Just as in people, cats are predisposed to diabetes, a medical condition triggered by the inadequate production of insulin, a hormone responsible for enabling cells to take up blood sugar. Also referred to as glucose, sugar accumulates in the blood and affected cats are unable to lead the healthy lives they’re supposed to enjoy. Diabetic cats develop increased drinking, increased urination, increased appetite, loss of energy and weight loss. While diabetic cats require veterinary assistance, there are several lifestyle changes you can encourage your cat to take to better manage the disease.
Keep Kitty Lean
Diabetes often affects cats that are overweight. Indeed, being overweight makes diabetes more difficult to control, explains veterinarian Lee R. Harris in the book ” The Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats.” To help your cat lose weight, cut down on feeding table scraps and consult with your vet for recommendations on feeding an appropriate quantity of food. Don’t go overboard all at once though; it’s recommended to reduce weight slowly and gradually.
Feed Smaller Meals
Your vet may also recommend feeding several smaller meals versus feeding a large meal all at once. Spreading the meal out in smaller portions helps even out the rate of glucose entering the bloodstream, explains veterinarian Lisardo Martinez. For cats, feeding four small meals a days can be ideal.
Switch to Canned
If you are feeding kibble, this can be problematic. To allow kibble to have shape, cat food manufacturers need to use some type of binder. This translates into using high levels of highly processed carbohydrates such as grains or high glycemic-index vegetables. According to Veterinary Practice News, switching to a low-carbohydrate canned or homemade diet brings immediate, significant improvement. However, extra caution should be used with cats on insulin. Insulin dosages must be reduced when cats are switched to low carb diets as insulin requirements will drop dramatically.
Keep Kitty Moving
It’s not unusual for cats to become bored and lazy when they’re left at home with not much to do. Diabetes in cats often affects senior cats who also tend to move less. In nature, cats would be frequently springing into action chasing critters if they want to eat a meal. You can encourage your cat to move more by enticing him to play more. Instead of feeding food from a bowl, scatter it around the home in different places so your cat must go hunting for it, let your cat chase a ball attached to a string, take your cat out on nature walks while wearing a harness. Exercise helps control weight, and the more your pet moves, the less insulin his body needs, explains veterinarian Lisardo Martinez.
Home Test Frequently
If your cat is on insulin, it’s important to learn how to test your cat’s blood glucose frequently so you can recognize early signs of trouble. With home glucose tests you can monitor if your cat is getting hypoglycemic or you can detect the early stages of diabetic ketoacidosis. Nowadays, there are several glucose meters for pets on the market so you can monitor blood glucose from the comfort of your home.
Keep Sugar Handy
When a cat is given insulin, there are times when the cat’s blood glucose may go dangerously low. It’s important to learn what to do in those cases. Always keep a source of sugar handy just in case. Whether you choose honey, pancake or Karo syrup, use it to rub on your cat’s gums until your cat stops shaking, suggests Dr. Martinez. After the episode, it’s important to see the vet as some cats may require intravenous glucose.
Watch the Nerves
Just as in people, diabetic cats are prone to developing nerve problems, a condition known as “diabetic neuropathy.” Affected cats may start having trouble walking which may show up as weakness in the rear legs, inability to jump up and walking on the hocks. The standard treatment for diabetic neuropathy is vitamin B12 which is also known as “cobalamin.” This vitamin can be given by injection at the vet, but is now also available under the form of an over-the-counter supplement known as Zobaline and made just for diabetic cats suffering from neuropathy.
Diabetes is a condition that, left untreated, worsens as it progresses. While using home remedies for diabetes in cats may seem tempting, consider that left uncontrolled for an extended period of time, diabetes can lead to a cascading chain of events. The cat’s body, deprived from insulin, will cause the cells to starve, therefore the body will start burning body fat in hopes of getting some calories to survive. When too much fat is burned, the body reaches a point where it starts producing ketones which drop the pH of the blood and trigger shock which can progress to diabetic ketoacidosis which can be deadly within a week.
The Bottom Line
Diabetes in cats can be dangerous, but with proper management and treatment, many cats can live long and happy lives. It’s therefore important to get that blood glucose under control with the help of your vet. While 50 percent of all cats with diabetes will require insulin, the remaining 50 percent have mild diabetes that can be controlled with diet and exercise, explains veterinarian Dr. Shawn Messonnier. Consult with your vet for the best approach for your cat.