Many of you may know someone who is diabetic or maybe diabetic yourself, but a surprising number of people don’t realize that animals, like people, can be diabetic too.
Diabetes (technically known as “diabetes mellitus” or also known as “sugar” diabetes) is characterized by an excess of glucose in the bloodstream. Diabetes happens when cats don’t produce enough insulin for their bodies or when their bodies don’t properly process the insulin that is produced. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas in small amounts, helps to balance the blood sugar (glucose) levels in our blood. Glucose works like fuel for our bodies – helping to provide the energy our cells need to keep us alive and well.(1)
Diabetes in cats, like humans, can be classified into 3 types:
Type 1 Diabetes
This type is very rare in cats and happens when the body stops producing insulin completely which causes a cat to have constantly high blood glucose readings.
Type 2 Diabetes
This is the most common type that cats tend to get. This is the type that doesn’t allow the body to properly process the insulin that is produced causing a cat to become “hyperglycemic” – having a high blood glucose reading. Type 2 Diabetes can also cause cats to have glucose show up on a urine check.
Sidenote: There is no known test that a cat can have that can say whether they have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
Type 3 Diabetes
This type, like Type 1, is less common and can happen when there has been damage or a previous problem with that cat’s pancreas.
Any cat can become diabetic at any time, but it is most commonly seen in cats that are older, overweight and in neutered males. Other things can also cause a cat to become diabetic – certain medications, hormonal issues, and chronic pancreatitis are just a couple of examples.
Signs/Symptoms of Diabetes
– Increased Thirst
– Increased Urinations
– Sudden Increased Appetite
– Sudden Weight Loss (despite the increased appetite)
– Increased Lethargy (sleeping all the time)
Exam and Testing
If you notice any of the above signs with your cat, bring him/her to your veterinarian to have him/her get a complete, nose to tail, check over. Your veterinarian may then recommend a blood test and possibly a urine test to determine what is going on. Neither of these tests is painful for your cat – usually, they are more upset about having to stay still long enough for the samples to be drawn than they are about the actual needle itself.
This bloodwork will help not only detect the glucose (or sugar) level in your cat’s blood but will also look at how their liver and kidneys are doing as well as checks the red blood cell and white blood cell levels among other things.
The urine sample helps to detect if there is any underlying urinary infection going on, if there is glucose in the urine as well as detecting if there are any Ketones present (which can be a bad thing – See “Diabetes Series – Part 6” for more information).
Written by Kathy Raepple