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How To Tell If Cat Has Diabetes

Costs Of Caring For A Diabetic Cat

The costs can vary quite a bit from cat to cat. The variability in cost comes from the type of insulin used, concurrent diseases, if the cats person is able to do follow-up glucose curves at home, the cost of food, and how long a bottle of insulin lasts.

In general, expect to spend the following:

  • Insulin: The cost ranges from $35 to $325 a bottle. Again, the more expensive bottle may actually be less expensive in the long run because less is needed and there is a greater chance of remission. A bottle will last anywhere from one to six months.
  • Glucose curves: Depending on how the veterinarian elects to do them, the cost can range from $40 to $200 every 2-4 weeks until the cat is well regulated, and then every 1-6 months thereafter. Again, there is a lot of variability between veterinarians choices and individual cats needs. If the cats person elects to do the glucose curves at home, a starter glucometer kit costs about $40 to $50 and this kit will do up to 10 curves as well as some spot glucose checks.
  • Concurrent diseases: In cats who have concurrent diseases, the vet may need to do follow-up urinalysis, full blood panels or even specialized endocrine testing.

What Are The Treatments For Feline Diabetes

If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, your veterinarian will work with you to create a treatment plan, which usually involves a combination of diet and insulin therapy. 

Diet. Because obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, its important that overweight diabetic cats get to an ideal body weight. Your veterinarian can help you determine the ideal weight for your cat and develop a plan for reaching it. Because cats with diabetes tend to benefit from a diet thats low in carbohydrates, your veterinarian will likely recommend a high-protein, low-carbohydrate food. Usually a canned food diet, both prescription and over-the-counter options are available, Cohn says.  

Insulintherapy. Most diabetic cats will need two insulin injections a day. It sounds kind of scary at first, Cohn says, but I tell owners that its far easier to give a cat an injection than a pill. If you feed your cat at the same time you deliver the insulin, theres a good chance he wont even notice, she says. Plus, the needle is tiny. Its much smaller than what we use for vaccinations, Cohn says. Cats may not even realize theyre getting an injection. Still, you should let your vet know if you feel uncomfortable. Cohn says your vet can help you get used to handling the needle by having you practice injecting water into a piece of fruit. 

Your veterinarian will also teach you how to properly handle and store insulin, monitor blood glucose, and recognize the signs of hypoglycemia . 

Your Dogs Vision Is Getting Worse

As a result of cataract formation, diabetic dogs are at an increased risk for blindness.

A cataract that completely prevents light from reaching the retina on the back of the eye causes vision loss, says Dr. Romine. The good news is that as long as any secondary inflammation from the cataracts is controlled, most blind dogs do very well because they have excellent senses of smell and hearing and adapt to their environments.

In some cases, blindness can be reversed by surgically removing the abnormal lens.

Blindness can occur over a period of weeks to months, or in as little as 24 hours, she says. It can also happen early or late in the course of diabetes.

Image:Jency Morales/

Signs Of Diabetes In Cats

One of the most common diseases in cats is diabetes. Those most at risk are overweight house pets, particularly males. According to Diabetic Cat Care, it can take weeks or even months for symptoms to show up and possibly longer for a owner to notice. Meanwhile, their cats health is deteriorating. Diabetic Cat Care gives the following as symptoms to watch for as signs that your cat may have diabetes.

What Is The Long Term Prognosis For Cats With Diabetes

How to Tell if Your Cat Has Diabetes

Provided cats with diabetes are given regular insulin injections, as directed by a vet, and stick to a recommended diet combined with exercise to keep weight down, they will often lead long and happy lives. But sadly, not every cat responds well to treatment and there are many complicating factors.


Feline Diabetes: Could Your Cat Be Diabetic

Diabetes in cats can lead to weight loss, vomiting, dehydration, and even death.

