What is Diabetes Mellitus in Cats?

What is Diabetes Mellitus in Cats?

What is it?

Diabetes mellitus in cats is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar levels due to inadequate insulin production or insulin resistance. It is a complex disease that various factors, including genetics, obesity, and certain medical conditions, can cause. Therefore, prompt diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian are essential for managing diabetes mellitus in cats and preventing further health problems.

How is it Treated?

Treating diabetes mellitus in cats typically involves dietary management, insulin therapy, and weight management. Dietary management may include feeding a specialized diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fiber. Insulin therapy may require regular insulin injections under the skin, and weight management may involve reducing calorie intake and increasing physical activity.

Breed Predispositions

Burmese, Siamese, Abyssinian, and Himalayan cats.


After observing her normally energetic and curious Bengal cat, Simba, becoming increasingly lethargic and drinking water more frequently than usual, Lisa grew concerned about his health. Prompted by these unusual symptoms, she took Simba to the veterinarian for a comprehensive examination. The veterinarian performed a series of tests and diagnosed Simba with diabetes mellitus, a condition that can affect cats of all breeds and ages.

Diabetes mellitus in cats is a common disease when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body cannot use insulin properly. Insulin helps control blood glucose levels. Diabetes causes high blood glucose levels. High blood glucose levels cause damage to many parts of the body, including the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, skin, and blood vessels.

Cats can develop DM because they cannot usually process carbohydrates. This means they must eat large amounts of carbohydrate-rich foods to keep their blood glucose levels regular.

If left untreated, DM can lead to blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, amputation, and death. Therefore, cats with DM should be treated promptly. Treatment includes dietary modification, exercise, and medication.

Complications associated with diabetes mellitus include ketoacidosis, renal failure, and ulcers.

  • Ketoacidosis is characterized by low blood pH, high blood sugar, and ketonemia. Ketoacidosis can occur when insulin levels drop below the level needed to control blood sugar.
  • Renal failure results from prolonged exposure to high blood sugar levels. In this case, the kidneys do not filter waste properly, accumulating toxins in the blood.
  • Ulcers result from damage to the lining of the stomach and intestines. Ulcers can cause bleeding and infection.

Two Types of Diabetes Mellitus in Felines

  • Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disorder caused by destroying pancreatic beta cells. Beta cells secrete insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. If these cells are destroyed, the cat becomes diabetic.

In addition to destroying beta cells, the immune system attacks the liver, causing inflammation and scarring. As a result, the liver fails to remove toxins from the bloodstream.

Because cats lack the enzyme required to break down carbohydrates, they absorb too much glucose from food and drink. As a result, their blood glucose level rises, leading to hyperglycemia.

This causes ketones to form in the urine, resulting in ketonuria. Ketonuria indicates that the cat has developed acidosis, a metabolic imbalance that results in excessive amounts of lactic acid in the blood.

Two Types of Diabetes Mellitus in Felines

The liver produces ketone bodies to compensate for the increased glucose entering the body. Ketone bodies enter the bloodstream and travel to the kidneys, excreted in the urine.

When the kidneys fail to eliminate ketones, they accumulate in the blood and tissues, causing severe complications. These include blindness, kidney failure, and coma.

  • Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Type 2 diabetes mellitus develops when the body produces insufficient insulin, or the cells become resistant to insulin. Insulin helps control blood sugar levels.

Insulin resistance is a normal part of aging but can lead to diabetes mellitus. In addition, obese cats are prone to developing insulin resistance.

As cats age, their muscles become less responsive to insulin, which makes them more susceptible to diabetes mellitus. Although cats can develop either type of diabetes mellitus, most cases are due to type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Some cats develop type 1 diabetes mellitus after receiving a vaccine against the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). FeLV infects the lymphocytes of cats, causing the immune system to attack the beta cells in the pancreas.

Other conditions associated with diabetes mellitus include obesity, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, adrenal gland tumors, kidney disease, and fatty liver disease.

Causes of Diabetes Mellitus in Cats

Cats are prone to developing diabetes mellitus because of their unique anatomy. Between 0.2% and 1% of cats will develop diabetes at some point. Their pancreas produces insulin, but unlike humans, cats’ pancreases make two types of insulin instead of just one. As a result, cats need twice as much insulin to regulate blood glucose levels as dogs.

