What is diabetes and how did my cat get it?
Diabetes is a condition in which your cats blood sugar is too high. This occurs because either your cat does not use insulin properly or does not make insulin properly. Diabetes is most often diagnosed in older cats, obese cats, cats with chronic pancreatitis, or cats on certain medications. Without a proper response to insulin, or without adequate insulin, your cat's body cannot properly use sugar as an energy source. As a result the blood sugar rises and the body must find an alternate source of energy. A breakdown of fat and protein follows. This leads to the most common symptoms that you will see in a diabetic cat: increased appetite, thirst, urination, and weight loss.
How is my cat diagnosed with diabetes?
Initially, most patients are presented to our clinic with the above mentioned symptoms that the owners have noticed at home. A physical exam and laboratory tests are required to confirm a diagnosis of diabetes. Routine screening of middle age to older cats, or in any patient exhibiting the classic symptoms (weight loss, increased appetite, increased thirst and increased urination) is highly recommended; early detection is the key to a successful treatment outcome.
What is the treatment for my cat with diabetes?
Treatment will depend on how severe the disease is, how far along the disease has progressed, and how sick the cat is at the time of diagnosis. A very healthy cat with early disease may be managed with a diet change and weight loss, though most patients require insulin therapy as well. Very sick patients, those with loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, dehydration or jaundice, have had uncontrolled diabetes for quite some time, may develop complications, such as ketoacidosis or hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease). If not treated aggressively in an intensive care setting, these complications are frequently fatal. It is critical that diabetes be diagnosed and treated early, the outcomes are much more favorable and less expensive.
What is the prognosis for my cat with diabetes?
As mentioned earlier, if caught early, diabetes is very manageable, and with good care many patients can loose the need for insulin therapy over time. Managing the weight of obese cats can lead to complete resolution as well. Even if your cat requires insulin long term, successful management for may years is possible. Left untreated it is likely that your cat will develop one of the above life threatening complications, bacterial infection, or a neurological disease (diabetic polyneuropathy) that causes severe muscle weakness. We do not see cataracts, vascular disease, and non-healing wounds as in human patients. Again the keys to successful treatment are early diagnosis coupled and early treatment from a dedicated owner. If you have further questions about diabetes diagnosis and treatment, please call us and schedule an appointment. We have a well trained and caring staff that is ready to help you and your cat.