Just as diabetes requires attention in humans, diabetes in cats can significantly affect your darling pets life. You can manage the condition, but most diabetic cats need daily long-term care. Theres no easy one-time fix for cat diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common endocrine disorders in cats. It occurs when a cats body either doesnt make insulin or doesnt make enough insulin. 

Later Signs Of Diabetes In Cats

If a cat displays a combination of the following symptoms, they could be in critical condition and require intensive care. Later signs of diabetes include the following:

3. Inability to Jump & Loss of InterestWhile the loss of interest may be a subtle sign, you can tell your cat is sick if you keep proper track of your cats activity. If your cat can no longer jump on furniture they used to be able to, they may be sick.

4. Change in GaitDiabetes in cats can lead to weakness, which makes them walk flat on the back of the hind legs. Following the elevated blood sugar level, neuropathy affects the nerves in the hind legs, and the condition may result in permanent paralysis if left untreated for long.

5. Lack of Appetite, Vomiting, LethargyThe health of your cat is in jeopardy if you notice these late symptoms of diabetes mellitus. Hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, and gastroparesis can cause nausea in cats leading to vomiting, lost appetite, and lethargy.

Do I Need To Monitor My Diabetic Cats Health

Because feline diabetes can have some serious complications, it is very important that you keep track of your cats health.

Check their blood sugar levels, either at home or by regularly taking them to the vet. Watch their appetite, weight, and food and water consumption.

Also check the litter box to make sure they are urinating the same amount. Call your veterinarian about any changes in their normal routine.

Insulin Treatments: A Common Option

While lifestyle and dietary changes may assist a cat in managing diabetes, Koble notes that many cats will need to receive insulin shots before going into remission.

Insulin, as Koble explains, is a hormone that is made in the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels. The more insulin secreted, the lower the blood sugar will drop. The less insulin that is secreted, the higher the blood sugar will remain. When there is not enough insulin, blood sugar remains high, resulting in diabetes.


For cats that do require insulin, most cats need a dose every 12 hours. Koble adds, All insulin is safe when used properly.

Any cat with diabetes will have to maintain visits with their vets based on their diagnosis. Some require frequent office visits for blood sugar measurements and some prefer to empower clients to do monitoring at home, Koble explains. If a cat is well regulated and doing well, there may be up to six months on average between recommended visits.

The Bottom Line On Feline Diabetes

If you suspect your cat is sick, visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. Excessive urination, thirst, heightened appetite, vomiting, lethargy, and inactivity are symptoms of diabetes mellitus. At The Cat Hospital of Tucson, were committed to helping pet parents care for their cats throughout their lives. to book an appointment for a check-up and diagnosis of your cat.

How Can You Tell If Your Cat Has Diabetes Signs And Symptoms

There are several changes that diabetic cat behavior undergoes. If you do not regularly change your cats water and litter, they may go unnoticed for some time. So how can you tell if your cat has diabetes?

A big clue that your cat is unhealthy is excessive urination. This refers to the frequency and volume of urine. Pay attention to see if your cat is making trips to the litter box more often, or if their litter is more soaked than normal.

It makes sense that along with excessive urination, there will be a significant increase in thirst. Your cat may be emptying his dish quite frequently as it drinks more water to compensate for the lost fluids.

Another sign of diabetic cat behavior is an increase in appetite as its body tries to absorb glucose from the blood. This can also result in noticeable weight loss. This, along with the signs above, are the early signs of diabetes in cats.

If the diabetes goes untreated, they will start displaying another set of symptoms that indicate they require intensive care.

Your cat might appear to have gotten lazy. They will start showing less interest in their usual activities. It will seem as though they are unable to jump on furniture anymore and your cat will be lethargic and dull. 

Also watch for a loss of appetite and vomiting. These are very late signs of diabetes and your cat needs to be seen by the vet immediately.

