What To Look For If Your Cat May Be Diabetic
Submitted by Lizz McKeon owner of a diabetic cat
Has your cat lost weight recently? Is he drinking a lot more water than usual? And urinating more? Has her appetite changed? Is your cat eating much more lately, or a lot less? Does her breath smell fruity or like acetone? If you see these signs, it's important to see your vet right away. Your cat may be diabetic. Any sudden change in your cat's behavior or physical activity and appearance should of course signal that it is time to take her in for a physical.
Diabetes generally occurs in cats over the age of 7, but younger cats, especially if overweight, are also at risk. If your cat's hind legs seem unstable and she is staggering or wobbling, get to the vet immediately. This is an advanced symptom, which may indicate nerve damage. We all lead busy lives these days, but don't delay your vet visit. A "wait and see" attitude could be deadly for your cat.
Happily, the fact that you see these symptoms do not mean you and your diabetic cat are in for a lifetime of treatments. Feline diabetes can be controlled with diet and insulin. Many times the disease can even be reversed by diet alone - after a short-term of insulin treatment. Your vet will recommend a low carbohydrate diet to regulate and normalize your cat's blood sugar level. At the very least, switching to a low carbohydrate diet will reduce your cat's need for insulin.
Low carbohydrate cat food generally means wet food with a carbohydrate count of between 3 and 9%. No matter what the can says, run the numbers by your vet. Sometimes values listed on the cans are not accurate. Dry food, even the so-called "prescription" types will generally not fill the bill.
Treatment, at least for a while, may involve insulin injections for your cat. Don't panic, administering shots to a cat can actually be easier than getting them to swallow a pill. And your cat may not need to continue with shots once the new diet is established. The diet will reduce the frequency of shots needed at the very least.
When you first begin the treatment, as the new diet takes effect, the cat's insulin dosage will need to be adjusted. Ideally, this can be done by testing with a glucose meter, which tests a small amount of blood from a needle prick. This method is preferred to shuttling back and forth to the vet for glucose tests, because you can test much more often at home.
Testing the glucose level every few hours is ideal, until your vet can determine the proper dosage of insulin. No matter how you monitor your cat's glucose level, watch for signs of lethargy, dizziness, diarrhea, and vomiting. This could mean the glucose level has risen or fallen too much and you must see your vet right away. Once the ideal regimen is established, whether diet or diet plus insulin, your diabetic cat can go on to lead a long and happy life.