What is Diabetes Mellitus?
Normally, the pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin allows blood sugar (glucose) to enter the body cells where it is used for energy. In a diabetic, either the pancreas stops making insulin or the body stops responding to insulin (resistance).
How do we treat Diabetes in Cats?
Insulin is given by injection to treat the diabetes allowing the body to use sugar for energy. Early in the disease, diet change to a high protein low carbohydrate (all canned, pate diet such as Hill's Prescription Died M/D® or Purina Prescription Diet D/M®) can help some cats return to a pre-diabetic state (normal blood glucose).
What happens when I give Insulin?
Too little Insulin will result in a higher blood sugar (greater than 300mg/dl). When the blood sugar is too high, sugar goes into the urine and draws water with it and the patient will experience increased thirst. Increased thirst causes the patient to drink a lot of water and therefore more frequent trips to the litter box. Appetite also increases since the patient can't use sugar for energy and the body's cells are essentially starving. This can h appen if the body's need for insulin increases, due to resistance or infection. The diabetic cat burns fat for energy (can't use sugar) and that results in weight loss. If too much fat relative to sugar is burned, the side product is ketones. Ketones decrease blood PH. Decreased blood PH leads to Ketoacidosis (ketonuria) and can be detected with a urinalysis. Too little insulin is more of a long term danger as you have more warning and it progresses slowly. Clinical signs include decreased appetite, sweet smell to breath (Ketones), vomiting and diarrhea.
Too Much Insulin results in a lower blood sugar. This is very dangerous in the short term because there is little warning and it progresses rapidly. Clinical signs can include stumbling, staggering, confusion, diarrhea, large black pupils, lethargy, increased or decreased appetite. If you see any of these signs in your diabetic cat, give Karo Syrup® by mouth or rub on gums if unconscious and seek immediate emergency veterinary attention.
***When giving insulin to your cat, make sure he/she can and wants to eat! If vomiting or not hungry, DO NOT give insulin!!***
Other behaviors to watch for:
- Watch for urinary tract infections (increase in urine frequency or different odor to urine) or increase in thirst.
- When a well regulated diabetic Cat suddenly starts acting "diabetic" again (drinking and urinating a lot), we will need to check to see if there is a gum or urinary infection causing a change in the need for insulin.
- Watch for Diabetic Neuropathy. Signs would include stumbling,, rear leg weakness, walking clumsily on rear feet with hocks droped. Diabetic Neuropathy can be helped with methyl vitamin B-12 and better regulation of blood sugar.
For additional information, here is a website to look into: Feline Diabetes