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Feline Diabetes On The Rise: What You Should Know
Dr. Julie Grimes, DVM

We are seeing more and more cats developing diabetes, which is the inability to produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar, or glucose. Two indisputable facts about this disease are:
1)    It’s largely preventable and unnecessary
2)    It’s a real challenge to treat for some owners
Fortunately, diabetes is also one of those diseases that 
benefits from early detection. Here are some of the reasons to test your cat early and often for diabetes:

One of the most interesting aspects of feline diabetes is its potential reversibility or remission, especially when diagnosed early. I’ve seen a large number of kitties gradually taken off insulin when treatment was started early. Research has shown up to 60% of cats will have diabetic remission within the first few months of treatment, reports Dr. Alice Huang of Purdue University. Good blood sugar regulation with exact insulin treatment, changes in diet and weight loss are instrumental in reversing diabetes in many of our feline friends! 

Picture of Hobo the cat

My advice is to have blood work and/or urinalysis at an annual checkup, twice a year for an overweight kitty.

There is severe and continuous damage throughout the body from long-term high blood sugar. The longer diabetes goes undiagnosed, the more damage occurs. This can be nerve damage (typically weakness in the rear legs), chronic infections (especially urinary tract and skin), and loss of muscle mass. Untreated diabetes can result in a life-threatening emergency known as diabetic ketoacidosis. Too many cat owners fail to see signs of this terrible disease until their pets have lost a significant amount of weight. Early diagnosis can prevent these problems and extend health.

The classic sign of “excessive thirst” is harder to detect in cats. A better sign to look for is more frequent urination and wetter heavier litter. If you suddenly notice you have to change the litter box more often, get your cat checked immediately! Also if your cat suffers from frequent urinary infections or inappropriate urination, be sure to have a screening for diabetes.

Unfortunately, fat kitties are at a much higher risk of developing diabetes than a lean cat. AAHA Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats support this fact. Diabetes is a disease commonly created at the food bowl. If your cat is obese or overweight, have him screened twice yearly. The great news is that when detected early and weight loss implemented, many cats go into remission!

The best reason to test your cat early and often for diabetes is to prolong a high quality of life. Too often we see a frail underweight kitty that could have been saved – a few pounds earlier. The American Association of Feline Practitioners also warns that an increasing number of cats are being diagnosed with diabetes. Don’t delay seeing your veterinarian if your cat is drinking or urinating more, has “accidents” in the house, suddenly changes eating habits, or inexplicably loses weight. Together we can help your cat live a long, healthy, and happy life!

Adapted from a post by Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM (

Hobo is our diabetic clinic cat.

Feline Diabetes

Altadena Valley Animal Clinic