How Do I Care for a Cat With Diabetes?

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Q. My cat has been diagnosed as diabetic. How realistic is it for me to assume at-home care for him?

A. The thought of giving daily injections probably sounds scary, but the good news is that diabetes is a very manageable disease in cats. Diabetes occurs when the cat’s pancreas no longer produces the levels of insulin needed to permit the body’s cells to use glucose for energy, or when the cat's body becomes "insulin-resistant" and can't use the available insulin properly. Sugar builds up in the blood and urine, causing the kidneys to work overtime trying to rid the body of the excess sugar. The cat eats more and more, in an effort to get the fuel needed to survive.

However, with proper medical management, careful observation on your part and perhaps a change in diet, your cat can live a relatively normal life for many years. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you about your own cat, but here’s some general information that can help you care for a diabetic cat at home.

Diet

We now know that a change in diet can positively affect the course of diabetes and, in some cases, even help send it into remission. Studies have shown that diabetic cats who eat high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods are easier to manage and may sometimes even go back to normal, meaning they no longer need insulin injections. However, a diet change isn't an option for every diabetic cat, so talk to your vet before changing your diabetic pet’s food.

Insulin Injections

Daily insulin injections replace the naturally occurring insulin that the body is no longer making or can't use effectively. There are several types of insulin available for cats, and your veterinarian or a technician can show you how to give the injection properly. The needles used are small and fine, so many cats seem to barely feel them. Most cats tolerate injections without a fuss, especially if they are given a treat afterward. Some cats will even remind you that it’s time for their injection because they want that treat.

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