my cat has diabetes

Your first vet visit: diagnosing feline diabetes
Your veterinarian can diagnose diabetes with a simple, in-office physical examination of the cat and laboratory tests, which will determine if there is an abnormally high level of sugar in the bloodstream and urine.

Your veterinarian may ask if your cat has exhibited any of the following symptoms, indicating a possibility of feline diabetes:

Understanding your cat's diagnosis
The food your cat eats is broken down into glucose during the digestion process. Glucose is the fuel that provides energy needed by the cells of the body to sustain life. As glucose enters the bloodstream, the cat's pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin is a hormone released in small amounts to properly balance the blood sugar (glucose) levels in the blood.

Feline diabetes is similar to human diabetes, and occurs when your pet either doesn't produce or is unable to process insulin, a hormone that helps regulate glucose or sugar in the bloodstream.

Just like humans, diabetic cats are diagnosed primarily with Type 2 diabetes.The types of diabetes in cats are based on the human classification system.

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 form of diabetes is defined as an absolute insulin deficiency. In this form, the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin to regulate the glucose in the bloodstream, leading to persistent high glucose levels in the blood. This type of diabetes is very rare in the cat.

Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes in cats, occurs when the cells in the cat's body don't respond to the insulin that is being provided. As a result, the cat becomes hyperglycemic (high blood sugar), which may lead to having excess sugar in the urine.

No test can differentiate between Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes in the cat.

Type 3 Diabetes
Type 3 diabetes is also less common and may occur due to other conditions (e.g., secondary to another primary disease which may damage the pancreas).

My cat has just been diagnosed with diabetes … now what?
Discovering that your pet has diabetes can seem overwhelming and scary especially since there is no cure. The good news is that feline diabetes is not a fatal diagnosis and with proper attention, your cat can live a happy and virtually normal life.

Learning how to monitor your cat's blood sugar levels will be one of the most important aspects of caring for your diabetic cat. Your veterinarian may run these tests in the hospital or may demonstrate how to test your cat's blood sugar levels at home, either through urine or blood sample testing.

Additionally, feeding your cat on a regular schedule will help prevent dips and spikes in the cat's glucose levels. Again, your veterinarian will discuss specific dietary changes and options to best fit your pet, your family and your lifestyle.

Finally, it's important to understand that you and your cat are not alone — the more you know about this disease, the easier it can be to manage. Our reference library provides links to additional resources and community blogs about feline diabetes to help keep you connected.

Hypoglycemia vs. hyperglycemia

Hypoglycemia is the medical term for low blood sugar. Diabetics have the opposite problem of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar.

Diabetic cats can develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when their diet and treatment is managed incorrectly. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

If your cat experiences symptoms of hypoglycemia it is recommended to contact your veterinarian for advice. In the meantime, you can try feeding the cat some of its normal food. If the cat is unwilling to eat, try encouraging the cat by offering a small amount of corn syrup on the food. In cases of extreme condition, contact your veterinarian and take your cat in immediately.

Hyperglycemia is when your cat's blood sugar levels are too high, resulting in the primary symptoms of feline diabetes, including:

Generally, hyperglycemia is not life-threatening and can be controlled through administering insulin. Your veterinarian will work with you to develop a regimen for testing and controlling your cat's blood sugar levels to avoid hypo- and hyperglycemia.