Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a disease caused by either a lack of insulin production or inadequate processing of insulin. In cats as well as in humans, insulin is a hormone that allows glucose to enter the body’s cells and transform into energy. However, without adequate insulin or insulin processing, that glucose does not move into the cells and results in high blood sugar levels. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, and if left untreated, it can also be fatal.
The good news is that treatment options for diabetes are highly effective. Treatment is typically a combination of dietary changes and insulin injections. Because diabetes is a chronic disease, treatment is usually ongoing.
Diabetes Medications for Cats
Once your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, your veterinarian will determine the correct levels of insulin. Your job at home will be managing your cat’s glucose levels through insulin and diet. Most cats require two subcutaneous (below the skin) injections of insulin per day. Your veterinarian will show you how to give your cat a shot. Commonly prescribed insulins include:
Humulin N is a neutral protamine hagedorn insulin that is intermediate-acting, meaning that it lasts longer than some unmodified insulins. Humulin N is often combined with a faster acting insulin as a way to control blood sugar levels more quickly and more accurately.
Novolin is a man-made drug that is structurally identical to the natural insulin produced by the pancreas. It is an alternative to Humulin and like Humulin is intermediate-acting.
Levemir is an insulin analog, meaning that it is an artificially crafted chemical substance designed to be behave like the insulins that come from natural ingredients. Levemir is long-lasting, and because it is so strong, the dosage is usually less than that of other insulins.
Lantus is an insulin glargine, which is a type of insulin that is structurally similar to natural insulin. Lantus is designed to be long-lasting and work for up to 24 hours, though it typically does not last more than 12 hours in cats.
Glipizide is an oral medication sometimes used as a short-term treatment for cats with Type II diabetes. It works to reduce blood sugar levels and increase tissue sensitivity so that smaller doses of insulin work more effectively. This medication is only an option if the cat is still producing some insulin, and because Glipizide has a variety of side effects, it should be used with caution.
Talk to your vet about which type of insulin pet med will work for your cat.
More on Diabetes In Pets
Managing Treatment for Diabetic Cats
Compare Types of Insulin for Dogs and Cats
Will My Diabetic Cat Need Prescription Cat Food?