How Common Is Diabetes Mellitus In The Cat

Diabetes mellitus is the second most common endocrine disease in cats. It is seen more frequently in middle-aged to senior cats and is more common in males than females. While the exact incidence is unknown, the number of diabetic cats is increasing at an alarming rate due to the tremendous increase in the number of overweight and obese cats. It is important to note that a cat three pounds over its ideal weight is considered obese, and that means the average domestic cat weighing 13 pounds or more is at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Common Signs & Symptoms Of Diabetes In Cats

How Do You Know If A Cat Has Diabetes

Because a diabetic cats body breaks down protein and fat instead of using glucose, cats with a healthy appetite, or even those with a ravenous appetite, will lose weight. Untreated diabetes in cats can lead to other health complications and symptoms, such as:

  • Increased urination
  • Unhealthy coat and skin
  • Walking flat on backs of their hind legs

If left untreated diabetes can lead to a variety of debilitating, expensive, and potentially fatal conditions. If your cat is showing symptoms of diabetes it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. While there is no cure for diabetes in cats, treatment is available. 

Diabetes Treatment Options for Cats

Your cat will first require an official diagnosis, then daily management of the condition with insulin injections, . Your vet may also recommend that you make changes to your cat’s diet to make sure theyre getting the right combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. In some cases your vet may recommend a special prescription food to help manage your cat’s diabetes.

If your cat has diabetes, regular visits to the vet for blood sugar tests will be essential, or if you prefer, ask your vet if testing your cats glucose at home is an option. It may also be helpful to keep a diary of your cat’s appetite and litter use so that any changes are spotted early and can be reported to your vet.


Prognosis For Diabetic Cats

The prognosis for a cat with diabetes depends on a number of things. Poor indicators of long-term control over the disease include other endocrine diseases such as an overactive adrenal gland and an overactive pituitary gland. If a cat develops ketoacidosis and cannot get out of this state, or is in this state during follow-up visits, there is a correlation with poor long-term survival.

For most diabetic cats, the ability of the cats person to manage him is the biggest factor when it comes to prognosis. For instance, if the person cannot consistently give the insulin, the cat tends to do worse and is hard to regulate. Also, if the cat will not eat a canned high-protein food, it is harder to get good control of his blood sugar.

It is not possible to cure a diabetic cat, but it is possible for the cat to go into remission. Being in remission means that he does not need insulin for four months. However, even in remission, a diabetic cat typically needs to stay on a high-protein diet. He also should have his blood sugar checked frequently and have an exam done by a vet to make sure he does not require insulin again.

Diabetic cats do require more extensive veterinary care, but those who have their blood sugar adequately managed can live for years.

What Type Of Diabetes Can Cats Suffer From

Unlike dogs, cats affected by diabetes will normally suffer with the type two form of the disease, which is caused by abnormalities in the pancreas. It is very similar to the type two form of the disease in humans. The type one form of the condition, which is common in dogs but very rare in cats, is caused by an auto-immune response which destroys the cells which process insulin in the pancreas. Diabetes in cats can sometimes be a secondary disease or develop in response to certain drugs.

Are There Different Types Of Diabetes Mellitus In Cats

Diabetes mellitus is usually classified into three types of disease:

Type I diabetes mellitus results from total or near-complete destruction of the beta cells. This appears to be a rare type of diabetes in the cat.

Type II diabetes mellitus is different because some insulin-producing cells remain, but the amount of insulin produced is insufficient, there is a delayed response in secreting it, or the tissues of the cat’s body are relatively insulin-resistant. Obesity is a predisposing factor in type II diabetes, which appears to be the most common type of diabetes in the cat.

Type III diabetes results from insulin resistance caused by other hormones and can be due to pregnancy or hormone-secreting tumors.

Should I Euthanize My Cat With Diabetes

It is never easy to say goodbye to a pet, and almost harder when you have to make the decision yourself. Your choice to euthanize your pet can be a very personal one, although it should be made with the thought of quality of life for the pet.

Once diabetes is diagnosed and treatment has begun, your cat should resume fairly normal behavior.

You will need to administer insulin once or twice a day and regulate their diet. But beyond this, your cat can live many more years with proper care. Their quality of life remains essentially the same. Obviously, your cat should not be put down if they are happy.

