What is diabetes mellitus?
Diabetes mellitus is a medical condition resulting in an excessive amount of glucose or sugar in the blood. This is caused by a deficiency of insulin, which is a hormone secreted by the pancreas.
The clinical signs seen in diabetes are largely related to the elevated concentrations of blood glucose and the inability of the body to use glucose as an energy source due to the deficiency of insulin.
Diabetes mellitus affects an estimated one in four hundred cats, and is seen more frequently in middle to old-age cats and is more common in males than females.
What are the clinical signs of diabetes mellitus?
The most common clinical signs seen in diabetic patients are an increase in water consumption and urination. Weight loss is also a common feature, and an increase in appetite may be noticed in some cats. Recognition of these signs is variable though, particularly because of the life-style of some cats. If a cat spends a lot of time outdoors, it may drink from ponds or pools of water outside rather than appearing to drink excessively from what is provided indoors. Cats that are fed canned or moist diets receive much of their water intake from their diet and increased water intake will be less easily recognized in these patients.
How is diabetes mellitus diagnosed?
The diagnosis of diabetes mellitus is made based on clinical signs, persistently elevated blood glucose concentration and the presence of glucose in the urine. However, a diagnosis of diabetes cannot be made on a single blood and urine sample as other conditions, in particular stress, may also cause a transient rise in glucose levels. Confirmation of diabetes may therefore require more than one blood sample collected over a period of one to five days.
How is diabetes mellitus treated?
Diabetes mellitus is a treatable condition. Although long-term treatment requires commitment and dedication, it can be rewarding to successfully manage this condition in a beloved pet.
Initial steps in treating a diabetic cat may involve removal of any predisposing causes for the diabetes. For example, obese cats are more prone to develop diabetes and weight reduction can lead to resolution of the signs in some cats.
If there are no predisposing causes, or if correction of the predisposing causes does not lead to resolution of the diabetes, specific treatment is required. Most cats will require insulin injections to control the diabetes.
During the initial stages of treatment, your cat will require several hospital visits until an appropriate insulin dosage is determined. Most cats will achieve initial stabilization within a few days to a few weeks. Most cats will require once or twice daily injection of a small dose of insulin. Very small needles are available which cause no pain to the cat, and within a short period of time the procedure becomes routine. Administration times, dosages and type of insulin will be determined by your veterinarian.
You should never change the dose of insulin without first discussing it with your veterinarian.
What happens if my cat receives too much insulin?
If a cat receives too much insulin, it is possible for the blood sugar level to drop dangerously low. For this reason it is important to be very careful in ensuring the cat receives the correct dose of insulin.
The typical signs displayed y a cat with a very low blood sugar level are weakness and lethargy, shaking, unsteadiness and even convulsions. If a diabetic cat shows any of these signs it is important to seek immediate veterinary advice or attention. In mild cases of hypoglycemia, you may observe “wobbling” or “drunken” walk or appearance and the cat may not arouse when you call or pet them. In cases of mild or early hypoglycemia, you should administer approximately a tablespoon of corn syrup, honey or sugar solution by mouth. If more severe signs are displayed such as ataxia or severe incoordination and unsteadiness during walking, or convulsions, you should seek immediate veterinary care. Your veterinarian can advise you on specific emergency treatment of low blood sugar in your cat.
© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license.