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Diabetes in Cats treated by Diabetic Cat Care

Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats
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If your cat presents with any of the symptoms of diabetes in cats listed below, schedule a vet visit immediately. Feline Diabetes is a life-threatening medical emergency requiring immediate medical treatment.

  • Increased thirst (polydipsia)
  • Increased urination (polyuria)
  • Increased appetite (polyphagia)
  • Weight loss, despite eating more food
  • Poor coat (dull, flakey dandruff)
  • Behavioural and/or mood changes
  • Decreased appetite (anorexia)
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy, limpness and/or weakness
  • Weakness in hind legs, difficulty walking or jumping (Neuropathy)
  • Breath which smells fruity or like nail polish (DKA)
  • Breathing abnormalities Impaired vision (caused by cataracts)

Some of the symptoms of feline diabetes mentioned above can be the result of other serious medical issues. It is strongly recommended if your cat presents with these symptoms a physical exam including complete blood work and a full urinalysis be scheduled as soon as possible.

Diabetes in cats usually sneaks up on the owner. Cats seem to be able to physically tolerate higher than normal range BG better and for a longer time than most species, up to a point. It can take weeks or months for symptoms of Feline Diabetes (FD) to develop to where an owner realizes there is something wrong - sometimes even years if the FD is brewing at a low level. The cat may not show any of the classic signs of FD until chronic high blood glucose leads to sugar in the urine and it becomes a life-threatening medical emergency.

Drinking more water is usually the first symptom an owner notices; perhaps they find their cat seems to have a new fixation on dripping water taps, or even seeking out water from the toilet bowl. An owner may also notice their cat’s appetite has increased to being ravenous – for some cats to the point of wanting up to three times more food per day. Weight loss in spite of significantly increased food intake is also a symptom of diabetes in cats; as are an unkempt coat and flakey dandruff.

The cat may seem to be “off”, showing signs of lethargy, a lack of interest in play and avoiding family and favorite resting spots. Yet another symptom of diabetes in cats is the development of muscle weakness (Neuropathy) due to nerve damage – the cat may have trouble climbing stairs, jumping and getting in and out of the litter box. Increased urination is one more symptom of feline diabetes in cats and may cause inappropriate elimination in places that the cat would not normally do their business.

A life threatening condition called DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) can present very rapidly if a cat has not yet been diagnosed or treated for diabetes. DKA is a condition when severe lack of insulin causes the body to break down fat to use as energy creating ketones which build up in the blood and urine – the cat is literally metabolizing (breaking down) its own body fat and muscle to survive. Symptoms of DKA are extreme lethargy or limpness, full anorexia, dehydration, vomiting and/or diarrhea, rapid breathing and fruity/acetone smelling breath. DKA IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY requiring IMMEDIATE life-saving intervention by a veterinarian. Left untreated, ketoacidosis (DKA) can quickly lead to coma and death.

Feline diabetes is not a death sentence. If treated early and properly with insulin shots and species appropriate diet, many cats live long and happy lives even though they are diabetic. For more information on how to properly care for your diabetic cat, please join the Diabetic Cat Care forum.