Just like in people — diabetes mellitus in cats can occur in the same way. This form of diabetes is sometimes called ‘sugar diabetes’ because of the presence of sugar in the urine. With this condition, the cells in the body cannot absorb the sugars which provide energy. This leads to a build-up of sugar in the blood. When the blood is filtered through the kidneys, the abnormally high level of sugar present in it cannot be reabsorbed, and so some is then lost via the urine.
The feeding habits of a cat will be affected when it is suffering from diabetes mellitus. In particular, it may show signs of wanting to drink more than usual as a result of the build up of sugars in the blood.
WARNING SIGNS OF DIABETES MELLITUS IN CATS
The most obvious symptoms of diabetes mellitus in cats are likely to be bad breath, increased thirst and weight loss in spite of an increased appetite. These symptoms can have other causes as well, but your vet will be able to determine whether diabetes is the underlying problem. A urine sample is usually taken in the first instance, followed by blood tests.
- Treatment can be given in the form of regular injections which will stabilise the cat’s blood insulin level, so that the cells will not be deprived of vital nutrients. These will need to be given for the rest of the cat’s life, prior to a meal, to keep its condition stable.
- If the problem is not too serious, it may be possible to control it with the correct diet: plenty of fibre will slow down the digestion of sugar from carbohydrates, thus keeping the levels of nutrients absorbed constant.
- If your cat develops diabetes she may have to have regular insulin injections for the rest of her life to keep the disorder under control. You will have to learn to adminster these yourself at home.
- Cats that are grossly overweight are more likely to develop diabetes mellitus. In mild cases, sufficient weight loss through dieting may overcome the problem without the need for regular insulin injections.
- If you are nervous about injecting your cat, you can practise using an orange and a syringe filled with water. Your vet will show you the technique.
- Ensure any jam jar that you use for a urine sample is spotlessly clean: even small deposits of sugar left in the jar will affect the test result.
- Canned or dry diets are recommended for cats with diabetes. Avoid using semi-moist foods which contain sugar as a preservative: these will only make the problem worse.
How can I get a urine sample from my cat?
The best way is to keep your cat indoors so that she has to use a litter tray. Line this with tinfoil rather than paper of any kind, and place only a little cat litter on the base at one end. Slope the tray slightly, so that hopefully, the urine will run off towards the lower corner rather than being absorbed by the litter. You can then tip it out carefully into a clean screw top container. Only a relatively small volume will be needed.
How should I feed my cat if she has diabetes?
Try to stick to one type of food for all your cat’s meals as this makes it easier to control the problem: if your cat’s diet is constant her insulin requirement will be approximately the same at all times. High-fibre foods such as pulses, beans and peas in the diet will also help. Diabetes mellitus is sometimes described as ‘starvation in the midst of plenty’ because of the inability of cells to utilise the sugar present in the bloodstream. The uptake of sugar from the blood is triggered by the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, lying close to the small intestine. In most cases of diabetes mellitus, the cause of the problem is a shortage of insulin.