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How Long Can A Cat With Diabetes Live Without Treatment

Type 2 Feline Diabetes

Remission of diabetes in cats and dogs

Type 2 diabetes in cats differs from Type 1 in that the pancreas is still producing insulin, but the cats body is not able to use it properly.

Type 2 feline diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in cats and is often caused by insulin resistance, which can be related to cat obesity. In addition to feline diabetes, an obese cat can also suffer from heart issues, joint problems, and other comorbid cat diseases, which are two diseases that occur together.

Tip #: Stick To A Consistent Insulin Shot Schedule And Follow Your Veterinarians Suggested Schedule For Glucose Checks

To help your diabetic cat feel better, the first step is to start on a treatment plan. Your plan may include:

  • Changing your cats diet
  • Giving your cat more activity
  • Providing insulin shots, or
  • Some combination of the above

After one to two weeks of home care, youll bring your cat to veterinarians, like ours, to check whether your cats glucose is regulated.

This means your cat is getting the right amounts of insulin to move glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells for energy.

You dont want the glucose to be too high or too low.

Typically, diabetic cats will come in 3 to 5 times before their glucose levels are where they need to be.

It varies by cat and how diligent you are with home care.

Communication Is Essential For Treating Feline Diabetes

The most important step is maintaining good communication with your veterinarian. Talk to your vet about any changes you observe in your cat. Ask questions about anything you do not understand theres a lot more to properly caring for a diabetic cat than is described here.

Communication between family members is also important. Who will give the cat insulin and when? How will you record when your cat has received insulin? What does your cat eat and when? How many and what kind of treats? What are the symptoms of an insulin overdose, and what should family members do to help?

Taking care of a diabetic cat is a lot of work and needs to be taken seriously. Once their blood glucose is managed, they can go on being a happy cat, and that is the most important thing.

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What Is Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a condition where the pancreas does not properly produce insulin. It may produce very little or none at all. When this happens, your cats body cannot balance glucose levels or blood sugar. The disease usually strikes middle-aged to senior cats, and males are more prone to develop diabetes than females. It is a serious condition that can be life-threatening if not treated. If you suspect your cat may have a health issue, then a trip to the vet is in order, especially if they are showing signs of diabetes.

What If The Diabetic Patient Is Unwilling To Eat The Recommended Diet

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  • Consider kitten food since it tends to be higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates compared to adult maintenance diets.
  • Consider all or mostly canned foods since they tend to be higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates.
  • For extremely picky eaters, you will have to troubleshoot why they are picky eaters and then try to find a suitable balanced diet. Review Diagnostics here.

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Managing Treatment Of Diabetes Mellitus In Your Cat

If your cat was just diagnosed with diabetes mellitus , fear not, youre in good company. Unfortunately, DM is a growing problem in cats, likely due to the growing rate of obesity.So what exactly is diabetes? Diabetes mellitus is an endocrine problem where your cats pancreas fails to produce enough of the hormone, insulin. With DM, the body doesnt make enough insulin, which is the hormone that helps push sugar into the bodys cells. Without the insulin, the bodys cells are starving for sugar unfortunately, this then stimulates the body to produce more and more sugar . Thats why your cats blood sugar is so high . Without insulin, the sugar cant get into the cells hence, why you need to give it through a tiny syringe twice a day.The good news about DM in cats? Unlike diabetes in dogs, DM can be transient in cats. What does this mean to you? If your cat was just diagnosed with DM, dont panic with aggressive follow-up, short-term insulin injections, weight loss and a change in diet, it may not mean life-long disease in your cat!Its important to recognize the clinical signs of diabetes mellitus in cats, because the sooner you recognize it, the sooner we can treat it and the better the long-term prognosis for your cat. Signs of DM in cats include:

  • Walking lower in the hind limbs due to diabetes neuropathy


What Puts Cats At Risk Of Developing Diabetes

Cats who are obese, old, inactive, and take steroids to treat other illnesses like feline asthma, are most likely to develop diabetes. Cats that are obese are up to four times more likely to develop diabetes, so the best thing a cat owner can do to reduce the risk of diabetes is to maintain a healthy weight and encourage physical activity.

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Costs Of Diagnosis And Treatment In Cats With Diabetes

If it seems like you need to go in for a lot of vet visits when your kitty is first diagnosed, dont worry the beginning is usually the most time-consuming and financially demanding stage of treatment. Once the best insulin dose and overall treatment plan for your pet are established, maintenance becomes much simpler and requires less check-ins.

The exact cost of treatment may vary depending where in the country you live. Asking your vet about the costs of all the different components of treatment and management can help you get an accurate idea of what to expect.