What you need to evaluate is if their life has gotten significantly worse. Perhaps you caught the diabetes quite late and they are suffering from the side-effects of that.

It may also be reaching the natural end of their life. You wonder, Should I euthanize my cat with diabetes?

Ask yourself these questions. Can your pet still eat, drink, and go to the bathroom normally? Do they seem comfortable when sleeping, snuggling, or walking? Have they started hiding more or being less social? Are they still doing the things that make your cat YOUR cat? Once any of these areas of their life start to change, you need to decide if your cat is still living a content, peaceful life or if they are suffering. Then you will know what to do. 

What Is Diabetic Remission

“Diabetic remission occurs when a cat maintains a normal glucose level for more than four weeks without insulin injections or oral glucose regulating medications.”

The primary goal of treating diabetes is to regulate blood glucose quickly and reach a point where the cat no longer needs insulin therapy. Diabetic remission occurs when a cat maintains a normal glucose level for more than four weeks without insulin injections or oral glucose regulating medications.

Not all cats go into remission, but those that do may stay that way for months or years. One estimate states that 17 to 67% of cats experience remission after insulin therapy. Other estimates predict remission is possible in 90% of cats.

The key factors in achieving remission are quick institution of insulin therapy post-diagnosis and strict adherence to a low carbohydrate diet. Frequent monitoring with appropriate adjustments of insulin dosage increases the odds of remission.

What Is Cat Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes Mellitus is a condition where your cat has difficulty using sugar as an energy source. It changes the way their muscles use energy, and if left untreated can lead to weight change and further illness.

Normally, after your cat eats, their digestive system should break down their food into the different things its made from. One of those components is sugar . After the food is eaten and the glucose is extracted from it, your cats body should absorb the glucose; it goes from their digestive system into their bloodstream, where it is carried around the body. The glucose then reaches various organs in your cats body the heart and other muscles, for example and is used as energy to fuel their climbing, pouncing and playing!

Before your cats body can use glucose as fuel it needs insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. If for some reason your cats pancreas doesnt produce enough insulin, or the insulin cannot be used properly, that glucose wont pass from your cats blood into their organs.

When this happens, the glucose stays put so there is too much sugar in your cats blood, which we know as diabetes in cats. When your cat has diabetes, their organs dont get enough glucose to use as energy, so instead they use fat and protein to power them. Because of this, they lose weight and even muscle mass.

What Might A Urinalysis Indicate If My Cat Has Diabetes Mellitus

A urinalysis is necessary for the diagnosis of feline diabetes mellitus. Urine from healthy cats typically does not contain any glucose . Occasionally a small amount of glucose may be found in the urine of a highly stressed cat because its blood glucose values were temporarily increased.

Glucose in the urine , as well as persistently increased blood glucose levels , in a cat with appropriate clinical signs is diagnostic for diabetes mellitus.

The presence of glucose in the urine makes conditions ideal for bacterial growth, so urinary tract infections are common. Urine is evaluated for the presence of red blood cells, white blood cells, and bacteria. If a bacterial infection is identified or suspected, a urine culture is indicated to identify the types of bacteria and determine the most appropriate antibiotics to treat the infection.

The presence or absence of ketones in the urine should be evaluated in diabetic cats. Ketones are byproducts of fat metabolism. Increased mobilization of fat occurs in diabetic cats because their insulin deficiency causes poor use of carbohydrates as an energy source. Depending upon your cat’s clinical signs, the presence of ketones in the urine may indicate a more severe or long-standing case of diabetes mellitus.

Ongoing Costs And Routines

How To Tell If A Cat Has Diabetes

Weve already discussed the cost of insulin for cats. Here are some other things youll want to keep in mind:

Urine Testing

A couple of times a week, you should test the cats urine with a dipstick.

This is a safety check to ensure no ketones are present. Ketones are a natural toxin and an early warning of trouble ahead. If the cat has ketones in the urine, then contact the vet urgently.