  • Obesity is a risk factor for developing diabetes mellitus because they’re prone to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when fat cells become resistant to the action of insulin. Fat cells store excess energy in triglycerides, which are converted to fatty acids and stored in the liver. When there’s too much-stored fat, the body resists the effects of insulin, leading to elevated blood glucose.
  • Another possible risk factor for diabetes mellitus is age. Older pets may be predisposed to develop diabetes due to decreased sensitivity to insulin. However, this isn’t usually the case. Most older animals with diabetes mellitus have been diagnosed with other conditions, such as kidney failure or cancer.
  • Diet plays a role in diabetes mellitus development. Some foods contain ingredients that trigger inflammation, which increases insulin resistance and lowers blood glucose. Foods containing these inflammatory compounds include red meat, fried food, processed meats, refined grains, and dairy products. Other dietary factors contributing to diabetes mellitus include excessive consumption of sweets, fats, and alcohol.
  • Some medications can also lead to diabetes mellitus. These include corticosteroids, antihistamines, antacids, and certain antibiotics. Your veterinarian should be able to tell whether your cat is taking any of these drugs.
  • Finally, genetics play a role in diabetes mellitus development. Certain breeds of cats are known to be predisposed to diabetes mellitus. Be aware that diabetes mellitus doesn’t necessarily mean your cat has type 1 diabetes mellitus. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is far more common than type 1.

Clinical Signs of Diabetes Mellitus in Cats

Diabetes mellitus symptoms vary depending on which type of diabetes a cat has. In the early stages of DM, signs may only appear several weeks have passed. Symptoms of both types include excessive thirst, increased urination, weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea; some dogs and up to 50% of cats present with decreased appetite and frequent infections.

Cats who are obese are more prone to developing diabetes. Obesity causes insulin resistance, meaning it takes longer for the body to use insulin to move glucose into cells. In addition, overweight cats often have fatty livers, which makes it harder for the liver to process glucose.

  • Type 1 cats have no warning signs before they develop diabetes. They don’t feel hungry and often lose interest in food. This causes them to lose weight and feel weak. Their urine becomes cloudy and dark yellow. Blood tests show high blood sugar levels.
  • Type 2 cats start showing symptoms after being overweight for several years. These cats may not drink as much water as usual鈥攗rine changes from clear to amber. In addition, blood tests show high glucose levels.

What Should I Do if My Cat has Diabetes Mellitus?

What Should I Do if My Cat has Diabetes Mellitus?

If your cat develops DM, there are several things you should consider doing.

  1. Take them to the vet right away.
  2. Feed your cat a diet with plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
  3. Keep your cat active. Exercise helps his body burn calories and lose weight.
  4. Monitor your cat’s food intake carefully. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which increases the risk of DM.
  5. Talk to your veterinarian about treating your cat’s DM. Some medications help control the symptoms of DM, and some work better than others. Your vet may recommend insulin injections, dietary supplements, or both.

Diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus in Cats

Diagnosing diabetes mellitus in cats is pretty straightforward. Blood and urine samples will be needed so the vet can best extract all the necessary information. The blood tests measure glucose levels, fructosamine levels (which help show longer-term trends in glucose control), potassium, triglycerides, and hepatic enzymes.

Urine tests are to test for ketones and to check the urine’s specific gravity. Other helpful diagnostic tests include imaging (ultrasounds or CT scans) to look for changes in the pancreas size and shape indicative of diabetes.

The followings are for further understanding of tests used to diagnose:

  1. Blood Glucose Test (BGT): This test measures the amount of glucose in the blood. High blood glucose levels indicate that the cat has diabetes mellitus.
  2. Urinalysis: This test checks for proteinuria, glucosuria, ketone bodies, and specific gravity in urine. These results help determine whether the cat has diabetes mellitus.
  3. Feces analysis: This test examines feces for fat content, sugar content, and pH. It also looks for parasites and bacteria.
  4. Urine culture: This test checks for infection by bacteria, fungi, yeast, and viruses.
  5. Glucose tolerance test: Vets measure blood sugar levels over several hours. The GTT measures the cat’s ability to metabolize glucose.

These tests are performed to rule out other possible medical issues. For example, hyperthyroidism in cats may have increased urination due to the thyroid gland overproducing hormones.

Stress, diet, and exercise are other factors affecting these tests’ results.

Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus in Felines

The goal of treatment is to prevent complications of feline diabetes. Treatment options include diet modification, oral medications, and insulin injections.

  • Dietary Modification

Many owners find that changing their pet’s diet to a low-carbohydrate or higher-fat diet can significantly improve blood sugar levels.

