If your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed. Hopefully these pages will help you to understand a bit more about the road ahead.
So what actually is diabetes in cats? Diabetes mellitus (also known as ‘sugar diabetes’) is a condition caused by either a lack of the hormone insulin, or the inability of the body to process insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and regulates the levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. When insulin is insufficient, blood sugar levels will rise, causing your cat to become unwell and, if left untreated, can be fatal.
Diabetes is a common disorder of cats, normally affecting middle-aged to older cats and is more common in males than females.
The most common signs of diabetes is an increase in thirst and urination. Your cat would most likely be really thirsty and need to urinate more often. You may have noticed your cat can’t hold their pee through the night so they are waking you to go outside or they’re urinating in the house. Your cat may have lost weight and may be eating more. These can all be signs of other common diseases too so it’s important to get a diagnosis from your vet as soon as possible if your cat is showing any of these symptoms.
Most diabetic cats may appear relatively well in themselves but prolonged diabetes may lead to a complication known as diabetic ketoacidosis. Your cat may become extremely lethargic with signs such as vomiting, diarrhoea, not eating and eventually collapse. These signs warrant an emergency trip to your vet.
Diagnosis of diabetes mellitus usually requires a urine sample and a blood test. The long-term prognosis for cats with diabetes varies depending on how early the disease has been caught, how old your cat is, how easy it is to stabilise their diabetes and whether they have any other diseases. Most cats respond well to treatment and, once stabilised can live quite happily for the remainder of their lives.
Unfortunately, some cats don’t respond well to treatment and can’t be stabilised easily. This brings us to the question of whether euthanasia is an option for a newly diagnosed diabetic cat. There is no definitive answer to this but you should feel comfortable discussing this with your vet. You should look at the whole picture – your cat’s age, other diseases they may have and your financial situation. I would always suggest giving your cat a chance at successfully being treated but the reality is that everyone’s circumstances are different. To read more about when the time is right for euthanasia click here.