Signs Your Cat Might Have Feline Diabetes
You probably are related to, or at least know someone, who has diabetes, but did you know cats can also develop the condition?
Feline diabetes is actually more common than you might think - one in every hundred cats is diabetic. Risk increases if your cat is:
- Obese OR
- Gets very little exercise OR
- Eats a high carbohydrate/ grain-heavy diet OR
- Is 8 years or older OR
- Is a neutered male OR
- Is a Burmese cat OR
- Takes corticosteroids OR
- Has a slow healing infection OR
- Has hyperthyroidism OR
- Has chronic renal insufficiency
How will you know if YOUR cat has it?
Look for these common symptoms:
1. Excessive Urination: Also called polyuria, excessive urination is one of the most common signs of diabetes in any animal, including cats. Diabetic cats will eventually develop hyperglycemia, or high blood glucose levels. The excess glucose is passed in the urine, often building up in the kidneys. The kidneys respond by flushing thoroughly, causing frequent urination.
2. Excessive Thirst: All this urination causes fluid levels to fall in the body. Blood becomes thickened and salt concentrations increase. These changes signal the brain that the body is thirsty. Even if you don't notice your cat urinating more frequently, you'll probably notice how much quicker its water dish empties.
3. Eating Excessively While Losing Weight: Diabetes results either when insulin production is significantly decreased or cells simply don't respond to insulin as they should. Insulin is required for cells to take up glucose from the blood. When cells don't get the glucose they need from failing insulin, they signal the body to eat more. A diabetic cat may eat more to satisfy its insatiable hunger. Because the cat's cells aren't receiving enough glucose from of a lack in insulin, other sources of energy like fat and muscle will be used for energy instead, causing the cat to lose weight.
Also look out for any weakness, rapid breathing, or peculiar walking. If you suspect your cat is diabetic, please seek a vet. Untreated diabetes can be deadly!
What Your Veterinarian Will Look For:
In addition to the previously described symptoms, a veterinarian will perform several lab tests to determine the state of your cat. Normally, a doctor would test for diabetes by looking for high blood glucose levels. Unfortunately, this test is not reliable in cats since increased stress can cause blood glucose levels to rise dramatically for a short period. There are, however, several other tests to indirectly determine blood glucose levels in cats:
Blood Fructosamine Level: Fructosamine is a molecule that results when glucose binds to certain proteins in the blood. Cats with elevated fructosamine levels can be assumed to have had high blood glucose levels in the previous 1 to 2 weeks.
Glycosylated Hemoglobin Level: You may recognize the term hemoglobin; it is the protein which red blood cells require in order to bind oxygen. Much like fructosamine, glycosylated hemoglobin results when glucose binds with the hemoglobin protein. The level of glycosylated hemoglobin in a cat's blood indicates the level of blood glucose over the past 2 months.
Other Tests: While the previous two tests can be very helpful in diagnosing feline diabetes, their results can sometimes be inconclusive. In this event, a veterinarian may perform other tests such as a chest x-ray, abdomen ultrasound, or other blood and urine tests.
If you suspect your cat has diabetes based on these symptoms, be sure to see your veterinarian right away. The sooner feline diabetes is diagnosed and treated (more on feline diabetes treatment option HERE), the greater the possibility that the condition may be reversed.