Diabetes in cats is due to a change in the metabolism of sugar in the body. Starches and simple sugars like glucose come from the diet. Sugar entering cells is controlled by a hormone called insulin which is produced by the pancreas. Sugar passes into cells via a lock-and-key type relationship. The lock is a receptor in the cell membrane and insulin is the key that ‘unlocks’ the receptor, allowing sugar to enter the cell. Without insulin, sugar stays in the bloodstream and cells are forced to use fat and protein as a source of energy instead, causing weight reduction through loss of fat and muscle mass. This is why we will see sudden weight loss in diabetic cats.
Because sugar remains in the bloodstream when the body doesn’t produce insulin, it floods the kidney’s ability to filter and conserve sugar. This allows sugar to enter into the urine. The glucose pulls water with it as it passes through the kidney and into urine, causing dilution of urine, more frequent urination, and increased water consumption due to the water loss from the excess glucose.The typical symptoms that bring owners to our clinic include: increased drinking and urinating, weight loss despite an increased appetite, and saggy skin due to the sudden and excessive weight loss.
When cats develop diabetes, they typically have what is called in human medicine, non-insulin dependent diabetes. This does not mean that cats do not need insulin, but rather that with insulin therapy, the pancreas can improve its ability to produce insulin. Insulin therapy is given through an injection, usually twice a day (12 hours apart). Insulin is the key that opens the door or glucose receptor in the cell membrane, allowing blood glucose to enter the cell. That is why your cat should eat first before giving the insulin injection. If the glucose in the blood is low when insulin is given, blood glucose will drop too low. Signs of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia include: disorientation, vocalization, seizure, coma and even death. If your cat is not eating, losing weight, drinking or urinating excessively, seems groggy or ‘drunk’, he or she should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Diet is important in diabetic cats since food high in carbohydrates causes the blood glucose to become too high. The goal of therapy is to maintain a range of blood sugar between 200 and 300 – the higher end just after eating and the lower end before the next meal. In cats, this is achieved using higher protein and low carbohydrate diets. These are typically prescription diets that can be purchased at our clinic in Naples, or shipped to your home in Estero or Marco Island, for example, through our website at www.mynaplesvet.com or our online pharmacy at https://mynaplesvet.vetsfirstchoice.com.
It can become difficult to regulate a cat’s blood glucose if they have dental tartar. The bacteria that live within the tartar release toxins that cause inflammation of the body. The dental tartar also acts as a source of infection to spread throughout the body. The elevated blood glucose allows the bacteria to grow in vital organs like the heart valves, liver and kidneys, causing damage to these organs and shortening the life of your cat. At Town and Country Animal Hospital, we offer routine dental exams and cat teeth cleaning as an important part of maintaining your diabetic cat’s health and improving his or her quality of life.