral factor in whichever diet your vet recommends.
Above all, make sure that your cat is not over-fed and is eating healthily. Keep monitoring their weight if they have been told to lose weight and check back in with your vet if you are concerned that your cat is still putting weight on.
Your vet can also help you devise an exercise routine to stick to. Short periods of play, even 10-15 minutes intervals, several times a day can be beneficial for weight loss and increasing insulin sensitivity. Be prepared to purchase a variety of toys to encourage them to exercise, and don’t become frustrated if your cat shows no interest in exercise. Instead, return to your vet who will be able to suggest new methods of getting your cat to exercise.
What is my cat’s prognosis?
Many cats with feline diabetes can live a perfectly normal, happy life, providing they are well looked after. Some cats can even achieve remission from their diabetes and be taken off medication.
Factors such as age, comorbidities may affect the long-term health of your cat, and your vet may wish to conduct several examinations with your cat, especially if their diabetes becomes difficult to manage.
However, dedicated management can help ensure that your cat lives for many years without too many health problems.
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