VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital

Can cats get diabetes?

Published: Jan 18, 2013

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Diabetes is a common condition in humans, but some pet owners may be surprised to learn that their cats can suffer from it as well. Diabetes in cats is a common disease that occurs when a cat's body either doesn't produce insulin, or cannot properly use it, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Animal Planet estimates one out of 1,200 cats will develop diabetes in his lifetime, and it most commonly afflicts older and overweight cats.

Felines who have diabetes need continuous care from their owners, since they rely on you to monitor their insulin levels. But first, you have to determine that your cat does in fact have the condition. Here are some of the common signs and ways you can get a feline diabetes diagnosis.

What are some common signs of cat diabetes?
One of the first clinical signs of cat diabetes that many owners notice is frequent urination. You may notice your cat drinking more water than usual, too. This is because the urine has a high level of glucose, which passes more water from his system, the news outlet reports. Some cats with diabetes also strain to urinate or do so outside the litter box.

Changes in appetite are also common, but whether he loses interest in meals or starts eating more, a diabetic cat will lose weight because his metabolism can't convert food to energy.

How is it tested?
Clearly, diabetes can be extremely detrimental to your cat's overall well-being, which is why it is important to bring him to the veterinarian if you notice these clinical signs. There are several tests involved in feline diabetes testing - the vet will do a complete blood count, a serum biochemistry profile and a urinalysis for cats.

Can I treat this condition?
Once your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, your veterinarian will discuss the ways you can treat the condition. Usually, treatment starts with lifestyle changes. If certain drugs were causing the condition, the vet might switch these medications. Obesity is often a cause, too, and sometimes weight reduction in cats can resolve the issue. A healthy, well-balanced diet is also recommended for cats with diabetes, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.

If there are no predisposing causes, or removal of these causes does not improve your cat's condition, he may require treatment with insulin. Some cases of cat diabetes can be treated with oral hypoglycemic medication, but most felines will need insulin injections. Your vet will monitor the cat during his initial stages of treatment to determine the appropriate dosage, and after that, the feline will need injections once or twice a day from you. The vet will show you how to give these shots, which cause no pain to your cat.

What complications should I look out for?
When a cat gets insulin injections, he is at risk of a diabetic coma, which is the result of too much insulin. Your veterinarian will warn you about the clinical signs of this condition, which include weakness and shivering and can lead to coma. If you notice this, bring your cat to the vet immediately to get his glucose levels adjusted.

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Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

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Your pet's health deserves the finest care. Each member of our team strives for the advancement of veterinary medicine. When you bring your pet to us, you can be certain you will receive the dedication and compassion that makes our hospital stand out in patient care. 

Please call us at 703-823-3601 immediately if you believe your pet is experiencing an emergency.

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