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How to Manage Your Cat’s Feline Diabetes

cat with needle

You’ve just found out from your vet that the reason for the symptoms your cat has been having is because she’s diabetic. What do you do now? 

Even after working several years as a vet assistant and seeing many diabetic kitties, to find out that my own cat had this illness was honestly scary. I didn’t get to just help treat him and send him on his way, treatment would be part of our daily lives now. 

It really is different when they’re yours. Luckily, feline diabetes is very manageable, even if it seems daunting at first. 

Managing Your Cat’s Blood Sugar

The first consideration when managing your cat’s diabetes is how to manage your cat’s blood sugar. 

As with people, the most frequently used treatment is injectable insulin. There are oral medications for diabetes that will work somewhat well in some cats, but insulin is the gold standard. 

The thought of giving shots to your cat is not a pleasant one, but with time and practice it gets easier. Keep in mind that insulin syringes have extremely thin needles, and some cats barely notice the injection, especially if distracted with a treat appropriate to their diet or with someone else giving them attention. 

Insulin is given usually every 12 hours, though varying by an hour or so shouldn’t affect treatment. Different types of insulin are available, and your vet can go over the pros and cons of each type. 

The type of syringe you use will depend on the insulin type. You will most often use U-100, but you can also use U-40. The numbers simply show how many units of insulin (which is how it’s measured) are in one milliliter of liquid. 

Injections are given just underneath your cat’s skin, and your vet staff will demonstrate this for you. 

cat with needle

What Should Your Cat Eat When They Have Diabetes?

What your cat eats will play a big part in managing their diabetes. A low carbohydrate diet can help better regulate blood sugar. 

This is most easily done by feeding your cat wet cat food, which is naturally lower in carbs, but even if your cat is a dry food junkie, they can still get better. You may be able to convert them to wet food, or you may not. 

Prescription diets are available through your vet, and they can talk with you about options for feeding your “extra-sweet” cat. If your cat is overweight, your vet or veterinary nutritionist can help guide you through a gradual weight loss plan. 

When your cat eats is not as important as what they eat. Feeding your cat only every 12 hours with or after their insulin used to be the recommendation, but recent information has shown that this isn’t as important, so it’s no longer the common recommendation. 

cat with clock

Monitoring Your Cat’s Blood Glucose Levels

Monitoring your cat’s blood glucose levels is necessary to see how their body is reacting to treatment, so that medication levels can be adjusted to the right dose. 

Watching symptoms (such as how much your cat drinks and urinates) can help provide a clue as to whether they’re responding well to medication. Ideally, though, their blood needs to be tested to see if the glucose level is lowering toward a more normal number, as well as catch any drop in blood sugar. 

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is more immediately dangerous to your cat than hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). You may want to initially have glucose checks done at your vet’s office, then learn to check them at home. 

Home testing is a great tool if you and your kitty can manage it.

Can Your Cat Live with Diabetes?

Diabetic cats (unlike diabetic dogs) have the potential to go into remission from diabetes and no longer require insulin therapy. This won’t necessarily happen with every cat, but early treatment and careful management can make it more likely. 

Whether your cat achieves remission or not, treating diabetes can help them spend more happy years with you. 

Book an appointment today to speak with a vet about caring for your cat with diabetes. 

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