Blood Tests

From time to time, monitoring is necessary to check if the insulin dose is correct.

This involves taking a pinprick of blood every hour or so to see how much sugar is in the blood.

This test can either be done at the vet clinic or at home. Home testing is preferable because the cat is usually less stressed.

Daily Routine

Youll quickly adapt to the cats daily routine of injections, and it usually isnt too much of a bother.

Having a diabetic cat does mean sticking to a regular routine of mealtimes and injections. Theyll need feeding at least twice a day, and once youre happy theyre eating, then give an insulin injection.

Most people find this fits seamlessly into their daily routine, although it can be complicated if you travel a lot or go on vacation which well discuss briefly next.

Weakness In Hind Legs/limping

Cats with diabetes can show signs of weakness in their hind legs. You may see this when they go to jump or walk around. It may look similar to arthritis as well. Only your local veterinarian will be able to give you the best prognosis for your cat.

In the end, we are responsible for our cat. Even if we fail to notice other signs such as excessive thirst or urination, you should be able to notice other issues. If we do start to notice problems, its up to us to take them into the vet. That way they can diagnose the problem and get your cat a solution to help them back on their feet.

We hope this article helps you in determining if your cat is showing any signs of diabetes. If you have any concerns on how to care for a cat with diabetes, please check out our article .

Diabetes In A Cat Is A Treatable Disease

A diagnosis of diabetes means your cat can get treatment.

When an older cat is presented to the veterinarian with the common symptoms of drinking lots of water, urinating tons and losing weight, a diagnosis of feline diabetes can actually be good news. Its often better news than kidney failure or liver failure in many cases.

If your cat seems very thirsty, this is not normal. Get the cat to the vet.

Early intervention with diabetes, as with so many other diseases, gives your cat the best chance of a better life, and possible remission.

Daily insulin injections, along with watching what the cat eats, can help get blood sugar levels back on track and allow the cat to act normal.

Diet Change And Weight Loss

The other mainstay of diabetes treatment is diet change, an important part of possibly getting a cat to go into remission. Feeding a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet allows the insulin to work better and helps the cat to lose weight. Canned food is better than dry food, since it is lower in carbohydrates, is not as calorie-dense and contains more fluid.

In conjunction with a change in diet, weight loss is a vital part of diabetes management. Weight loss is often achieved by feeding the cat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, but it is also achieved by only feeding a certain amount of food at designated meal times. Feeding at select times also makes it easier to ensure that the cat will eat, which then allows insulin to be administered.

Exercise programs also help with weight loss and management in cats. Exercise can include taking the cat for walks using a harness and leash, having the cat chase toys or even encouraging the cat to hunt for his food if kibble is still being fed.

Walking a cat

Is My Cat At Risk Of Developing Diabetes

Some cats are more at risk than others in developing this health issue. Obese cats are four times as likely to develop diabetes, while older cats and male cats are at higher risk. It is also common for diabetic cats to suffer from other diseases too, such as inflammation of the pancreas or urinary tract infections.

Diagnosis Of Diabetes Mellitus In Cats

The diagnosis of diabetes mellitus in cats is based on the felines presenting clinical signs paired with the presence of glucose in the urine and in the blood. However, initial diagnostic tests that reveal glycosuria and/or hyperglycemia are not clear signs that a cat has diabetes mellitus. In fact, your veterinarian may ask for blood draws on your cat over several weeks time to properly diagnose the feline with diabetes. The reason behind this is because stress also causes the felines blood and urine to show a presence of glucose. As a cat become frightened the body reacts by releasing glucose energy into the bloodstream, which would allow the cat enough energy to run away from the frightening situation. Therefore, the vet may choose to perform a urinalysis and blood tests for a few days to make a positive diagnosis. He or she may also choose to perform a fructosamine blood test, as this test in not altered by a cats stress level and can indicate the average blood glucose levels over a weeks time. 



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