Costs in the beginning may include all the initial diagnostic tests, purchasing insulin and needles/syringes, any monitoring equipment , and a special diet. If a pet is experiencing complications of diabetes , treatment of these conditions can increase costs, too.

As time goes on, the costs of managing diabetes become much lower, assuming diabetes has been successfully controlled.

Long-term maintenance costs usually involve refills of insulin and syringes/needles , your pets diabetic food, and rechecks with your veterinarian. As a general rule of thumb, rechecks are less frequent the better controlled a kittys diabetes is.

Additional factors to consider include special arrangements, such as making sure your pet gets their injections if you need to go out of town.

Can Diabetic Cats Survive Without Insulin

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If your cat is able to maintain a normal blood glucose level for four weeks without receiving an insulin shot, they are considered to be in diabetic remission. There are many cats that can live with diabetes and without insulin for years. Some relapse after only a few months, so once a cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, it will need continued monitoring of its blood sugar levels.

Between 17 and 67% of diabetic cats who undergo insulin therapy will subsequently go into remission. This is a wide range, so there is no guarantee, even with intensive treatment. There are still some things you can do to help improve your cats odds.

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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. Poor coat condition and weakness in the legs,more commonly the hind limbs, are other possible signs. 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. Sick cats, just like people, may act in ways we would refer to as cranky, easily agitated, or aggressive towards people, especially children, and/or other animals. Discomfort from any source/cause often causes cats to act out of their ordinary routine. They may hide,be less social, have different eating habits as described above, and/or different elimination habits which often means not using their litterbox to urinate and/or defecate. Sick cats are not being spiteful or acting out of anger, just out of distress/illness. It is their natural instinct to behave this way. In the wild, a sick cat is a weak cat and a weak cat is a potential victim. Changing their normal routine and/or demeanor may ward off a potential predator. So you see, what seems abnormal to the untrained human eye is actually normal to the feline survival instinct.

Other Costs When You First Get A Diabetic Cat

Think of the cost in 2 phases:

  • Initial stabilization:
  • Insulin
  • A Vetpen or insulin syringes
  • A disposal box for used syringes
  • Urine test strips
  • Vet checkups and blood tests
  • Immediately after diagnosis, ask your vet for 2 estimates for stabilization and for ongoing costs so you understand the financial implications.

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    Is There A Cure For Feline Diabetes

    There is currently no cure for diabetes in cats. However, with proper treatment and care, many cases of feline diabetes can be successfully managed with diet and medication, making it possible for cats to live long, healthy lives despite their diagnosis. When diabetes is treated early and aggressively, many cats will enter diabetic remission, meaning they will not need insulin injections to maintain normal blood sugar levels. If you start insulin therapy earlier and monitor closely, the chances of diabetic remission are higher in older cats, cats who have taken steroids in the past, and cats who have been given glargine insulin.

    Cats with diabetes who do not enter remission within six months will almost certainly need insulin for the rest of their lives. Cats with diabetes in remission should continue to be fed a low-carbohydrate diet and monitored closely.

    How Long Can A Diabetic Cat Live Without Insulin Treatment

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    If your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes that requires insulin shots, theres a reason your vet advises you not to ever miss an injection. Insulin shots are given on a very specific schedule to ensure your cat has a steady supply available to regulate its blood glucose levels.

    There are some consequences in an emergency situation where you cant get home to give your cat their insulin. As a rule, each insulin shot will provide insulin for your cat for between 12 to 24 hours. Once it wears off, their blood glucose will start to rise and lead to life-threatening ketoacidosis.

    Diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA is a serious condition. Once an insulin shot has worn off, glucose cannot go into the cell to be used as energy, and the body will then look for an alternative energy source to keep the brain heart and other vital organs functioning. Fat stores then have to be used for energy and they will be broken down by the liver into a fuel called ketones.Unfortunately, this isnt natural, and it is life-threatening if not treated. Ketones are acidic and lower the bloods pH causing acidemia. If this phase lasts too long, ketones begin appearing in the urine, and this is the phase where the condition becomes life-threatening.

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    Can You Manage Ckd In Cats

    You can absolutely manage chronic kidney disease in cats. Each cats treatment plan will vary depending on the severity of their disease, but there are almost always options for effective management.

    Some ways your veterinarian help to manage your cats disease are:

    The most important part of managing kidney disease is close communication and follow up with your veterinarian. By working closely with your vet, you can find a management plan that works best for your furry friend.

    What Are The Signs Of Diabetes In My Cat

    The signs of diabetes can be similar to a number of other diseases and include:

    • increased thirst and or appetite
    • passing more urine
    • vomiting
    • being more prone to infections
    • some affected cats may have sunken back legs so the cat is standing on its ankles, as a result of nerve damage.

