Understanding feline diabetes – Diabetes is a condition most often associated with humans. But this potentially debilitating disease can even affect pets, including the family cat. The potential dangers faced by cats with undiagnosed cases of feline diabetes makes it imperative that cat owners understand this disease and how to recognize it.
Feline diabetes can greatly affect cats’ quality of life. The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine estimates that between 0.2 and 1 percent of cats in the general population suffer from feline diabetes. While that’s a low number, the potential dangers faced by cats with undiagnosed cases of feline diabetes makes it imperative that cat owners understand this disease and how to recognize it.
What is diabetes?
The cells in a cat’s body require sugar in the form of glucose for energy. Glucose in the blood requires the hormone insulin, which serves as something of a key that unlocks the doors to the cells, making them capable of employing the glucose for energy. The insulin attaches to the cells and lets the body know when to absorb the glucose. That process is essential for muscle function. When a cat has type 1 diabetes, glucose concentrations are high because of a decrease in insulin production. Type 2 diabetes, which is more common among felines than type 1, occurs when glucose levels are high because the cells are not responding to the insulin in an appropriate way.
What are some signs that may indicate the presence of feline diabetes?
Diabetes deprives the body of a necessary energy source, so when cats are suffering from diabetes, be it type 1 or type 2, weight loss is likely to occur. That weight loss occurs because cats’ bodies will turn to sources other than glucose for energy. In these instances, the body breaks down fats and proteins, resulting in weight loss. The CUCVM notes that this weight loss occurs even though cats’ appetites increase.
Excessive thirst and urination is another potential indicator of feline diabetes. Cats’ bodies respond to elevated levels of glucose in their blood by excreting excessive amounts of the glucose in their urine. That high concentration of glucose in the urine pulls excessive amounts of water into the urine. According to the CUCVM, this results in increased urine volume, increased urinary water loss, a higher likelihood of dehydration, and an increase in thirst.
Some cats experience nerve damage in their hind limbs as a result of feline diabetes. However, the CUCVM notes that this is a rare occurrence.
Cat owners who suspect their cats may be suffering from diabetes should report their concerns to their veterinarians immediately. Treatment can be very effective and restore quality of life to cats.
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