Diabetes Mellitus

What is diabetes mellitus?
Diabetes mellitus is a complex but common disease in which a cat's body either doesn't produce or doesn't properly use insulin. During digestion, the fats, carbohydrates, and proteins that are consumed in the diet are broken down into smaller components to be used as food for the cells and one of these components is glucose.

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas, is responsible for regulating the flow of glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. When you eat, your blood level of glucose increases and your pancreas releases insulin to push this glucose in your blood into your cells. Without insulin, the glucose is not stored in the body cells but is leaked out into the urine and expelled from the body. Your cells feel they are starving because no glucose is being pushed into them.

When insulin is deficient or ineffective, the cat's body starts breaking down fat and protein stores to use as alternative energy sources. As a result, the cat eats more yet loses weight. Additionally, the cat develops high levels of sugar in the bloodstream, which is eliminated in the urine. In turn, sugar in the urine leads to excessive urination and thirst.

Thus you as the owner will see the following symptoms:
1. Increase in urination
2. Increase in drinking
3. Increase in appetite
4. Weight loss

While diabetes mellitus can affect any cat, it most often occurs in middle age, obese cats. Male cats are more commonly afflicted than females. The exact cause of the disease in cats is not known, although obesity is common to most diabetics. Also cats in captivity do not eat a natural diet. In nature cats will eat a high protein low carbohydrate diet and our commercial foods have fairly high carbohydrate content.

We will base our diagnosis on the symptoms and a blood and urine test.

Some cats may have been left by their owners until they are quite sick and are presented to me in a state of shock. These cases will required emergency life saving therapy.

Your cat will frequently be hospitalized in order to establish a correct dose of insulin. This may take a couple of days. In mild cases, we may send your cat home on a low dose of insulin and evaluate again in a few days. In some cases, it can be quite difficult for us to establish a correct dose of insulin to control your cats blood glucose. We currently are using special new generation insulin and we have even seen quite a few cases go into remission. We will teach you how to give your cat the insulin injection and also how to monitor your cats glucose levels at home. We will also advise you to change your cats diet to a special prescription diet that is low in carbohydrates.