Dietary management and daily injections of insulin can regulate
most diabetic cats, enabling them to lead
normal lives. The amount of insulin needed cannot be predicted based on the
cat’s weight, and must be established for each individual. It is important for
the success of initial therapy that the cat be hospitalized to determine his
daily insulin requirement. While in the hospital, a glucose curve will be
traced, using periodic blood samples to track how your cat responds to insulin
and how much insulin will be needed. Most cats need one or two injections a
day, and your veterinarian will show you how to give them. Luckily, the amounts
are very small, the needles are tiny and very sharp, and most cats tolerate the
subcutaneous injections with no problem.
Fructosamine (a test that gives an “average” glucose reading
over the previous two weeks, rather than at a single point in time) or periodic
blood glucose tests are done at the veterinary clinic to check the correct
insulin dose for your cat. At home, you may use special strips to check his
urine glucose, or even a special kitty litter additive such as Purina Glucotest
Feline Urinary Glucose Detection System, which changes color if there is
glucose in the urine. Many owners of diabetic cats do home glucose monitoring
using ear pricks and home glucose monitors made for humans.
First discovered in the 1960s, feline leukemia virus is a transmittable RNA retrovirus that can severely inhibit a cat’s immune system. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed causes of disease and death in domestic cats.
Because the virus doesn’t always manifest symptoms right away, any new cat entering a household-and any sick cat-should be tested for FeLV.
Cats who are on oral medications may eventually need insulin
injections. Oral drugs include glypzide, which enhances insulin production but
may be falling out of favor due to side effects, such as vomiting; acarbose, which blocks glucose absorption
from the intestines and shows promise; and troglitazone, vanadium, and
chromium, which make the cat’s body more sensitive to his own insulin.
Because insulin requirements vary with the diet, it is
important to keep the cat’s caloric intake constant from day to day. It is
equally important to maintain a strict schedule for insulin injections and
exercise. Cats require small amounts of insulin, so it is necessary to dilute
the insulin for accurate dosing. How to prepare and inject the insulin will be
explained to you by your veterinarian.
Many cats go through periods when the diabetes seems to correct itself, and they do not
require insulin. They may remain in this state of spontaneous remission for
varying periods before again needing insulin to control their diabetes. It is
important to regularly check the cat’s urine for glucose to assist in the early
detection of this transient nondiabetic state to avoid insulin overdose.
Dietary management: In the past, diabetic cats were placed on a
high-fiber diet that was thought to slow the absorption of nutrients, with the
goal of stabilizing blood glucose levels. However, recent research has shown
that this is not the ideal diet for diabetic cats. Because cats primarily
metabolize protein, not carbohydrates, for glucose, high-protein,
low-carbohydrate diets have proven to be more efficiently metabolized and of
great help in controlling diabetes. Prescription diets for diabetic cats that
fit this profile include Purina DM Feline, Royal Canin Diabetic DS 44, and
Science Diet m/d Feline. Some veterinarians also advise their clients to add
meat to the cat’s diet, and some prefer to avoid dry foods because a
carbohydrate source must be added to make the kibble. Consult with your
veterinarian for specific guidelines for your cat. Occasionally, an obese
diabetic cat responds to dietary management alone and does not require insulin
to keep his blood glucose well controlled.