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Over the past decade, there has been a huge increase in diabetes in cats. Here at David Clare's, we successfully treat 25-30 cases per year. Rebecca Furth is our resident Diabetes expert at Three Bridges, Karen Smith is our experet at Gossops Green.
So what exactly is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is basically a lack of the insulin normally produced by the pancreas gland or resistance by the body to the insulin produced.
Insulin regulates glucose production, which is the vital energy source for the cells in every organ in the body, especially the brain.
What can cause diabetes in cats?
Overwhelmingly the most common cause [as in humans] is obesity and lack of exercise. Disorders of the pancreas and hormonal disorders can also lead to diabetes.
What are the symptoms?
[Advanced signs include vomiting/dehydration/anorexia]
Weight loss and increased thirst and appetite are seen in other disorders of old age in cats, so blood screening and urine tests are performed. High glucose levels in the blood and glucose in the urine usually confirm a diagnosis of diabetes.
How is diabetes treated?
Twice daily injections of insulin provide good control. This is given in the scruff of the neck, using a fine needle and syringe. Our nurses are very experienced in the training of owners to perform this task. We take care to spend time advising on how to follow this simple home care programme. In our experience both owners and cats easily adjust to the new routine.
Diabetes is also treated with special diets that control the uptake of glucose [often high fibre or high protein] but often we stay with the food the cat likes to eat as regular eating is very important.
The secret of successful management is home monitoring of glucose levels. We provide our clients with syringes, insulin and a sharps disposal bin [for used syringes] which we can dispose of through our regulated practice clinical waste system.
Monitoring is performed by using a veterinary [or human] glucometer. A tiny blood sample is obtained by pricking the cat’s ear. We prove clients with a form so that they can enter daily results, such as glucose levels, time of sampling and time of injections. This provides a glucose curve over the day. This information can be phoned in, faxed or e-mailed to us. We will advise over the phone if any adjustments need to be made [usually within 24 hours]. Home care obviously minimises the stress of bringing the cat into the surgery. Stress can easily increase blood glucose levels and give an artificially high reading.
For some cats [and owners] home monitoring is not an option and in those cases we will perform glucose curves at the surgery, or check a single blood test for fructosamine, to see if average glucose levels have been stable over the previous few days.
We are always happy to talk to our clients who have diabetic cats and help put their minds at rest if they have any problems.