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    Insulin Injections For Cats With Diabetes Are Actually Not Complicated

    Injections are not that difficult to give, even when cat, Mr. Mug, is acting like Mr. Angrypants.

    Stick the furry face in some food and pop in the tiny amount of insulin, and its over. Pilling a cat is probably much more difficult on a daily basis than giving an injection.

    Your vet and staff should give you all the help you need when learning how to give insulin to your cat.

    Theres lots of debate about which insulin works best in cats. Each vet has their favorite, and if your cat doesnt do well, they will switch to a different option. Be prepared for some trial and error.

    For information about the cost of insulin for cats, see Part 2 of this article below.

    Feline Diabetes Symptoms To Watch For

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    • Weight loss, even though your cat has a good appetite

    • Increased water consumption

    • Increased urination, possibly urinating outside the litter box

    • Increased appetite or loss of appetite

    • Lethargy

    • Vomiting

    Sometimes a cat will develop a plantigrade stancethat is, he will stand and walk with his hocks touching or nearly touching the ground. Instead of walking only on his paws, it would look like his whole foot is touching the ground. This is a form of diabetic neuropathy.

    If a diabetic cat goes untreated for long enough, they will develop ketoacidosis. Cats at this stage will not eat or drink and will become dehydrated and more lethargic. Eventually, as ketoacidosis progresses, they will slip into a coma and die if not treated with intensive medical therapy.

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    What Are The Clinical Signs Of Feline Diabetes

    The most common clinical signs associated with diabetes are increased drinking, increased urination, a normal-to-increased appetite and weight loss. The increased urination is often profound and happens as a result of the glucose passing through the kidneys into the urine. This prevents the kidneys from retaining water normally , leading to significantly increased urine production. To prevent becoming dehydrated as a result of this, cats with diabetes therefore have to drink a lot more water to compensate for the high urine production.

    Weight loss occurs as a result of the inability to use the blood glucose for energy. To compensate for not being able to use blood glucose for energy, the body has to utilise fat and protein stores, leading to breakdown and loss of both fat stores and also muscle. Cats with diabetes typically develop a reduced muscle volume, but because many cats who develop diabetes were overweight-to-obese in the first place, this can be more challenging to appreciate in some patients. In cats with severe or uncontrolled diabetes, the breakdown in fat and muscle can lead to a further syndrome called ketoacidosis which, if left untreated, will progress from vomiting, diarrhoea and severe dehydration to coma and death.

    Made A Treatment Mistake

    If you make a treatment mistake or something unexpected happens , dont panic. Contact your vet for advice. Treating a diabetic cat requires teamwork between you and your veterinary practice they will always be on the end of the phone to give you advice, support and arrange regular check-ups for your cat.

    If you leave your cats diabetes untreated, it will cause suffering, severe illness and eventually be fatal.

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    Unfortunately The Cost Of Insulin For Cats Is Ridiculous

    And we were on such a good roll there with all those upsides to having a diabetic cat!

    Oh well. Now weve reached a huge, honking downside: the skyrocketing costs of insulin.

    When the first version of this article was published, in 2012, we mentioned that a bottle of Lantus insulin considered by many vets to be the first insulin choice for diabetic cats ran about $100.

    Research has shown that early treatment with Lantus gives the best possibility of remission. Its labeled for human use for only 30 days, but veterinary experts believe its effective for several months past the expiration.

    Anyway, $100 a bottle of this stuff wasnt too bad considering it can last a few months. But times have certainly changed. The cost has skyrocketed lately.

    How Can I Get Lantus As Cheaply As Possible

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    A 10 ml vial is good for at least 34 months, maybe longer if handled properly.

    Most cats require very little insulin, so some of the insulin will go to waste, even if it lasts for 6 months.

    Pharmacists may tell you that you can use the bottle only for 1 month. They are wrong. This is the human usage instruction. Veterinary specialists have tested the insulin, and it stays effective for 34 months, often longer.

    Your pharmacist might talk you into Lantus Solostar pens. These are 3 ml pens that are sold in bundles of 5. The bundle of pens is more expensive than the 10 ml vial, but the insulin will definitely stay stable and not expire.

    Some pharmacies, we are told, will sell only 1 pen at a time. Its a good deal if you can find it. Local, privately owned pharmacies may be your best bet.

    Talk with your vet if you want to try the insulin pen. The delivery system is not designed for a cat.

    Most specialists recommend that you have your vet put the insulin in a sterile vial and withdraw your insulin from that vial.

    You can check it out on YouTube.

    Heres one example:

    A few more ideas if youre looking to save money on Lantus:

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