If your cat seems to be thirstier than usual, is urinating frequently, is hungry all the time but also losing weight, you should have him checked by your veterinarian for feline diabetes.
Other signs to watch for include urinating outside the litter box, sweet-smelling breath, lethargy, dehydration, poor coat condition, and urinary tract infections.
Left untreated, diabetes can cause your kitty to lose his appetite and a significant amount of weight, and develop muscle weakness. Uncontrolled, the disease can ultimately result in diabetic neuropathy, a condition in which there is profound rear limb weakness and a plantigrade walk, meaning the ankles are actually on the ground as the cat walks.
Feline Diabetes Mellitus
Diabetes mellitus is a common disease in older cats, and is especially prevalent in kitties fed dry food diets. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery concluded that high-protein, low-carb diets are as or more effective than insulin at causing remission of diabetes in cats.
The pancreas produces insulin based on the level of glucose in the blood. Insulin is necessary in order for glucose to enter the cells of the body. When glucose levels are high (which normally occurs after a meal), insulin is released.
When there is not enough insulin being released from the pancreas, or there is an abnormal release of insulin coupled with an inadequate response of the body's cells to the insulin, diabetes mellitus is the result. Sugar in the bloodstream cannot get into the cells of the body, so the body starts breaking down fat and protein stores to use as energy. As a result, no matter how much the cat eats, she loses weight.
In addition, the glucose builds up in the bloodstream and is eliminated through urination. This leads to excessive urination and thirst.
Diabetes in animals can be either insulin-dependent, or non-insulin dependent. In kitties, the condition usually begins as non-insulin dependent diabetes. In most situations, insulin injections are needed to control elevated glucose levels, but there are some cats that do better with oral hypoglycemic medications.
If feline diabetes is diagnosed early and everyone involved with the cat is committed to bringing the disease under control, it's quite possible to normalize blood glucose levels and put the diabetes into remission - which means the kitty will no longer need to be on insulin or other medications. But unfortunately, in cats that have been diabetic for a significant period of time, the cells in the pancreas may be worn out and unable to secrete insulin any longer. In this case, the animal may require life-long insulin therapy.
A New Insulin That Can Benefit Diabetic Cats
As I discussed in an article last about one of my patients, Biddie, a 15 year-old cat who suffered with seemingly unmanageable diabetes, I tried a relatively new kind of insulin called glargine. Glargine is a DNA-recombinant long-acting insulin analogue. I gradually increased Biddie's glargine dose over a three-month period until we were able to get his blood sugar under control.
A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care evaluated glargine as a treatment for diabetic ketoacidosis in cats and showed that the drug successfully treats the condition. Ketones are waste products that result when the body burns fat rather than glucose as fuel. The body attempts to eliminate excess ketones as quickly as possible through urination. If ketones build up in the bloodstream, they can lead to significant energy problems in the body, resulting in diabetic ketoacidosis. This condition is a medical emergency that can progress rapidly, cause severe illness, and if not treated promptly, can be fatal.
According to the study, glargine also achieved remission of diabetes in one-third of patients.
The Importance of the Right Nutrition for Cats with Diabetes
The ideal nutrition for cats is whole, fresh, unprocessed animal meat, organs and bones, with a small amount of veggies. Since many older cats with diabetes have eaten processed commercial pet food - typically kibble - all their lives, it can be an insurmountable challenge to transition a sick kitty with little or no appetite to a new diet.
If this is the case with your cat, I recommend adding as much grain/potato-free canned cat food as possible to your pet's normal fare. The important thing is to ensure your kitty is eating well each day, and if that means continuing to feed dry cat food, that's what you should do. Just make sure to also encourage him to eat some canned food as well for the added protein and moisture it provides.
The biggest contributor to feline diabetes is obesity. If you want to do everything possible to prevent diabetes in your pet, you should focus on keeping your kitty lean. Feed a portion-controlled, moisture-rich, species-appropriate diet and make sure she gets some exercise each day.
Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com
Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.
By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.