The feline diabetes crisis: how can owners tackle this worrying trend?
By Rachel Mulheron, helpucover
There’s no doubt about it – the UK is a nation of cat lovers with the latest statistics estimating that there are around 7.5 million cats as household pets and this figure is rising every year.
It is estimated that one in every 100-200 cats are diabetic compared to one in 16 people. It seems that dangerous health trends impacting UK consumers, like poor diets, overeating, weight gain and low levels of physical activity are now affecting our cats too!
Pet owners need not become too worried though, as the condition is treatable, and if managed properly, will not impact on your cat’s quality or length of life.
What is feline diabetes?
Diabetes Mellitus is a lifelong condition that affects many species of animals, including cats. It is caused by the inability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin. Insulin deficiency causes blood glucose levels to rise and the body can no longer use glucose as a source of energy.
Is my cat at risk?
Feline diabetes is very similar to Type II diabetes in humans and is only very rarely a result of an immune disease (Type I diabetes). It is most common in older cats, with the risk increasing if the animal is neutered and/or overweight.
You can reduce the risk of your cat developing diabetes by keeping them at a healthy and consistent weight, ensuring they’re physically active and being alert to any sudden changes in your cat’s behaviour or build.
How to spot the symptoms
Depending on whether a cat is experiencing high or low blood sugar levels, symptoms will be different so to help, we’ve listed some of various signs to watch out for below:
High blood sugar levels:
- Overeating or disinterest in food
- Muscle weakness or tiredness
- Loss of coordination
- Reduced eyesight
Low blood sugar levels:
- Increased thirst and appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Increased urination
Symptoms can differ in severity and combination. However, if you notice any of the above changes in your cat, it’s best to take them for a professional check-up as soon as possible. A vet can diagnose feline diabetes in a simple physical examination and by doing blood/urine tests.
Once a cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, the underlying causes will be explored and the best course of treatment decided. If diabetes is a side-effect of treating a secondary health problem, this treatment should be gradually withdrawn and replaced with an alternative.
The most effective treatment is the use of insulin injections daily or twice daily. Cats will not find this painful and your vet will provide support and advice to ensure the safe administration and storage of the insulin.
Feline diabetes can also be managed through diet and normalising bodyweight. This can be achieved through reducing calorie intake and increasing exercise levels – ask your vet for tips!
Normally, a last resort is the use of oral drugs. You can only get these on prescription from a vet and they will explain the best ways to get your cat to take them.
As this is usually a life-long illness, a reliable pet insurance plan can assist with covering the cost of vet fees and treatment for diabetes.
The bright side
The majority of cats who develop diabetes live long and happy lives if diabetes is recognised early enough and treated effectively. So keep an eye on your cat’s overall health, look out for any behaviour or body changes, and make sure you are registered with your local vet in case any health problems arise.