“My name is Max and I have a disease called Feline Diabetes. People say that I’m the classic example of the 1 in 400 cats that will develop diabetes during their lifetime: I am part Burmese, I’m a boy and I’m a little bit past middle age. My humans call me a special needs cat because I get an insulin shot twice a day and eat a special diet, but I don’t mind because basically I am a happy guy.”
Diabetes is a common disease in cats. Max and I would like to take you through some of the signs and symptoms of the disease and share a few tips for caregivers. (This story is meant for informational purposes and is not intended to replace the diagnosis and treatment prescribed by your veterinarian. If you think your cat may have this disease, please make an appointment with your veterinarian.)
What is Feline Diabetes?
There are three types of diabetes diagnosed in cats. Each of them have to do with the production of insulin in the pancreas and a cat’s ability to efficiently metabolize it. Insulin allows glucose enter the cells of the body so it can be turned into energy. Without insulin, the body isn’t able to use the glucose and a cat’s blood sugar levels rise, putting stress on the kidneys and other organs. If the disease goes untreated it can ultimately become life-threatening.
- Type I – The pancreas does not produce enough insulin. These cats usually require insulin injections.
- Type II – The pancreas makes enough insulin, but the cat’s body isn’t able to use it properly. This is the most common type of diabetes. Some of these felines will need injections and others can be controlled with oral medications and changes to their diet.
- Type III – This form of the disease is called Transient Diabetes. It usually starts as Type II but over time the cat’s system is able to recalculate how to properly use insulin and treatment can be stopped.
Which cats are at risk?
While any cat at any age can develop diabetes, researchers have discovered that older cats have a higher risk. Other predisposing factors are: a senior cat who weighs more than 15 pounds and being a male cat. Male felines are twice as likely to develop the disease. There also seems to be a genetic predisposition for Burmese cats and sweet Max is part Burmese.
The signs and symptoms of feline diabetes.
Owners may first notice their cat eating more food. This happens because the cat’s body is trying to compensate for the inability to metabolize glucose. Owners will also notice their cat drinking more water, urinating more often and losing weight even though their pet has a big appetite. Soon after, pet parents may see a sharp drop in their cat’s appetite.
If the diabetes is not controlled or moves to a more advanced stage, owners may see changes that can be life-threatening. Cats may vomit, show signs of weakness in their hind legs, become dehydrated, develop a sweet smell in their breath and have difficulty breathing. Later, cats can become lethargic and fall into a coma.
Diagnosis and treatment tips.
Diabetes is diagnosed with a blood and urine test at a veterinary clinic. 70 percent of cats diagnosed will need to be treated with some form of insulin either as an injection or a pill.
While felines typically adjust well to their daily treatments, the burden for their care can be a dramatic change to pet parents. Owners must be available to regularly test their cat’s glucose levels, implement a new diet prescribed by their veterinarian and give oral or injectable medications.
Owners who choose to embrace the therapy are generally happy they did, because in a relatively short period of time they see how well their cat feels and acts.
Clinical trial available for cats with the disease.
Dr. Craig Webb at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital has a new clinical study for any cat that has been diagnosed with diabetes. The study is called A Novel Treatment for Feline Diabetes Mellitus and it hopes to determine if administering Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) helps cats with the disease. SOD is an enzyme that is found in all living cells that speeds up chemical reactions in the body. It is currently used in humans for removing wrinkles, rebuilding new tissue and reducing inflammation.
Each feline in the trial will receive free checkups and blood work pre and post treatment. This is a double-blind study so participants should be aware that their cat may receive a placebo. However, they may be eligible to receive SOD treatment after the research has been completed. If you are interested in enrolling email Dr. Webb at: email@example.com.
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