My cat has diabetes; are you kidding me?!
Mrs. Catowner brought her cat, Mr. Peemore, back today for a three month checkup after starting Peemore on therapy for diabetes (officially called Diabetes Mellitus). After examining Peemore and determining that his weight is back to normal, he no longer has urine accidents, drinks less water, and his rear leg weakness is improving, we felt optimistic. The veterinary technicians took the pet back to the treatment area to draw blood and collect urine. After getting the results, the technicians and I all did fist pumps and high fives. Peemore and I returned to the examination room and reported to Mrs. Catowner that we need to change his name to Mr. Peeless. His signs of diabetes are gone. Further control only needs to be a strict diet, weight control, and some future monitoring. It was a great day. I need to back up about three months now.
Diabetes Mellitus is a disease caused by the pancreas decreasing its production of a hormone called insulin. The cause often goes undetected. However, 75% of diabetic cats are male, and obese cats are four times more likely to develop the disease. Glucose is a sugar required by body cells for energy. Insulin is needed for glucose to travel from the blood supply into body cells. Without glucose, body cells are starving while the glucose in the blood rises very high. Due to starving cells and high glucose in the blood stream, the symptoms become apparent to cat owners. Diabetic cat symptoms include excessive thirst and excessive urine output (often around the house). Appetite increases, yet the cats lose weight. Some cats get a nerve weakness causing them to walk with their hocks (ankles) dropped all the way to the floor. Untreated, diabetes is eventually fatal.
Early diagnosis and treatment is extremely rewarding. Experts estimate that greater than 50% of diabetic cats can return to normal and do not need further treatment – if and only if – they are diagnosed early and treated aggressively. Diagnosis includes examinations and blood and urine tests. The best treatment includes twice a day insulin injections. Many clients feel that they cannot give their cats injections.
After the veterinarian teaches the proper injection technique, almost anyone can give insulin injections to their cat. Owners can also learn to take small blood samples from their cats to test the blood glucose right in their home. A strict diet is equally important to reverse diabetes in cats. The correct Prescription Diet* can help the pancreas heal and start making enough insulin again. Only your veterinarian can supply you with the correct diet.
If your cat has diabetes for too long before treatment starts, it is not reversible, but it is still controllable. Insulin and diet control will then be lifelong. Your cat can continue to be happy and otherwise healthy. Remember, if treatment starts early, it can be a reversible disease. The bottom line is, seek veterinary help early if you notice your cat drinking and peeing more, losing weight in spite of a good appetite, or exhibiting rear leg weakness. Do not forget to keep your cats thin. Your veterinarian is your expert on weight control for cats.
Three months ago, Mr. Peemore was showing all the signs of diabetes. We performed blood and urine tests. He was hospitalized for a few days and started on a specific Prescription Diet* and twice daily insulin injections. Once he was responding well, he went home for Mrs. Catowner to continue his care. We taught her how to give injections, what to feed him and even how to do her own blood glucose tests. He required some further examinations and lab testing intermittently, but eventually we were able to reverse the disease, stop his insulin injections, and maintain him on the special diet alone.
Life is good!
*Prescription Diets are made for very specific diseases. That is why the diets can only be purchased through veterinarians.
Dr. Kraft is PVMA Secretary Treasurer and practices at Trooper Veterinary Hospital, Norristown, PA.