Feline Diabetes

When you take a feline that is genetically programmed to consume high protein and low carbohydrates, and you put them on a high carbohydrate diet such as any commercial pet food, what happens is their insulin resistance works against them. Their blood glucose concentrations are too high.they can’t overcome that and they start to release more and more insulin in an attempt to reduce blood glucose levels. This doesn’t work, however, and the feline eventually develops type 2 diabetes mellitus. The feline gets amyloid deposition in the pancreas, exhaustion of the pancreatic cells, and glucose toxicity from consumption of large amounts of carbohydrates. We have found that a good balanced raw diet not only brings back your felines’ normal balance of glucose levels but gets rid of the excess weight created by a high carbohydrate diet.

If you check Anitra Frazier’s book “The Natural feline – The Comprehensive Guide to Optimum Care”, the first thing she mentions for diabetic felines is the raw diet. To me it only makes sense that diabetes is so common in felines because of the totally inappropriate composition of the vast majority of commercial feline food. To feed a diet that is mainly grain to an animal designed to eat almost none is asking for trouble. The poor kitty’s metabolism cannot tolerate it, creating millions of overweight, always hungry, felines. It becomes a rarity to see a feline with a normal weight and body build…seen primarily in outdoor felines that hunt. The pancreas is virtually worked to exhaustion in the unlucky feline fed grain-based diets, leading to, (among other problems) a high incidence of diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus is often called “sugar diabetes” and it comes in two types

Diabetes mellitus is a complex and common endocrine disorder in the feline. It is caused either by insufficient production of the hormone, insulin, by the pancreas (type 1 diabetes) or by inadequate response of the body’s cells to insulin (type 2 diabetes).

Feline diabetes occurs when the diabetic felines is not able to utilize glucose properly, they ultimately develop hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) and subsequent glucosuria (sugar in the urine). The glucosuria leads to polyuria (excessive urination) and polydipsia (excessive thirst). In spite of maintaining a good appetite, diabetic felines lose weight because the body’s tissues are unable to utilize glucose properly. Progression of the disease ultimately leads to further metabolic disturbances and causes vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, and dehydration.

Secondary Diabetes can be caused by drugs or diseases that either impairs the natural secretion of insulin, or its effects on tissues. Ovoban and corticosteroids are suspects, as well as hyperthyroidism and certain pancreatic conditions.

High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) develop because the animal’s (and humans) body is unable to break down and use glucose properly. This inability causes sugar to appear in the urine (glucosuria) that in turn causes an excessive amount of urination (polyuria). To compensate for the increase in urination the feline must drink an excessive amount (polydipsia). Another common side effect of feline diabetes mellitus is weight loss in a feline that has maintained a good or even increased appetite.

Although excessive drinking and urination are the most common symptoms, they are in no way the only ones. In addition to the weight loss, felines can also develop signs of poor skin and hair coat, liver disease, vomiting, weakness in the rear legs (diabetic neuropathy), secondary bacterial infections and dehydration. They can also develop a life threatening condition known as ketoacidosis. A feline whose diabetes is not regulated may become blind or have kidney problems develop as well.

The cause is so far speculated that heredity, obesity and the taking of certain medications increase the chances of a feline developing diabetes. Diabetes mellitus can affect any age, breed or sex of feline although it occurs most often in obese males.

What Are the Symptoms of Feline Diabetes?
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Loss of weight due to the body’s inability to handle glucose
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Poor skin and coat condition
  • Breathing abnormalities
  • Dehydration

How is Feline Diabetes Diagnosed? felines presenting with the above symptoms will be tested both for blood sugar levels and levels of sugar in the urine. The reason for both tests is that stressed felines (as is typical in the veterinary office) may have temporary increases of the blood glucose level. A veterinarian will first do a physical exam, and then run a number of blood and urine tests to diagnosis diabetes. The urine will be checked for specific gravity, which tells its concentration. Urine will also be checked for glucose (sugar), the presence of blood, ketones, creatinine levels and several other liver/kidney functions. The blood will also be tested for exact glucose and BUN levels as well as several liver, kidney and heart enzymes. The normal blood glucose level in felines is between 60 and 120. If an abnormally high glucose level is found, the feline is usually kept for several days while the levels are monitored every one to three hours. If the glucose levels continue to remain elevated the veterinarian will discuss treatment options with the owner. Once the feline has been regulated on its insulin or Glipizide, it will be sent home with special feeding instructions. These instructions will often include the reduction in diet to allow the feline to lose weight. Obesity is often a contributing factor in diabetes mellitus and by losing weight; the feline may even be able to come off the medication at some time. Proper care and monitoring of the diabetic feline will require an excellent level of communication between the caregiver and the veterinarian treating the feline The initial cost of hospitalization and regulation isn’t cheap. In fact it can run up into the hundreds of dollars but once regulated, most felines suffering from diabetes mellitus can live long and happy lives as long as the caregiver is willing to make the needed effort to control and monitor the blood glucose levels

How is Feline Diabetes Treated?

  • Diet and Weight Control : A diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates is recommended for obese diabetic felines, not only for the purpose of weight reduction, but to help control blood glucose levels. Your veterinarian can recommend the best form of diet for your feline, taking into consideration any other physical problems. A new food by Purina (DM), is sometimes recommended.
  • According to Dr. Mike Richards, felines and their abilities (or inabilities) to utilize complex carbohydrates. felines are different than dogs and have less ability to utilize carbohydrates, making the usual dietary recommendations for dogs, of increasing complex carbohydrates and fiber, less ideal for felines.
  • Stretching out feeding into several small meals instead of just one or two big ones will also help in regulating blood levels.
  • Insulin by injection : Your veterinarian will conduct an 18-24 hour blood glucose profile to determine the amount and frequency of insulin injections. This test is done in your veterinarian’s clinic, and consists of injections of insulin followed by close monitoring of the blood glucose values.
  • Oral medications : A diabetic feline in otherwise good health may be treated successfully using an oral hypoglycemic medication.
  • Careful monitoring of glucose and insulin levels : An overdose of insulin can create hypoclycemia, a potentially fatal condition. Symptoms are lethargy, weakness, followed by incoordination, convulsions, and coma.
  • This condition can be counteracted by giving the feline its normal food if it is able to eat, or a bit of Karo syrup rubbed on the gums, followed, of course, by a trip to the veterinarian. Some owners monitor their feline’s blood glucose level, using a “human” monitoring kit, which can help avoid the stress of regular trips to the vet.


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