Diabetes is a well known chronic condition in humans as well as pets. In case of cats, it afflicts roughly one out of every four hundred animals. The particular disease I am going to discuss is Diabetes Mellitus, distinct from Diabetes Insipidus (a condition that affects the body’s ability to maintain normal levels of water). Diabetes Mellitus is a hormonal ailment that influences the metabolism of glucose. It is divided into two types, I and II. Type I is characterized by a decreased production of the hormone insulin from pancreas whereas Type II, uncommon in cats, occurs owing to the inability of body’s cells to uptake and consume glucose. At times there is a third type, Transient Diabetes, seen in cats in which the ailment comes and goes.
A disease of middle-aged and older felines, Diabetes occurs more commonly in male cats. Risk factors include obesity, diet, genetics and damage to pancreas. Clinical manifestations are increased thirst, diet and urination, weight loss, skin and hair changes and liver and kidney disease. There is lethargy, weakness of hind legs and wobbly gait. Often these, alongside urination outside the litter box, are the first signs that the cat owner may notice of this insidious illness.
Once the diagnosis is reached through analysis of urinary and blood glucose levels, treatment is initiated. In the majority of cases it involves a regimen of insulin injections. In Type II disease, oral hypoglycemic agents are given at times. Though this is rare and it is often easier for owners to inject their cats than feed them pills. Even though there is no cure for Diabetes, prompt and appropriate treatment ensures that the diseased cats live a normal and healthy life.
Diabetic cats are usually advised a prescription diet. It is important to feed the cats this at regular times through the day alongside the insulin dosage. It is equally significant to ensure that the cats get regular exercise. For if any of the three elements - insulin dose, dietary intake and exercise - are out of sync with each other, the glucose balance of the animal may be altered. In case there is doubt, it is always better to give less insulin than more, for the latter may cause an acute lowering of glucose levels leading to shock and unconsciousness. In this case immediately call your vet and try and swab some sugar-containing syrup onto the cat’s gums to raise the blood glucose. Never try to put anything down the throat of an unconscious animal. This may lead to aspiration and death. Remember that with attentive treatment and care, diabetic felines enjoy a normal span and quality of life.