Common Health Complications in Diabetic Cats A Guide to the Most Frequent Health Issues in Diabetic Felines

Common Health Complications in Diabetic Cats Photo by Cong H:

Cats often get diabetes, which, if ignored, can cause a number of serious health issues.

Diabetes is a common condition in cats, and it can lead to a variety of health complications if left untreated. Some of the most common complications of diabetes in cats include high blood sugar, which can lead to damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves, as well as an increased risk of infection and other chronic diseases.

In this article, we will discuss the most common health complications that diabetic cats can experience and what can be done to prevent and manage them.

Causes of Diabetes in Cats

Although the precise origin of diabetes in cats is not entirely understood, there are a number of risk factors that are believed to have a role in the disease's onset. The following are a few of the most typical causes of diabetes in cats:

  • Genetics: Due to their genetic composition, certain cats may be vulnerable to acquiring diabetes.

  • Obesity: Cats that are overweight or obese are more likely to develop diabetes, as excess weight can make it more difficult for the body to properly regulate blood sugar levels.

  • Age: Diabetes is more common in older cats, as the pancreas may become less efficient at producing insulin as the cat ages.

  • Diet: Cats that consume a diet high in carbohydrates and sugar may be at increased risk for developing diabetes.

  • Chronic pancreatitis: A chronic inflammation of the pancreas can lead to insulin-producing cells being destroyed, which can cause diabetes

  • Steroid use: Overuse of steroids can lead to the development of diabetes.

However, not all cats with these risk factors will develop diabetes, and some cats may develop diabetes without any known risk factors. A proper diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian are essential to managing the condition.


The symptoms of diabetes in cats can vary, and some cats may not show any signs of the disease until it has progressed to a more advanced stage. Some of the most common symptoms of diabetes in cats include:

  • Increased thirst: Cats with diabetes will often drink more water than normal.

  • Increased urination: As a result of increased thirst, diabetic cats will also urinate more frequently.

  • Weight loss: Despite eating more, diabetic cats may lose weight due to the body's inability to properly use and store glucose.

  • Lethargy and weakness: Lack of energy and an overall sense of malaise can be brought on by diabetes.

  • Cloudy or blue eyes: Damage to the blood vessels in the eyes from diabetes can result in hazy or blue eyes.

  • Poor coat condition: Diabetes can also cause changes in the skin and coat, leading to dry, itchy skin and a dull, lusterless coat.

  • Recurrent infections: Diabetes can weaken the immune system, making cats more susceptible to infections.


Diabetes in cats is typically diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, blood tests, and urine tests. The veterinarian will take a thorough history and perform a physical examination to look for signs of diabetes, such as increased thirst and urination, weight loss, and poor coat condition.

The veterinarian will then perform blood tests to measure the cat's blood glucose levels, as well as its levels of insulin and fructosamine. A protein called fructosamine binds to glucose and provides a general idea of the average blood glucose level during the previous two to three weeks.

Additionally, urine tests will be performed to look for the presence of glucose and ketones, which can be signs of diabetes.

In some instances, a vet may also suggest other tests, such as a blood chemistry panel or a urinalysis, to assess the cat's general health and rule out alternative potential causes of the symptoms.

Complications of Uncontrolled Feline Diabetes

Uncontrolled diabetes in cats can lead to a variety of serious complications, including:

  • Ketoacidosis: The body's inability to create enough insulin can result in a buildup of ketones in the circulation, which is a dangerous issue that can happen. This can cause vomiting, dehydration, and even coma or death if left untreated.

  • Hyperglycemia: The eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood arteries can all be harmed by high blood sugar levels. Cataracts, blindness, renal damage, as well as a higher risk of infections and other chronic diseases, can result from this.

  • Diabetic neuropathy: High blood sugar levels can harm a cat's nerves, resulting in weakness and poor coordination, as well as a lack of sensation in the paws and limbs.

  • Secondary complications: Uncontrolled diabetes can also lead to secondary complications such as obesity, liver disease, and pancreatitis, which can further complicate the management of diabetes.

  • Increased risk of Infections: Diabetes weakens the immune system, making cats more susceptible to infections such as urinary tract infections, skin infections, and even respiratory infections.

Treatment and Care

The treatment and care of uncontrolled diabetes in cats typically involves a combination of insulin therapy, diet, and lifestyle changes.

  • Insulin therapy: A hormone called insulin aids the body in controlling blood sugar levels. Cats with uncontrolled diabetes often need daily insulin injections to help keep their blood sugar levels under control. Based on the specific requirements of each cat, the veterinarian will choose the insulin type and dose.

  • Diet: A diabetic cat's diet must be low in carbohydrates and simple sugars and high in protein. A veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist can help you to determine the appropriate diet for your cat.

  • Lifestyle changes: Regular exercise and weight management are important for diabetic cats. This can help to improve insulin sensitivity and control blood sugar levels.

  • Monitoring: Regular monitoring of blood glucose levels, weight, urination, and hydration, as well as checking for any symptoms of complications, will be done by the veterinarian to assess the effectiveness of the treatment and adjust it if necessary.

  • Regular check-ups: It is important for diabetic cats to have regular check-ups with a veterinarian to monitor their condition and make any necessary adjustments to their treatment plan.

With proper treatment, diet, and monitoring, diabetic cats can live normal and happy lives, but it's important to be consistent with the treatment, as even small changes in the cat's routine can affect the glucose levels.

Prevention of Diabetic Complications in Cats

Some of the key ways to prevent diabetic complications in cats include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help avoid the development of the disease because obesity is a significant risk factor for diabetes in cats. You can get toys for your cat and play with them to enable them to burn off any excess carbohydrates.

  • Feeding a balanced diet: Feeding a diet low in carbohydrates and simple sugars can help prevent diabetes and its complications.

  • Regular exercise: Regular exercise can help regulate blood sugar levels and enhance insulin sensitivity, so it's important to make sure your cat gets enough exercise and activity.

  • Regular veterinary check-ups: Regular veterinary checkups can aid in the early detection of diabetes and stop complications from arising.

  • Avoiding steroid use: Long-term use of steroids can lead to the development of diabetes, so it's best to avoid them or use them only under the guidance of a veterinarian.

While these strategies can help to prevent diabetic complications in cats, they may not be able to prevent the disease completely. Early detection and prompt treatment are key to managing diabetes and preventing complications.

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