Your Cat and Diabetes

November 29th 2014

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is classified as Type 1 or Type 2 and is a treatable condition caused by complete or relative insulin deficiency. Most cats have type 2 diabetes which is characterized by peripheral insulin resistance or by beta cell dysfunction (these cells are found in the pancreas).

Risk factors for diabetes include obesity, advanced age and male gender. Most cats are diagnosed at 7 years of age or older.

What owners notice

  • Increase in drinking
    Increase in urination
    Weight loss
    Lack of grooming
    Plantigrade posture (walking on their hocks)
    Pelvic limb weakness
    Behavioural changes (inappropriate elimination)


Diagnosis is based on clinical signs, presence of persistent hyperglycemia (elevated blood glucose) and glycosuria (glucose in the urine). A fructosamine measurement is often requested when blood is analysed to rule out stress hyperglycemia. Urine is collected to check for the presence of glucose and ketones and if there is evidence of a urinary tract infection which can be a common finding in a diabetic patient.


Is twofold in these patients and includes nutritional and insulin therapy. Both low carbohydrate/highprotein and high fiber/low fat diets can result in good glycemic control when used with insulin. Canned foods are preferred as they typically have lower carbohydrate content. Up to 60% of cats enter diabetic remission with insulin and dietary therapy. Remission may not be permanent and 30% of cats in remission will revert to a diabetic state again. Treatment is life long and owners need to be prepared for complications and remissions.


Owners must be fully committed to the monitoring and treatment of a diabetic patient. They will need to monitor for changes in drinking, urination, appetite, weight and hypoglycemia (symptoms include tremors, weakness, disorientation and seizures). Follow ups are crucial. Once a diabetic is well controlled blood tests may be performed every 3 to 6 months. A urine culture and urinalysis should be performed every 3 to 6 months to check for the presence of infection as infections can lead to problems in regulating the diabetes.

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