Diabetes In Cats and Dogs

A Tender Moment

This post was originally published on my first blog, Tyler’s Tails, as “Tyler Has Diabetes” on November 17, 2011. It is important information that every pet parent needs to know. Both dogs and cats can become diabetic. Please learn the warning signs.

Tyler Has Diabetes

About a year after Tyler adopted me a spider bit him. The vet used steroids as a part of his treatment plan. Tyler took a long time to recover from the spider bite. During his treatment, I noticed he drank significantly more water than normal during a 24 hour period. I used a clumping litter in his litter box so when I scooped it was easy to see that his urine balls had become larger, the size of a softball. He was constantly hungry, so I fed him more. Despite this, he was noticeably skinnier. No one had any idea that he was pre-diabetic. Did the steroids trigger or have any part in Tyler becoming diabetic? My vet explained that the steroids caused his blood sugar levels to increase, which is a bad thing for humans and animals who are pre-diabetics or diabetics. Repeated steroid injections over the course of his treatment steadily raised his insulin levels. The first time the vet tested him, his blood sugar was a shocking 560, which is way above normal for a cat. My vet immediately put together a treatment plan for Tyler.

I bought a blood glucose meter, test strips, and lancets to track his blood sugar levels. Testing a cat’s blood means collecting a blood sample from their ear. It is sometimes difficult to get enough blood, so my vet recommended getting a blood glucose meter that required the least possible amount of blood needed for the test. I found it difficult to do, Tyler hated it. But with the help of my mom we persevered and were able to track his glucose levels over several days. Having information on his high and low blood sugar levels helped my vet calculate the amount of insulin Tyler needed each day.

He required injections twice a day. The injections were a difficult at first. There was a lot of blood and tears (mine in both cases) and a lot of stress (Tyler’s and mine). Eventually, we developed a method that left us both calm and able to complete the process quickly. Every cat is different but what Tyler preferred was for me to give him his favorite pouch food, he ate it while I gave him the injection. This method left me with both my hands free to work and him in a stationary spot with a distraction. I gave him the injections in the scruff of his neck which is less painful for cats than injections in the hip or other spots.

Don’t be discouraged if the routine of caring for a diabetic cat is difficult for both of you at first. Cats will adjust to the process and you will get better at testing and giving insulin. Tyler even realized that the insulin was making him feel better and asked for his shot if I was late giving it to him.

Signs Of Diabetes In Dogs and Cats

  • Excessive thirst – drinking far more than is normal for your pet.
  • Increased urination – this could mean accidents for cats and dogs. For cats – more and/or larger urine clumps in the litter box. For dogs – more trips outside and less time between trips.
  • Increased hunger while experiencing weight loss – a small or large change is enough to worry about.
  • Lethargy – unusually low activity levels and/or sleeps more than normal
  • Cloudy eyes in dogs
  • Doesn’t groom – cats will stop their normal grooming routine.
  • Thinning, dull, or dry fur

If you see that your pet (dogs or cats) is exhibiting any of these signs call your vet to arrange for a diabetes screening. Don’t delay! Early detection is important to your pet’s health. Pets are able to live long, healthy, happy lives when they’re diagnosed, treated, your vet develops a daily maintenance plan, and it’s administered faithfully by the pet parent. Regular follow-ups will be necessary with your diabetic dog or cat.

Quality of Life

Tyler lived with diabetes for six years. During that time, he had five diabetic storms, including the first one that led to his diagnosis. For the first five years, he was able to lead a happy, energetic, and normal life. We had many wonderful times together.

The last year was more difficult for Tyler. It came to the point where his diabetes couldn’t be controlled and I made the painful decision to euthanize him. Tyler ultimately made the decisions about his life; early on he fought bravely, at the end it was clear he no longer had the will to fight through the testing and trials of finding a new treatment plan. He was in a lot of pain. I don’t regret spending the money to treat him and take care of him. I do regret that perhaps I waited too long at the end to free him from the damage long-term diabetes had done to his body.

Not every case is as bad as Tyler’s. My vet told me that of the 300 cats she treated with diabetes at her practice (she only treated cats), Tyler’s was the worst and most complicated case she had seen. My mom knew a family who had a cat with diabetes, their cat led a wonderful life for almost seventeen years after diagnosis. No case is the same. Speak honestly with your vet about your pet’s symptoms and your financial ability to pay for daily treatments. More options are available all the time.

I’m sharing this because it is so important to diagnose and treat dogs and cats early. Diabetes is manageable. Learn the signs. If you see them, call your vet for an appointment immediately. Consider sharing your stories or tips about taking care of pets with diabetes in the comments.

A Tender Moment
photo credit: Stephanie A Tender Moment ~32/52~ via photopin (license)

Author: Jillian Pearl

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. As an adult, I moved to Denver, Colorado and continue to live there with my family. Over the years, I've had a variety of jobs, including lifeguard, OTR truck driver, and mechanical drafter. Currently, I am a caregiver for my mom, a blogger, and a contemporary romance author.

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