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Managing Treatment for Diabetic Cats

Learn How To Keep Your Cat on the Right Track

By Madeleine Burry. August 19, 2013 | See Comments

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Managing Treatment for Diabetic Cats

When your cat gets diagnosed with diabetes, some real anxiety may begin to set in. Here is what you'll need to know when caring for and treating your newly diabetic feline.

Has your cat been diagnosed with diabetes? You may be feeling anxious, but stay calm -- although some changes will be necessary in both of your lives, diabetes is not a cause for mourning, since, although it can be quite serious, it’s a very manageable disease.

Like diabetes in humans, it’s important to keep your cat’s blood sugar levels steady. To avoid peaks or dips in their glucose levels, you’ll need to adjust your cat’s diet, and chances are you will also need to provide medication on a daily basis. Find out the basics of how to manage life with your diabetic cat.

Dietary Changes for Your Cat

Your vet may recommend a prescription diabetes diet for your cat. If you'll be managing your cat's diet without a prescription, and your cat is currently eating dry food, start to phase that out, and introduce them to a wet food diet. Not only does wet food provide more fluids, but it is less likely to have grain-based fillers, which are not really necessary for your cat’s nutrition. Especially for diabetic cats, it’s important to be on a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in protein. This diet is easily digestible for your cat.

If your cat is obese, you’ll have to get them to trim down -- excess weight makes diabetes more challenging to treat. If your cat’s diabetes was diagnosed late, they may be a bit underweight. In that case, you’ll need to help your pet gain a bit of weight. Your vet will advise you about the healthiest weight for your cat, and how to achieve it.

Medications for Diabetes in Cats

Your cat will likely need insulin, which is administered through shots. Most typically, cats will need two shots each day, spaced out evenly. Give your cat these insulin shots a bit after your cat has eaten. Although it can be very intimidating to give the shots, remember that for your cat, the experience is not very painful. Some cats will hardly seem to notice! With practice, you will become comfortable with the daily routine. 

Monitoring Your Cat’s Glucose

Keep an eye on how much your pet eats. Since eating consistently is so crucial  for managing diabetes, you’ll want to watch for decreased hunger. Also watch for decreased urination, since that can be a problematic symptom. Seizures can also be a sign that glucose levels are too high, and are always a reason to call your vet.

After about 2 weeks of taking insulin, your vet may want to perform a glucose curve, or a series of tests throughout the day to check your cat's glucose levels. Usually this means you'll drop off your cat in the morning and pick them up at the end of the day, when the tests are complete.

Going forward, blood tests may need to be given to evaluate your cat’s glucose levels -- this is especially important if your cat’s glucose levels don’t remain consistent over time. These tests can be done either at home or at the vet’s office. Urine tests, which are pieces of paper placed in the litter box which change color when glucose levels are too high, are also a testing option, but are less precise than blood tests.

The main thing you are monitoring for is hypoglycemia, or very low glucose levels. As well as showing up on blood or urine tests, hypoglycemia can be identified if your cat is very lethargic and acts disoriented and off.

If you spot a problem, either in the glucose tests or your cat’s behavior, call your vet, who can perform more tests and determine the best insulin dose for your cat.

Note: Never adjust the insulin dose on your own.

Diabetes Remission

The most hopeful thing about a diabetes diagnosis for cats is that, unlike dogs or people, cats can sometimes enter into a state of remission with the disease. This is only possible with cats who have diabetes mellitus, and who are diagnosed in the early stages. If your cat does achieve remission, you will no longer need to provide them with medications, and will only need to maintain the dietary adjustment to the low carb and high protein food.

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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Feline Diabetes at a glance

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  • 1Feline diabetes treatment is manageable with changes to diet and daily shots of insulin.
  • 2Cats should be fed high protein, low carbohydrate wet food.
  • 3When diabetes is caught early on, some cats go into remission, and will no longer need insulin.