However, some pets cannot tolerate particular ingredients in commercial diets, so homemade diets must be prepared specifically for these pets.

Some cats are managed at home with dietary therapy and insulin.

  • Oral Medications

Metformin is the preferred initial treatment option for diabetic pets. Metformin decreases intestinal absorption of sugar and improves liver function.

Metformin is typically given once daily in the evening. Side effects include nausea and diarrhea.

Glucagon can be used for pets that fail to respond to metformin. Glucagon stimulates hepatic gluconeogenesis and decreases blood sugar levels by increasing the release of stored glycogens from the liver.

Side effects include hypotension, hypoglycemia, and gastrointestinal distress.

  • Insulin Therapy for Severe Cases

Insulin therapy is indicated when oral medications fail to manage blood sugar levels adequately. Short-acting insulins provide immediate relief, whereas intermediate-acting insulins provide longer-lasting benefits. Insulin dose depends on the severity of diabetes.

  • Other Types of Insulin

Several other types of insulin are available for treating feline diabetes, including zinc insulin, protamine zinc insulin, and ultralente insulin. However, these drugs are rarely used.

Vets will determine if your cat needs insulin injections. First, your veterinarian will perform a physical exam and check your cat’s blood glucose level. He may recommend testing your cat’s blood every week for the first month, then once a month for the next few months. After that, he may test your cat monthly.

Once your cat’s blood glucose levels are under control, you can reduce the amount of insulin he receives. You can also stop giving him insulin altogether. This means your cat won’t get any shots, but he still needs to eat a special diet.

Your cat’s condition will be monitored closely by your veterinarian. The frequency of visits depends on how well your cat responds to treatment.

Prevention of Feline Diabetes Mellitus

Prevention of Feline Diabetes Mellitus

To prevent your cat from getting diabetes, you can:

  • Keep your cat indoors. Outdoor cats are more likely to get sick.
  • Feed your cat a healthy diet. Cats who eat too many fatty foods are more likely to develop DM.
  • Make sure your cat gets enough exercise. Regular activity burns extra calories and reduces stress.
  • Watch what you put in your cat’s bowl. Some commercial diets contain ingredients that increase your cat’s risk of developing DM.

Because diabetes mellitus is caused by multiple factors, prevention is critical. Diet plays a significant role in preventing diabetes mellitus.

Pets with diabetes mellitus should avoid foods containing added sugars, starch, and carbohydrates. Instead, feed pets a diet rich in protein and fats.

Regular exercise helps maintain normal blood sugar levels. Exercise also improves overall health and reduces stress.

Weight Loss Tips

  1. Ensure your cat gets regular checkups at a pet slimmer’. Your veterinarian can advise you about the best diet for your cat based on age, size, and activity level. If your vet recommends a prescription diet, make sure that you follow the instructions carefully.
  2. Many cat diets, including dry and wet varieties, are available. Dry diets are easier to digest, while wet diets are better suited to pets with sensitive stomachs. Some cats prefer a combination of both types of food.
  3. Be aware that cats require different amounts of protein depending on their age. For example, younger kittens need a lot more protein than older animals. So keep track of your cat’s weight and feed accordingly.
  4. Cats typically do not have the same appetite as humans, so you might want to adjust your feeding schedule. For example, you could offer one meal per day rather than three.
  5. Try to limit the number of carbohydrates your cat eats. Carbohydrates cause digestion problems in cats, especially those prone to pancreatitis.

Frequently Asked Questions

The average lifespan of a cat is 12 years. A cat’s life expectancy depends on many factors, such as age, health condition, diet, genetics, environment, etc. Some cats are born with genetic defects which make them prone to certain diseases like cancer.

If your cat has diabetes, it might require daily insulin shots. However, if your cat is healthy and active, it can live up to 10 years with proper care. It is tough to predict how much longer your cat will live. Your vet will advise you on what to do when your cat reaches their maximum lifespan.

Side effects of insulin in cats include hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), and ketoacidosis (ketone bodies), depending on the insulin dose. Hypoglycemia occurs when there is too much insulin circulating in the body. This causes the glucose level to drop below normal levels. Hyperglycemia happens when there isn’t enough insulin in the bloodstream; blood sugar rises above normal levels.

Ketones are produced from fat metabolism and stored in the liver. When no insulin is available to convert them into energy, they accumulate in the bloodstream and cause acidosis. The symptoms of this condition include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, lethargy, weakness, seizures, coma, and death.

