An alarming number of cats suffer from diabetes mellitus. It is a severe condition defined as the inability to produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar or glucose levels. Weight loss, loss of appetite, dehydration, vomiting, severe depression, and motor function issues, as well as a coma and even death, might result if the condition isn’t addressed.
With the increase in pet obesity, it should come as no surprise that the number of cases of diabetes in pets is also on the rise. Although obesity is the most significant risk factor for developing feline diabetes, it is not the only cause. Even if your cat isn’t overweight, it’s critical to detect the clinical signs of diabetes to start treatment as soon as possible.
What is Cat Diabetes?
Diabetes is a complicated condition that involves the production of a hormone called insulin. Diabetes occurs when a cat’s insulin production is insufficient or when the produced insulin is not adequately utilized. What is the significance of insulin? Insulin is responsible for keeping the body’s engine running smoothly.
Cats require food that is high in fat, carbs, and proteins to function correctly. Their body is like a finely tuned engine that requires fuel to function effectively. However, this fuel must be broken down into smaller components that the body can use. Glucose is one of the fuel components that can be used. Without glucose, the body’s engine comes to a grinding halt.
For the body’s engine to continue to work, glucose must enter each of its separate cells. And it’s at this point that insulin comes into play. Insulin, a hormone, controls the flow of glucose from the bloodstream into the cells, where it is required for life to survive and thrive.
When the pancreas cannot make enough insulin, or when the cat does not utilize it efficiently, glucose cannot reach the cells, and high amounts of glucose accumulate in the bloodstream, resulting in diabetes. Diabetes is the medical term for this illness.
What Causes Cats to Develop Diabetes?
While the actual origin of feline diabetes is unknown, fat cats are the ones who are most at risk of having the condition. Besides chronic pancreatitis, there are other risk factors to consider, such as hormonal abnormalities such as hyperthyroidism and Cushing’s disease. In addition to certain drugs, such as corticosteroids (such as prednisolone), diabetes has been related to certain medications. Male cats are also more susceptible to this illness than female cats, according to research.
Feline Diabetes Has Serious Health Consequences
Because diabetes induces the body’s cells to process energy from fat and protein rather than glucose, cats with diabetes will typically lose weight while having a healthy appetite and consuming many calories. Diabetic ketoacidosis is the most deadly consequence of diabetes if left untreated, and it is the most prevalent cause of death in cats with the disease. This arises when the breakdown of fat and protein cells gets so severe that your cat’s body is functionally starved, even though she is feeding consistently. Appetite loss, weakness or lethargy, irregular breathing, dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhea are symptoms of this disease, potentially lethal if not treated with emergency intensive care to administer fluids and insulin.
Other diabetes-related health concerns may include liver illness, bacterial infection, unhealthy skin and coat, and neuropathy, resulting in a loss of movement and strength in the hind legs and other symptoms. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can develop when too much insulin is administered, resulting in weakness, listlessness, and a lack of coordination. In severe circumstances, it can end in convulsions and even coma. Another complication of diabetes treatment is coma. Make an effort to convince your diabetic cat to eat something if she is exhibiting symptoms of low blood sugar. If she refuses to eat or cannot do so, Cornell recommends rubbing syrup on her gums and contacting your veterinarian immediately.
Symptoms of Diabetes
In most cases, a diabetic cat will exhibit a combination of the four classic indications of diabetes:
- Increased desire to eat
- Loss of weight
- Excessive thirst
- Increased frequency of urination
When insulin is not present to direct glucose into the cells, the cat’s body looks for alternate sources of fuel and begins to break down fat and protein reserves that have been deposited in the body. The cat loses weight while consuming more calories because fueling the body is inefficient without the insulin/glucose duo.
The cat urinates more frequently, which causes her to become thirstier, causing her to drink more water. The urine, in turn, eliminates the glucose that has accumulated in the bloodstream during this time. Increased hunger, water consumption, urine, and weight loss are classic indications and symptoms of diabetic complications.
Diabetes, if left untreated, can cause vomiting, dehydration, lethargy, coma, visual loss, and even death.
What is Diabetic Remission, and How Does it Work?
