Diabetes mellitus is more likely to strike a cat in the later years than earlier in life (Cornell Feline Health Center, 1996). It has become so common that there are countless online resources available to supplement veterinary care through education, advice, and emotional support. The aim of this paper is to find the best of these online resources, sort them out and summarize them as to provide a quick and useful guide to the cat owner overwhelmed by the wealth of information on feline diabetes available on the Internet.
Please remember as you review this information that these resources are no replacement for veterinary advice and care. Diabetes is a serious and potentially fatal disease that must be diagnosed and managed by a veterinarian.
After a brief overview of feline diabetes, you will find links to websites divided into three categories: Those that provide a brief, general overview of the disease or a resource for further research, those that focus on management and treatment of the disease in detail, and those that are comprehensive and provide emotional support in addition to diabetes education. Support in this case may be via a discussion forum, message board or e-mail group where cat owners can ask questions and communicate with others online.
Feline diabetes is a disease of the endocrine (hormone) system (Pierson, 2005). It is characterized by a deficiency of insulin and the inability to process glucose. Insulin is a hormone that signals cells to take up glucose from the blood. When insulin is deficient, the glucose stays in the blood and the cells do not have enough glucose to use as energy (Price, 2005).
Many veterinarians believe that a high carbohydrate diet and obesity are the primary contributing factors to the development of feline diabetes. Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM (2005) states that cats require only 3-5 percent carbohydrates in their diet versus the 35-50 percent that most dry cat foods contain. She also notes that this high carbohydrate diet leads to obesity, which in turn contributes to insulin resistance by the body's cells.
Increased thirst and urination often accompanied by weight loss (despite eating well) are typical signs of diabetes (Feline Advisory Bureau, 2005). Urine and blood tests are necessary to confirm a diabetes diagnosis (FAB, 2005). The urine test will determine if glucuose is present in the urine (it should not be) and the blood test determines if blood glucose levels are normal. The normal level of glucose in the blood is 80-120 mg/dl (3.9-6.1 mmol/L) — or 250-300 mg/dl (13.8-16.5 mmol/L) following a meal or when the cat is stressed or excited (Animal Clinic, 2005).
Treating the diabetic cat takes dedication and personal and financial commitment. The goal of treatment is to keep the blood glucose levels in the normal range, or range they would be in if the pancreas were producing insulin normally (Price, 2005). Insulin injections are often prescribed to make up for the insulin deficiency. Another common approach is to switch the diabetic cat to a low carbohydrate diet, but this must be done with caution. Dr. Pierson (2005) warns that an overdose of insulin may occur if cats already taking insulin do not have their dose decreased. She claims that many cats no longer need insulin treatment after they have been on a low carbohydrate diet.
A necessary part of treatment includes monitoring. Monitoring involves weekly and sometimes even daily blood glucose and/or urine dipstick checks. Often these procedures can be done at home if one is comfortable performing them. Many veterinarians will train and encourage cat owners to perform "earpricks" and urine tests at home. The good news is that with proper treatment, diabetes is completely manageable and may even be "cured."
For a brief overview of feline diabetes or help with diabetes research:
For a detailed overview of feline diabetes including diabetes treatment and management:
For comprehensive feline diabetes education, treatment tools, and owner support:
Animal Clinic. (2005). Diabetes Mellitus in Cats. www.animalclinic.com/diabetes.htm
Cornell Feline Health Center. (1996). Feline Diabetes Brochure. www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/resources/brochure/diabetes.html
Feline Advisory Bureau. (2005). Managing the Diabetic Cat. www.fabcats.org/diabetes.html
Pierson, Lisa. (2005). Feline Diabetes and Diet: The High Carbohydrate Culprit. www.catinfo.org/felinediabetes.htm
Price, Rebecca. (1996-2005). Diabetes in Cats for Beginners. www.felinediabetes.com/dummies.htm