When I mention diabetes, many cat guardians react strongly by claiming “That’s impossible, no way my feline is prone to it. He has a very healthy weight indeed.”, Others argue “My little cat is too young to develop that sort of disease,” or “How nonsensical! Diabetes is only possible in humans and dogs.”
Undeniably, diabetes is not a phenomenon commonly reported in cats, affecting around 2% only of the whole species. But its occurrence rate has been on the rise lately, and there is no guarantee your little friend will be left untouched by the disease. In the worst case scenario, his body may be fighting back against the condition, but both he and you are entirely unaware of it.
To make sure the furball friend in your house is not among the unlucky 2% of sufferers, be proactive in researching “what are signs of diabetes in cats?” to get as prepared as possible.
Things to know about diabetes
Feline diabetes mellitus is most often characterized by increased resistance to the effects of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that signals the cells of the body to use the sugar available in the bloodstream for energy.
Too much of sugar in the bloodstream is a condition known as hyperglycemia that leads to the symptoms associated with diabetes.
Cats suffering from this disease will fall into one of the two types of diabetes mentioned below:
- Type 1: an insulin deficiency in the cells leads to the build-up of glucose levels in the bloodstream. This type is the most dangerous to cats.
- Type 2: happens when the body cells fail to use glucose effectively as a vital source of energy and once again, this will result in elevated blood sugar levels. While type 1 is quite rare among cats, type 2 is most common in domestic cats which are avid eaters but feel lazy to take exercises.
Will your cats be more likely to get diabetes?
As usual, diabetes can affect every breed of cats and cats of all ages. But those which are overweight and older are more susceptible to the disease. Having said that, if you notice just mild signs of diabetes in elderly cats, there are high chances that they have already had diabetes.
Likewise, diabetes is more prevalent among male breeds than female ones, and it is proved that Burmese cat breeds will be at higher risk of developing the disease.
Therefore, don’t be too confident to think that diabetes will attack every other pet except for your young, active, skinny pal.
Signs and symptoms of diabetes in cats
Due to some unknown reasons, most people have a tendency to link diabetes to obesity, which means they attribute getting overweight to being a potential risk factor for cat diabetes.
While this belief is true to a certain extent, obesity is not the only clinical sign to base on. Also, behavioral changes and changes in feline lifestyle are not enough to suggest diabetes because some of these symptoms are similar in other diseases too, such as kidney disorder, cancer, liver disease, etc.
In most cases, cats are masters of disguise, so we will talk about subtle signs of symptoms, including:
Diabetes strikes at one time, whereas its symptoms become physical at others. Some early onset of the disease may not be obtrusive to pet owners but requires us to be sensitive enough to recognize them. Here are the three common signs that tell you what you are suspicious of
What is the mechanism behind this phenomenon?
The amount of sugar in the bloodstream increases and eventually it reaches a level where it starts to be eliminated in the urine. This means the cat isn’t getting enough calories it needs and the cells are lacking in essential nutrients for smooth operation.
Thus, the starved cells will make up for this loss of energy by breaking down the fat and protein reserves, leading to noticeable weight loss.
Increased urination, drinking
These are the two most commonly seen signs of diabetes in cats. If your cats happen to form some abnormal habits such as eating and drinking like there’s no tomorrow and continually peeing, sometimes just outside their litter box. It is embarrassing, I know. But it’s time to suspect if there’s something wrong to their health.
The bad news is diabetes may be the cause because a higher concentration of glucose in the blood means a more elevated amount of glucose lost in the urine and excessive urine volume. Frequent urination clearly will lead to severe water loss, dehydration, and insatiable thirst.
And to quench this thirst, your quirky feline will lurk around leaking faucets and water pipes.
When cats are falling into the victim of diabetes, their appetite is either ravenous or absent. It will be strange when your feline friend starts showing a strong distaste for his usually favorite snacks to be mad for some sort of brown crunchy baby fish nuggets.
This can be put down to the cat body’s inability to use glucose as a source of energy and therefore has to resort to an alternative source found in diet meals.
Late signs of symptoms
Below are more severe cases during the development of diabetes. As a result, they might be easier to notice.
Lethargy and depression
I don’t want to believe either, but that’s true. Usually, cats are nosy and hyperactive creatures which love going around making friends, playing ball games or vying for individual attention. But things change when it is diabetic.
Aside from eating and drinking, it seems that all the feline wants to do is sleep and sleep. The used-to-be playful friend of yours is entirely worn out, merely wandering lazily around the house looking dizzy and exhausted.
Odd walking style
This outward symptom is easy to pick out. A change in gait makes feline walk not on the tippy toes but the flat of their feet, just like a slippery speedskater. It seems hilarious but don’t misunderstand that your small friend is merely trying to entertain you with that funny walking.
The severity of the disease is becoming more apparent when cats experience weak hind legs because of the nerves being damaged, and if the condition is left unmanaged in the long run, permanent paralysis is unavoidable.
The condition of your cat is getting worse when it reaches this stage of symptoms, and intensive care will be needed. The build-up of blood sugar, a condition called Hyperglycemia will make your cat suffer from a wave of nausea, prompting it to vomit all out.
Note: It is worth remembering that your diabetic cat may not express all of these symptoms, but just several of them. The other signs to beware of is the cat’s poor and oily coat, with dull eyes and sense of bladder infection.
Things to consider
Don’t be too worried if your cat is diabetic as the disease is not untreatable. Provided that the condition is recognized early, you can completely take measures to control the matter and eliminate its symptoms
Just like in human beings, diabetic patients need to be on a low-carbohydrate diet. Thus, limit meals with a high portion of carbohydrates. But you have to get the permission from your vet on the most appropriate eating scheme. Your vet will estimate this based on the result of blood sugar tests. Give your vet a small blood sample of your pal with a tiny pinprick
Unless your feline reacts positively to the prescribed insulin dosage, a further measurement should be made.
Also, your cat may need to be administered insulin injection to aid the glucose procession in his body, usually twice a day every 12 hours after the main diet. The injection will be practiced in the neck area and is usually painless
This method is the most widely used for insulin-dependent cats, so be reassured it will work well for your friend. At an early stage, this process may cause a little worry, but the results will be worth it.
Have your cats been undergoing some abnormal urination habits which are completely different from what you have initially taught them to? Have you missed the old playful feline friends that are very active during the playtime of the day? It is miserable, and a little bit scary to hear your beloved friend is getting into diabetes. But it will not be a big problem if you know how to control it.
Detecting internal changes happening inside the body of the cat is the duty of your veterinarian. As for you, pet owners, some visible changes in feline behavior and eating style as well as other subtle expressions of the disease should be noted down for later consultations. These changes can be warning signs of diabetes in your cats.