We humans and cats have something in common when it comes to diabetes and that is the fact that there is only one cause. Diabetes in cats occurs when your cat’s pancreas stops producing the hormone insulin, just like in humans.
We humans can develop diabetes as children or young adults. This used to be called juvenile diabetes but is now known as Type 1 diabetes. Then, if we develop diabetes as adults, it is called Type II diabetes – which is the kind of diabetes that cats and dogs develop.
Type II or diabetes mellitus, the kind that is most likely to affect your cat, can be caused by environmental factors such as age, obesity, male gender, neutering, drug treatment, physical inactivity, and indoor confinement. Diabetes in cats can also be caused by a steady diet of high carbohydrate cat foods.
Symptoms Of Diabetes In Cats
Unfortunately, it’s very hard to know that your cat has diabetes because, in the early stages of cat diabetes, it will remain active and alert and show few symptoms. The surest symptoms that your cat may have diabetes are a sudden weight loss or gain, accompanied by excessive drinking and urination. For example, you might notice that your cat has become obsessive about water and lurks around its water bowl or faucets. Or the cat may suddenly become either ravenous (eating up to three times normal) or lose its appetite entirely.
As the disease progresses, your cat may develop poor skin and hair coat, liver disease and even some secondary bacterial infections.
Diagnosing Diabetes In Cats
If your cat shows any of the symptoms listed above, you must get it to a veterinarian immediately. This is because diabetes in cats, if left untreated, will shorten your cat’s lifespan. It may even develop a dangerous, sometimes fatal condition called ketoacidosis.
Your vet will diagnose cat diabetes based on a physical examination of the cat, lab test results, and if the cat persistently shows abnormally high levels of sugar in the urine and blood.
If Your Cat Has Diabetes
If your vet does determine that your cat has diabetes, your first feelings will probably be shock and fear – for your cat’s well being. The good news is that cat diabetes is treatable and that your cat can live a normal, healthy life for many years.
The bad news is that diabetes in cats takes a strong commitment on your part to care for a diabetic cat. You will need to give it medication daily, make sure it has the right diet and monitor its behavior. In short, your cat will now require a lot more than just setting out its food and water, and cleaning its litter box periodically.
You will also need to have a good working relationship with your vet. While your vet does not have to be an expert in treating a diabetic cat, he or she should have experience in treating diabetes in cats. You will have a lot of questions about treating your cat. So, it’s important that your vet knows your cat and the various cat diabetes treatment options.
Treating Diabetes In Cats
If your cat does have diabetes, you may spend $200 to $300 for the initial diagnosis and hospitalization. Expenses will still be high during the first weeks or months after the diagnosis, as your vet and you work to regulate the diabetes. This means taking your cat in for a few check-ups as these are essential to determining how your cat is doing and what, if any, changes need to be made to its medications.
After the first few months, when the diabetes is under control, your costs will decrease dramatically. The cat diabetes supplies you will need to treat your cat should cost no more than $30 to $40 per month. This will likely include syringes, insulin and, perhaps, a prescription diet.
You may also want to monitor your cat’s urine glucose and the test strips you will need usually cost less than $10 for 50. Or you could use blood glucose testing to see how your cat is doing.
Diet For A Diabetic Cat
What you feed your diabetic cat is also critical to its diabetes treatment. In fact, in many cases, just changing your cat from a high carbohydrate diet to low carb food may be enough to get your cat off insulin treatments entirely. The thinking behind this is that low carb diet reduces the amount of insulin needed by your cat and keeps the variations in blood sugar low. But do not stop the insulin treatments until your vet agrees they are no longer required.
Low Carbohydrate Cat Foods
The highest carb cat foods are normally dry foods or kibble. You can switch your diabetic cat to a low carbohydrate diet simply by changing to a “wet” food. If your cat is used to kibble, it may initially refuse the new food. In this case, you will need to “wean” your cat onto the new food by adding a little more of it to the kibble over a period of time until you are feeding it nothing but the “wet” food.
Many of the popular brands of canned food have versions that are low in carbohydrates. Examples of these foods include Fancy Feast Tender Beef Feast (brown label color), Tender Beef & Liver Feast (magenta) and Tender Beef & Chicken Feast (red). Friskies sells low carb Chicken and Tuna Dinner, Fine Cuts with Chicken in Gravy and Country Style Dinner. And Special Kitty (the Wal-Mart band) has Special Kitty Chicken Dinner, Special Kitty Cod, Sole & Shrimp, and Special Kitty Flaked Tuna. Of course, there are many other cat foods that are low in carbohydrates but it is very difficult to tell which ones qualify. This is due to the fact that manufacturers do not list this information on their labels. In fact, about the only way to learn which foods are low in carbs is by going on the Internet to Janet and Binky’s Canned Cat Food Table at http://www.geocities.com/jmpeerson/CanFoodNew.html.
Cat Diabetes Is Bad But Not Terrible
If you cat develops diabetes, it is bad news. You will need to make sure that your diabetic cat gets its daily medications and will need to monitor its behavior and the glucose in its urine, You will also need to take it in for a checkup periodically – maybe every six months. But it’s not terrible. With good monitoring and proper treatment, you and your diabetic cat can enjoy many more great years together.
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