Diabetes in Older Cats

Recently my cat was diagnosed with diabetes. This is my second diabetic cat! Both were over 8-years old. Is this just an unfortunate coincidence?

Perhaps because cats are living longer lives and many cats are overweight, the incidence of “sugar diabetes” or diabetes mellitus is becoming more commonly diagnosed in pet cats. It is likely that cats sharing a home and a lifestyle are equally at risk for the disease. Early signs of diabetes may be subtle and mild -- weight loss, increased hunger and thirst are examples. Blood and urine tests are necessary to diagnose the disease and most cats (once diagnosed and treated appropriately) live very normal lives.

Incidence and causes of diabetes in cats
Diabetes develops in about 1 in 100-200 cats1. An increased incidence of diabetes mellitus has been noted in Burmese cats in Australia and the UK. Diabetes mellitus can occur due to a deficiency of insulin or because of an inability of the body to respond to insulin2. Without insulin, the body can’t utilize glucose. In diabetic cats, excess glucose is eliminated by the kidneys, producing frequent urination. There is a need to compensate for the increased urination by drinking unusual amounts of water.

Pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, medications such as megestrol acetate (Megace), and some corticosteroids all have the potential to cause or mimic diabetes in a cat. Obesity is a predisposing factor for all cats, and Burmese cats may have a genetic predisposition. Male cats have twice the risk of females. At greatest risk are neutered male cats over 10 years of age and over 15 pounds in weight.

One possible reason that diabetes is more common in old cats is that, quite simply, they have been exposed to potential causes longer.

How can I prevent diabetes in my older cats?
A proper diet and regular exercise can go a long way to avoiding the development of feline diabetes. Aside from other negative effects, obesity is also known to contribute to insulin resistance.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


1. http://todaysveterinarypractice.epubxp.com/i/321264-may-jun-2014/15

2. Caninsulin.com http://www.caninsulin.com/diabetes-mellitus-cats.asp

Reviewed on:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Diabetes in Older Cats - pets

Diabetes in cats is generally nothing to worry about – this long-term condition can certainly be managed with treatment, and it doesn’t need to impact hugely on your pet’s quality of life. In fact, with a little extra TLC, your cat will be back on all four paws before you know it. They’ll probably be causing mischief, getting attention from visitors, and escaping trouble just as they used to!

If you have a cat with diabetes or simply want to find out more about the condition, read on to find out all you need to know, including the various cat diabetes symptoms to look out for.

Feline Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, or “sugar” diabetes, is a common disorder in cats, striking one in every 400. It is caused by the inability of the hormone insulin to properly balance blood sugar (glucose) levels.


Symptoms of diabetes in cats are similar to those in humans, including:

  • increased appetite
  • weight loss
  • lethargy
  • poor hair coat
  • excessive urination
  • weakness in the rear legs


Your veterinarian can determine if your cat is diabetic by checking blood, urine and clinical signs.


Diabetes is definitely treatable and need not shorten an animal’s lifespan or life quality. However, diabetes is life-threatening if left alone. Untreated, the condition leads to increasingly weak legs in cats, and eventually malnutrition, ketoacidosis and death. Early diagnosis and treatment by a qualified veterinarian can not only help prevent nerve damage, but in some cases even lead to remission so that the cat no longer needs injected insulin.

Treatment generally entails giving insulin injections once or twice a day, though in a small number of cats, diabetes may be controlled through diet and oral medication.

  • Diet is a critical component of treatment, and is in many cases effective on its own. It is becoming clear that lower-carbohydrate diets will significantly lower insulin requirements for diabetic cats. Carbohydrate levels are highest in dry cat foods, so diabetic cats are best off with a low-carbohydrate, healthy canned diet.
  • Oral medications that stimulate the pancreas and promote insulin release work in some small proportion of cats, but these drugs may be completely ineffective if the pancreas is not working.
  • A slow-acting dose of insulin injected twice daily, along with a low-carbohydrate diet, keeps the blood sugar within a recommended range for the entire day. Most cats do not object to injections, and insulin is very inexpensive.
  • Some people are reluctant to switch from pills to insulin injections, but the fear is unjustified the difference in cost and convenience is minor, and injections are more effective in almost all cases. Many cats are actually easier to inject than to pill.

Many cat owners are able to control their diabetic cat’s condition for years, and the animal leads a normal life. If you are willing to work closely with your veterinarian, you and your cat can have many happy years ahead.


Because diabetes is a chronic disease, no cure per se exists. However, that doesn't mean a diabetic cutie is relegated to a life of pain and suffering, or worse, to no life at all. With veterinary guidance, you might be able to successfully manage your older cat's situation.

Some common management methods including insulin therapy, protein-packed diet plans, and oral hypoglycemic medication. Speak in depth with the vet about the most appropriate options for keeping your fluff ball as happy and healthy as possible for the rest of his life, whether he has one more year or 10.

What are the symptoms of feline diabetes?

You might want to be a fat cat, but you sure don't want your feline to become one. There are a many reasons to keep your cat at a healthy weight, but avoiding feline diabetes may be the biggest.

Feline diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a common disease often found in older and overweight cats. Similar to diabetes in humans, feline diabetes occurs when there is not enough insulin (a hormone made in the pancreas) in the cat's body to balance out the glucose (sugar) in the cat's diet. In normal cats, food is broken down during digestion and the resulting glucose enters the bloodstream. Insulin is then released to regulate the blood's glucose levels. If your cat isn't producing enough -- or any -- insulin, he will become diabetic. And if too much glucose builds up in his body due to the lack of insulin, the disease can become dangerous and even life threatening.

So what symptoms should you look for? Begin by monitoring your cat more closely, especially if he's older or is overweight. Have you observed him drinking or eating a lot more than usual? Take note if his water bowl goes dry or his food dish empties faster than it used to -- especially if he's eating more and still losing weight. Another symptom to watch for is unusually frequent urination. All of these are key signs that his glucose levels are going unregulated -- the lack of insulin is preventing his cells from absorbing and getting energy from glucose, and the resulting excess glucose in his blood is making him thirsty. If you observe these symptoms, make an appointment to see your vet. She can run a laboratory test to check how much sugar is in his blood or urine and make a diagnosis.

According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, about 50 to75 percent of cats with diabetes need to receive insulin injections, and some may also be prescribed pills to help regulate their glucose levels. Crucial to the treatment of diabetes is revisiting your cat's diet. You'll need to work with your vet to change and watch his diet, feeding him smaller portions of foods specially designed to help his body handle sugar. Monitoring his food and water intake, waste output and weight will be important in making sure his diabetes is properly treated. Some trial and error might be necessary in finding the best treatment for him, so call your vet right away if your cat's symptoms return.

Although there isn't a cure for diabetes, some cats -- even after just a few months -- will stop needing insulin. This is most common in overweight cats that lose their extra weight -- the cat's pancreas can once again supply the amount of insulin his body needs.

Diabetes is a challenging disease to deal with, and it's best prevented by keeping your cat at a healthy weight. However, with good monitoring and care a cat with diabetes can live a long, happy life.

Watch the video: Signs of Feline Diabetes

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