Home Monitoring of Diabetic Cats

By: Just Cats Veterinary Services | Published 06/15/2020

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Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder inducing loss of regulation of blood glucose (blood sugar). It is caused by decreased insulin production in the pancreas or decreased response/sensitivity to insulin. In cats, decreased sensitivity to insulin is the more common cause of diabetes. As with humans, obesity is a major risk factor for the onset of diabetes in cats.

The rising incidence of feline obesity over the last 20 years has led to an increased incidence of diabetes mellitus in cats. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reported in 2009 that 58% of cats were overweight or obese. Studies show that in 1970 the incidence of diabetes was approximately eight cases per 10,000 cats, increasing to 124/10,000 in 1999, or over 1 in 100 cats. Ad lib (free) feeding of high calorie, highly palatable diets to cats with decreasing exercise demands is largely responsible.

Close to 90% of new diabetics can obtain remission of their disease with insulin therapy, diet and weight control, along with addressing any disease processes that decrease the body’s sensitivity to insulin such as dental disease, pancreatitis, or other infectious and inflammatory diseases. However, many cats require insulin therapy for life and there are risks of serious complications associated with having blood glucose that is either too high or too low.

Home monitoring of the blood glucose by the owner is an effective means to treat the diabetes while preventing hypoglycemia (too low blood glucose). This requires a portable blood glucose monitor and glucose test strips. A tiny drop of blood is collected from the inside of the ear or a paw pad and the time of the day, as well as the number of times per day for testing will depend on how well regulated the cat is. This will be discussed and recommended by your veterinarian and may change during times of stress or illness.

Most cats are very tolerant to the small lancet that is used to collect the blood sample and, though you may be intimidated initially, most owners indicate that once perfected testing of blood glucose and administration of insulin is much easier than administering oral medications.

Test results at home tend to be more accurate because of decreased stress in the home environment and the ability to test on multiple days while avoiding lengthy trips to the veterinary hospital. This in turn decreases the costs associated with managing a diabetic cat.

Here is a technique for collection (it may take a little while to download); however, your veterinarian will typically schedule appointments to instruct you on the use of your home monitoring system.

Adjustments may need to be made in testing and insulin dosing and visits to the veterinarian and consultations with your veterinarian will be required at times. However, by learning to monitor at home you can improve the health and welfare of your cat.

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