Monday, March 15, 2010
Cats and Diabetes -- Part 1 of 2: Prevention
November 14 is World Diabetes Day. To support this global awareness campaign, we're devoting both this tip and next week's tip to feline diabetes. The bad news is that incidence rates are on the rise. The good news is that having the disease doesn't always mean the end is near for your kitty. Diabetes can often be prevented -- and if diagnosed early, treated. But more on treatment next week. First, let's talk about prevention.
Stop Diabetes Before It Starts
Diabetes develops when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin or when insulin loses its ability to regulate blood sugar. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Here are some common risk factors, a few of which you have control over:
Obesity -- This is the number one preventable risk factor and occurs in roughly 35% to 40% of cats, significantly increasing the risk of diabetes. Don't let your cat become overweight. If he already is, ask your vet about a safe, gradual weight loss regimen. Learn why rapid weight loss could be fatal to your cat.
Diet -- Studies suggest that a low-protein, high-carbohydrate, kibble-only diet may increase feline diabetes risk, whereas the opposite diet (high protein, low carbohydrate, wet food) may help prevent diabetes. Related research also suggests a protective benefit from a high-fiber diet, but more study is needed.
Lack of exercise -- Sedentary cats may be more prone to obesity and insulin resistance. Keep your cat active with daily play sessions and games like these.
Pancreatitis -- If your cat has pancreatitis, ask your vet about regular diabetes testing.
Age -- Diabetes occurs more often in middle-aged or older cats. Most cases occur in cats 8 to 13 years old.
Gender -- More male than female cats develop diabetes.
Genes -- Some cats may be genetically prone to insulin resistance.
Breed -- Burmese cats may be at higher risk than other breeds.
Other causes -- Hormonal imbalances, certain medications, and stress may also increase diabetes risk.
Cats and Diabetes -- Part 2 of 2: Home Treatment
Part 1, we explored the risk factors for feline diabetes, including those that are preventable. Part 2, we'll focus on how to tell if your cat may have diabetes and, if diagnosed, how to effectively treat it.
Diabetes in cats cannot be cured. But with patience and commitment, it can be treated at home, even if insulin injections are needed. It's easier and less expensive than you might think, and the benefits are dramatic. One study showed that nearly 85% of diabetic cats treated at home achieved diabetic remission, so they no longer needed insulin and went on to live long, healthy lives.
Watch for These Signs
Early diagnosis and treatment may up your cat's chances for diabetic remission. If you notice your cat doing any of the following, have his blood and urine tested right away:
Drinking all the time
Eating way more than usual
Losing weight, despite increased appetite
Having bad breath
Acting sluggish and lethargic
Explore Treatment Options
Not all diabetic cats need insulin injections, but between 50% and 70% do. If your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, ask your vet about the following in-home treatments:
Diet, exercise, and weight control. As with preventing the onset of diabetes, implementing these three factors, especially a low-carb/high-protein diet, is critical for managing high blood sugar and achieving diabetic remission.
Oral hypoglycemic medication or insulin injections. Some diabetic cats need oral medication only, but many others need insulin shots, at least temporarily. Some studies suggest that cats treated specifically with glargine (a type of insulin) may be most likely to attain diabetic remission.
*Note: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning on Vetsulin®, a different type of insulin drug. Read more about this FDA warning, and contact your vet immediately if your pet is being treated with this medication.)
In-home glucose monitoring. Because a cat's blood sugar changes with time and treatment, so will his need for insulin, making daily glucose monitoring vital. An accidental overdose of insulin can lead to extremely low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), a potentially life-threatening condition. Fortunately, in-home blood glucose monitoring is less expensive, more accurate, and way less stressful for your cat than in-clinic monitoring.