Understanding Feline Diabetes

Diabetes has risen sharply in our feline friends over the past decade or so – attributed to more cats being overweight. It can be a very serious and sometimes life-threatening disease. But, if caught and treated early, remission is possible. Though, your cat can become insulin-dependent for the rest of their life should diagnosis and treatment be delayed.
So what is feline diabetes? The most simple way to describe diabetes is with two words – Sugar and Insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which helps a cat’s body regulate the flow of glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the cells. Cells use glucose to run cellular functions and provide energy to your cat’s entire body. If the insulin supply is low, cells won’t function well.
And, without insulin the cat’s body instead breaks down more fat and protein to supply energy, meaning the excess glucose stays in their bloodstream. Cats with diabetes therefore tend to eat more without gaining weight.

Signs Your Cat May Have Diabetes

Cat owners should look out for four classic signs of diabetes: increased appetite, weight loss, increased urination, and increased thirst. Diabetes is more common among older, obese, male cats though it is possible for cats of all ages to develop the disease.
If your cat exhibits any of these signs of diabetes you should make an appointment with your veterinary clinic as soon as possible. A simple blood draw and urine sample can be screened for diabetes.
High blood sugar – known as hyperglycemia – is the hallmark of the disease. When hyperglycemia occurs glucose will spill over into the urine. As such, a urinalysis can look for urine glucose known as glycosuria.

Why Do Obese Cats Get Diabetes?

It’s fairly straightforward. Think of obesity as excessive body tissue. More tissue requires more insulin production but the pancreas can only make so much. Overworking the pancreas this way is fairly serious and can cause complete insulin shut down.


Treatment options vary from cat to cat. Some require insulin injections while others can be effectively managed with a special diabetic diet cat food which is high in protein. Some cats require both the food and insulin. In addition, oral diabetic medication is available though it’s not as effective.
Monitoring a diabetic cat is essential. This involves checking their blood glucose levels regularly which can be done at the veterinary clinic or at home. A glucometer can be purchased to measure blood glucose levels yourself. Most are affordable and, with a little practice, can be done at home with ease. The process involves pricking the tip of your cat’s ear for a tiny blood sample. It all sounds difficult but it really is doable for most cat lovers, as this YouTube video demonstrates. Administering insulin is another potentially daunting task, though it’s fairly straightforward with practice. Again there are lots of online resources to help guide you but ultimately, your vet is the expert so be sure to get their full run down of instructions before attempting it yourself.

How Can Activ4Pets Help?

As mentioned, it’s important to monitor insulin levels on a regular basis. Activ4Pets offer a handy health tracker that allows you to input and keep track of data as often as you need. You can even use the chart tool to graph out the data to monitor glucose spikes more effectively.
Feel like discussing an issue with your vet but struggling to find the time? Activ4Pets enables you to conduct an e-Consultation with your personal vet to discuss any issues and ask questions. We all know cats hate traveling in the car. A virtual consultation provides a viable alternative whenever you have minor questions – without the need for a stressful car ride.
As well as all this, Activ4Pets provides your pet’s detailed medical history at the touch of a button. In the event of an emergency you can pull up medications, allergies, surgeries, treatments and more – all through the online portal or the Activ4Pets mobile app.
Membership starts at just $2 per month and covers up to 4 pets. Check out our signup page for more information.

Meet the Author


Dr. Clayton Jones

Dr. Jones has 25 years of veterinary medical experience as a staff veterinarian and medical director of his own practice. As well as being the Chief Veterinary Medical Officer for Activ4Pets, Dr. Jones is also a member of the American Veterinary Medical Society and President of the US-Cuba Veterinary Cooperation Society.

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