Managing cat diabetes just got easier thanks to the exciting new Diabetes Educational Toolkit developed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP).
In a phone interview with AAFP president elect, Dr. Kelly St. Denis, MSc, DVM, DABVP (feline practice) Charing Cross Cat Clinic, Brantford, Ontario, Canada, she shared details about managing cat diabetes and how beneficial the toolkit can be to both veterinarians and cat caregivers.
The toolkit allows veterinarians to quickly access information about managing cat diabetes without having to search for information through the Internet. With so much information online, finding and knowing if it is reliable can be challenging. As the toolkit was put together by AAFP Board certified specialists, veterinarians know they can rely on it, and it will give them access to the most up to date information available. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, she said.
This blog post is for informational and educational purposes. If you think your cat may have diabetes, consult with your veterinarian.
Management and treatment of feline diabetes is often perceived as a very complicated process as each cat requires an individualized plan, which includes frequent reassessment and adjustments to treatment as needed. Additionally, diabetic cats are often challenging to diagnose, treat, and monitor. Diabetes mellitus is not always a straightforward diagnosis.
To help with this process, the kit has sections on diagnosis, treatment, remission strategy, troubleshooting, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and client resources.
Information on managing cat diabetes can be easily downloaded, and shared with the cat owner. Vets can even put together an entire booklet with details needed to develop a treatment plan for cat caregivers that works for them. According to St. Denis, developing the plan is key for the cat’s well-being. There’s no one-stop answer, and that’s why it’s so important for the veterinarian and cat caregiver to closely work together to find what works.
The plan may include modified diet, a weight-loss plan, and insulin therapy. People tend to panic when they think of giving their cats insulin shots.
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Additionally, she said the diagnosis can be tricky as cats can let a lot of sugar into their bloodstream when they are under stress. That can lead to an elevated glucose reading which may make it appear the cat is diabetic. When they review the blood test, she explained your veterinarian is looking for repeated abnormally high levels of blood glucose, referred to as hyperglycemia, and the presence of glucose (sugar) in the urine, referred to as glucosuria. To develop a concrete diagnosis, you may be asked to bring your cat back to be re-tested.
Once a diagnosis is made, the cat caregiver must make decisions on what treatment plan works best for them and their cat. Factors like time commitments, lifestyle (working long hours or travel), and cost come into play.
For the cat caregiver, there’s looming questions like:
Managing Cat Diabetes not complicated
- What happens if my cat is diagnosed with diabetes?
- Now that my cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, now what?
- Is my cat going to die?
- Am I going to have to give my beloved kitty insulin shots?
- How can I tell if my cat is getting better or worse?
- How do I change my cat’s diet without hurting the other cats in the house?
- As I travel a lot, how can I be home to manage my cat’s diabetes?
- With no pet insurance, how am I going to afford to pay for the treatment?
- Can I go on vacation, and leave my cat alone for a few days?
- What happens if I miss a dose of insulin?
The kit answers many of these questions, and gives cat caregivers insight into what options are available for managing cat diabetes in layman terms. It also provides the latest information from the field as it is coming from AAFP.
Feline diabetes is on the rise
Estimates say somewhere in the range of 1 in every 100-200 cats will become diabetic. Most diabetic cats develop Type II diabetes where there may be enough insulin available in the body; however, the cells of the body don’t respond well to it.
What is feline diabetes?
AAFP defines Feline diabetes, known as diabetes mellitus, as an increasingly common condition in cats that often occurs in cats that are overweight and/or older. As in humans, cats have a pancreas that should produce insulin to regulate the sugar (glucose) in their bodies from their diet. Diabetes occurs when a cat’s body is not able to properly balance out the sugar in their bloodstream.
Much of the rise in diabetes in cats is cats due to inappropriate diets with too many carbs, overfeeding, and sedentary (inactive) lifestyles, St. Denis said. With diet, both calories and carbs come into play. While cats are obligate carnivores (meat eaters) and have no desire for sweets or sugar, a certain amount of carbs is needed to make dry kibble, and that can exacerbate obesity. St. Denis encourages putting more canned food into the cat’s diet. The quality of the food can also be an issue.
Other factors that could put your cat at higher risk for developing diabetes include:
- Over seven (7) years of age
- Overweight or obese
- Taking medications such as corticosteroids
- Other conditions happening at the same time, such as infection, hyperthyroidism, and/or renal issues
- Weight loss
- Drinking more water than normal
- Drinking from unusual places
- Begging for food/increased appetite
- Decreased ability to jump
- Walking on heels instead of toes (known as “plantigrade stance”)
- Lethargy or decreased activity
- Urine is sticky or difficult to clean
- More frequent urination or urination outside of litter box
If your cat is displaying some of these symptoms, you should take your cat to the veterinarian’s office for a thorough physical exam and laboratory testing of both blood and urine.
Diabetes can be managed through a combination of diet, weight loss, and insulin therapy.
St. Denis explains an important part of the treatment plan is monitoring your cat’s response to the insulin and making adjustments as needed. There are three different monitoring protocols – intensive, standard, and loose.
There are various ways to monitor a patient’s response to insulin and determine dose adjustments. The method(s) used should be tailored to best meet the needs of both the cat and the owner.
- Intensive: This protocol may be considered in a patient with a good likelihood of diabetic remission. The owner must be willing to monitor the cat closely and be able to follow directions. BG is checked at home three times a day
- Before each insulin injection
- 6-10 hours after the morning dose
- Insulin dose is adjusted as necessary
- Standard: This protocol supports, but does not require, at-home BG monitoring and is a suitable choice for many diabetic catsR. echeck examination in clinic 5-10 days after starting insulin
- Loose: This option relies primarily on clinical signs (water intake, urination) and body weight to make insulin adjustments. This protocol may be a suitable choice if the owner’s time or resources are limited
St. Denis said many diabetic cats can live happy and normal lives. To help your cat live a long life:
- Maintain recommended checkups
- Work to keep their blood sugar level stable
- Strive to maintain a healthy body weight
- Manage other diseases
You are a key part of your cat’s diabetes treatment plan, she said. Remember to be open and honest with your veterinarian about your ability to monitor and provide insulin therapy. Each cat is different and your veterinarian will work with you on an individualized healthcare plan for you and your cat.
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Have you ever had a cat with diabetes? If so, how did you manage? Did you work closely with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan? Please share your stories with our readers to help them learn from your experiences.