A diabetic cat must be fed at least once every two hours. If you provide your cat with too much dry food, she will become fat and unhealthy. A healthy weight for a diabetic cat is around 10% of her body weight. The amount of food needed depends on how active your cat is and what diet she eats.

You should take your cat to the vet immediately if your cat gets sick. You can determine if your cat has diabetes from her blood sugar levels. Blood sugar below 200 mg/dl (11 ml/L) indicates your cat has diabetes. Your veterinarian can test your cat’s blood sugar level with a glucometer.

Keeping your cat indoors during cold weather would be best because cats do not sweat well outside.

The final stage of diabetes in dogs is ketoacidosis. Ketone bodies are produced when there is no glucose available from food sources. This happens because the body cannot use fat for energy. Instead, it uses ketones which are made from fatty acids. When blood sugar levels drop too low, the pancreas stops producing insulin.

Insulin helps move sugars into cells so they can be used for energy. Without enough insulin, these sugars build up in the bloodstream. If this continues, the kidneys remove water from the blood to make urine. This causes dehydration, thirst, and weight loss. In addition to losing fluids, the person’s heart rate increases.

The increased heartbeat makes the blood thicker and less able to flow through small blood vessels. This leads to problems such as blurry vision, headache, confusion, and fainting.

The best food for a diabetic cat is a diet rich in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and low fat. It should contain no artificial ingredients, preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, or hydrogenated fats.

It should be fed at least twice daily, preferably three times. Feeding too much food at once can cause diarrhea. If you’re providing dry food, ensure your kitty gets enough water. Feeding wet foods such as canned tuna, chicken broth, or milk can help keep your cat’s skin healthy. Wet foods also help with weight loss.

If your cat has diabetes, he’ll probably need extra calories. A good rule of thumb is to double the food necessary for a normal-weight cat. For example, if your cat weighs 2 pounds (1 kg), feed him 4 ounces (113 grams) of food daily.

Some cats with diabetes may live long, while others have shorter lives. The average lifespan for a diabetic cat is around 12 years or more but can vary substantially depending on the individual cat’s health and genetics.

Yes, cats with diabetes can live everyday life. However, they may take special care to avoid developing other health problems due to diabetes and the medications they need to treat.

Diabetes mellitus can shorten a cat’s life by causing problems with blood sugar control, such as ketoacidosis or hyperglycemia. Additionally, diabetes can lead to other fatal health complications if not managed carefully.

Yes, cats with diabetes can be in pain from various causes. In particular, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a severe complication of type 1 diabetes that can cause excruciating pain in the hindquarters and abdomen. Other causes of chronic pain in cats include mass cell tumors, arthritis, intestinal obstruction, and infection.

Some cats may develop diabetes at a very young age – as early as six months – while others may not produce the disease until they are older, perhaps between 1 and 3 years old.

Several factors can cause diabetes, but the most common is obesity. For example, cats who are obese may develop type II diabetes because their bodies cannot produce enough insulin to cope with the increased blood sugar levels.

Untreated diabetes can result in blindness, kidney failure, and loss of limbs. If left untreated, cats with diabetes typically die within six months to a year.

Various factors, including lifestyle choices, genetics, and environmental exposure, can cause diabetes in cats. Some common triggers for diabetes in cats include obesity or being overweight; overeating high-calorie food; not getting enough exercise; having a preexisting condition such as chronic kidney disease or being born with a genetic disorder that makes it difficult to regulate blood sugar levels properly.; and living in an environment containing large amounts of pet dander (hairs from animals).

Most cats with diabetes mellitus do not die but may have significant health problems.

There are currently no medications specifically tailored to treat diabetes in cats, but there are a variety of other treatments that may help manage the disease. Some standard therapies include diet changes, weight loss, and injecting insulin into cats with type 1 diabetes.

A diabetic cat requires a diet and insulin therapy to manage the disease. Generally, veterinary care for a diabetic cat ranges from $250 to $1,000 per month.

The risk of diabetes in cats varies depending on various factors, including genetics and lifestyle. However, some common breeds of cats at risk include short-haired and long-haired cats, domestic cats that live primarily indoors, and those with a diet high in sugar or food additives.

If your cat receives too much insulin, it may experience vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst. Left untreated, this can lead to serious health problems such as liver failure or death. Therefore, you must contact your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your cat’s behavior or appearance after receiving insulin injections.

Insulin is necessary because it helps glucose (sugar) move from the blood into cells for energy. Glucose can come from food or drinks, but too much sugar in the blood can cause problems like diabetes.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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