If your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the information, costs and responsibility of the disease. However, successfully managing this disease can be extremely rewarding for a cat owner.
It’s important to know that diabetes is not a cheap disease to treat, nor is it the most expensive. However, costs can vary greatly from vet clinic to vet clinic and from patient to patient. I would strongly recommend that you ask your vet for an approximate ballpark figure of costs involved including blood and urine tests, insulin and syringes. Please remember this will be an idea of costs only as it would be impossible for your vet to give you a specific quote as it will very much depend on how your cat responds to treatment which, in turn, will affect how often they need tests and how much insulin they will need.
Treatment of diabetes basically entails keeping glucose levels in the blood down to normal levels by giving insulin via an injection. Remembering that insulin is the hormone that is insufficient in your cat, so we are injecting insulin to bring the high blood sugar levels down to a normal range.
The idea of injecting your cat can be a terrifying thought for some but please be assured that it’s a learning process and once you, and your cat, have done it a few times, it will get easier. The highlight for your cat is that they will always get food immediately before the injection so they tend to learn this positive relationship pretty quickly.
As well as giving insulin injections, which we’ll talk about in more detail here, the other important factor is food. Daily changes in the content and frequency of your cat’s food can really affect their blood glucose levels regardless of the insulin injections. Your vet will probably recommend a low-carbohydrate food specifically made for diabetic cats which can help minimise these fluctuations. You can find out more about these foods here.
More important than the food itself is the feeding routine of your cat. It’s vital that they eat at the time they have their insulin injection so if they are used to grazing on biscuits during the day, this may need to change as you will want them to be hungry at their injection times (either twice a day or once a day).
Diabetic cats are often overweight at the time of diagnosis and we know that obesity is a cause of diabetes. Getting your cat to a healthy weight is vital in giving your cat the best chance of successful treatment and even possible remission from the disease. Read more about how to get your cat to lose weight here.
The other thing to consider is making sure that your cat has plenty of access to fresh water. Diabetes causes your cat to lose a lot of fluid through urination so it’s vital they have access to plenty of fresh water. Find out the best way to get your cat to drink well here.
Your cat will most likely need to stay in the vet hospital for a day, sometimes longer, when they are initially being stabilised. During this process your vet will give your cat insulin and then take very small blood samples throughout the day to monitor the effect of the insulin. This is a vital part of the initial treatment as it will indicate to your vet how much they need to adjust the insulin dose to get good control of the diabetes.
This process may need to be repeated a few times in the first few weeks of treatment until your vet is happy that your cat is getting the right amount of insulin (i.e. stabilised). If your cat is given too much insulin, their blood sugar will drop too low and they may have a hypoglycaemic episode which is life threatening (more on this here).
At the end of the first day in hospital the vet will hand over the treatment to you. They should run through it all with you, however, if you are feeling anxious about giving injections to your cat for the first time, this is the time to ask for help from your vet and nurses. It’s perfectly normal to feel apprehensive about injecting your cat and your vet will understand this. The way to beat this feeling is to get confident. Take extra syringes so you can practice at home on a soft toy or piece of fruit and ask the vet nurses for guidance until you feel more comfortable.