The primary goal of treating diabetes in cats is to get blood glucose levels under control as quickly as possible and to the point where the cat no longer requires insulin therapy. Having an average glucose level for more than four weeks without insulin injections or oral glucose-regulating drugs is considered in diabetic remission in cats with type 1 diabetes.
Not all cats will go into remission, but those who do may be able to maintain their condition for months or even years. According to one estimate, insulin therapy results in remission in anywhere between 17 and 67 percent of cats. Under other estimations, remission is possible in 90 percent of felines.
What are the Other Factors that Influence Remission?
- Dietary Habits
Moist diets are recommended for diabetic cats since canned food has fewer carbohydrates than dry food. However, low carbohydrate content is not the only nutritional necessity for diabetic cats. If the diet also has a low fiber level, the chances of remission are increased even further. In addition, because many diabetic cats suffer from renal illness, maintaining a low phosphorus content in the food is essential. A healthy diet can assist in maintaining better blood glucose control and lower the quantity of insulin you need to take each day.
- Insulin and Other Glucose Controllers
The objective is to lower blood glucose levels without allowing them to become dangerously low (hypoglycemia). It is possible to maintain blood glucose homeostasis by using calculated insulin dosages and a regular reduced carbohydrate diet (without cheating). Cats can achieve remission when treated with any insulin; however, many veterinarians believe that long-acting insulin treatments provide superior glycemic control.
Various insulin products have been approved for use by veterinarians. In addition to the treatments that are regularly prescribed, there are a couple of newer medications available. Glargine is a human drug with a longer duration of action and helps to keep glucose levels more stable. Detemir is synthetic insulin that has a long period of activity and is used to treat diabetes. Both of these newer insulin formulations can aid in promoting remission in cats by providing rapid glucose management.
Carbose is a medicine that works by decreasing the amount of glucose that is absorbed from the intestines and enters the bloodstream. It can be used in conjunction with insulin or oral medicines to help achieve better glucose control overall. Acarbose is used to treat cats that cannot consume a low-carbohydrate diet due to various medical issues. When acarbose is administered twice a day orally to cats on high-carbohydrate diets, blood glucose levels in the cats are considerably reduced.
- Timing Between Glucose Control and Remission
Unfortunately, the longer a cat has diabetes, the less likely it will experience remission. The chances of felines going into remission after having diabetes for more than six months are lower. This is because elevated blood glucose damages cells in the pancreas that create insulin, preventing the cat’s body from ever being able to manage glucose on its own without the assistance of an external source of insulin. Obtaining glycemic control as soon as possible enhances the likelihood of remission.
According to one study, cats with reasonable glucose control within six months of diagnosis had a 60 to 80 percent chance of remission. Still, cats that started insulin therapy more than six months after diagnosis had a 30 percent chance of remission.
- The Score for Body Condition
Because overweight cats are less susceptible to the effects of insulin, cats who have a healthy body condition score (4.5 out of 9) respond better to diabetes treatment. Obese diabetic felines should be fed a diet that promotes a loss of 1 to 2 percent of body weight every week. This gradual, well-regulated weight loss improves insulin sensitivity, which may minimize the quantity of insulin required, and raises the likelihood of long-term remission from type 2 diabetes.
- Other Considerations
It is more likely for diabetic cats to enter remission if they require a lower insulin dose to control their glucose levels, as is the case with cats who develop diabetes at an older age. Cats with low cholesterol levels fare better as well as their human counterparts.
How to Manage Diabetes in Cats in a Natural Way
Diabetes is a significant medical condition that can harm the health of your cat. However, there are alternative methods of treating the illness that does not need western veterinary medication administration. Changing your cat’s way of life and using some natural healing methods are the most effective approaches to treat diabetes in cats naturally.
Method #1: Changing Your Cat’s Diet
- Help your cat to lose weight: Help your cat lose weight by changing his or her diet. In many circumstances, losing weight might help to reduce the severity of diabetes symptoms. You must consult with your veterinarian about the most effective method of achieving weight loss healthily; nonetheless, the fundamental idea will be to feed your cat fewer calories throughout the day.
- Supply your cat a special diet: Supply your cat a diet tailored to his or her needs. Your doctor may recommend a specific cat food that can assist you in losing weight for your cat. In many circumstances, placing your cat on a diet formula will aid in its weight loss efforts. However, these specialist diets are specifically designed to provide your cat with fewer calories than regular cat food, unlike regular cat food.
Your veterinarian may also recommend that you reduce the amount of food you feed your cat daily.
- Increase cat’s activity level: Increase the amount of time your cat spends actively. Increasing your cat’s physical activity can also help to accelerate his weight loss process. Playing with your cat regularly can encourage it to move around, pounce, and overall be more active.
- You can provide your cat with toys that it will like playing with and chasing after when they are dropped.
- Consume a nutritious diet: When feeding a cat, it is recommended that the food be high in protein and low in carbohydrates. To ensure that sugars are broken down and digested slowly, the carbs that your cat does consume should be complex carbohydrates exclusively, if possible. Consider commercial cat meals high in protein (either from animal sources or from meat byproducts) and low in carbs (either from grains or legumes).
If you want to supply your cat with a highly specialized diet, you can create its food at home. However, commercial raw food, which is often only available at a natural pet store or through an online provider, can also be used to achieve this type of diet.
- Small meals should be provided throughout the day: It is recommended that you feed your cat several little meals throughout the day in order to maintain a steady blood sugar level. When feeding your cat, spread the food out over the day rather than providing it in one large meal, which will cause its blood sugar to surge, to keep the cat’s blood sugar at a more consistent level.
If you cannot feed your cat throughout the day, consider obtaining a timed feeder for your cat, which will provide it with little meals throughout the day while you are away.
Method # 2: Focus on Natural Treatment
- Discover the underlying reason for your cat’s diabetes: Certain drugs, such as glucocorticoids, have been linked to the development of diabetes. Consult with your veterinarian about the medications your cat is taking and whether or not they could be the source of the diabetic condition.
- In general, after a patient discontinues the drug that has caused them to develop diabetes, the condition will resolve independently.
- Alternative medicine can be used to treat your cat: Natural diabetic treatment for cats is popular among those who advocate for Chinese herbal formulations or other natural supplements, including various natural herbs. Contact a veterinarian who has received training in traditional Chinese medicine or another natural medicine to obtain a formula appropriate for your cat’s specific needs.
- Homeopathy, a complementary medicine, has also been used to treat diabetes in cats in some cases. Homeopathy can be used to treat your cat if the practitioner is appropriately trained.
- The use of acupuncture in the treatment of diabetes in cats is also permissible.
- The effectiveness of these complementary and alternative veterinary therapies is up for discussion. Although some claim that they have been shown helpful in the treatment of diabetes, others contend that additional research is required to demonstrate that they are effective in this regard. It is preferable to have a skilled specialist provide these therapies, just as it is with other veterinary procedures.
- You must check the blood sugar level of your cat: Even if you opt to forego giving your cat typical diabetes medicine, you should regularly check its blood sugar levels to ensure that the condition is improving due to your natural treatment. A veterinarian or home can perform this type of blood sugar testing if you have the proper training and equipment.
- Speak with your veterinarian about the possibilities of performing home glucose testing. A very accurate and cost-effective method of evaluating your cat can be found in this procedure.
- To test your cat’s blood sugar at home, you’ll need to collect a small blood sample, which is essentially a pinprick, and place it into a blood sugar meter. Although this is a straightforward procedure, you may encounter some resistance from your cat.
When Should I Give My Diabetic Cat Her Meals?
Leaving the food bowl out for your cat so that they may eat whenever they want is a good strategy, but if your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, you may need to regulate their dietary routine accordingly.
You must match your meals with your insulin dosing. They need to have their meals timed to coincide with their insulin levels to absorb those calories when the peak insulin level is reached and that they do not get hypoglycemic (have low blood sugar levels).
Typically, you have to feed your cat twice a day and deliver a dose of insulin immediately after those feedings, if necessary.
Your cat’s feeding schedule may be slightly different, but they must be fed regularly. They may be forced to skip an insulin injection if they don’t have any food in their stomach, which could be hazardous to their health.
For the time being, if your cat doesn’t like the new high-protein food your veterinarian has recommended or doesn’t like eating twice a day instead of grazing, it’s best to revert to your old dietary plan to ensure that your cat is getting enough nutrition.