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Feline Diabetes Mellitus: An Owner Help Sheet

Diabetes mellitus is a condition where the body fails to control sugar (glucose) levels in the blood. Normally insulin a hormone that comes from the pancreas aids the transfer of the blood glucose to the body tissues. Diabetics do not produce sufficient insulin so the blood glucose becomes too high and spills over into the urine. The increased sugar in the urine draws out excess water meaning they urinate more and drink lots more.

As diabetes progresses we start to see other changes such as weight loss, eye damage (cataracts), kidney damage, hypertension and severe illness. The body is unable to use the glucose in the system, as it remains in the blood stream so it resorts to using alternatives such as fat. When fat is broken down, toxic by products called ketones are produced. These ketones lead to signs such as vomiting, appetite loss, lethargy, and possibly death.

By controlling your animal's diabetes with injectable insulin we can avoid the above effects and your pet can live a relatively normal life. Insulin treatment is normally a life-long commitment but the injections should quickly become part of your normal routine.

  • The key to stabilising any diabetic pet is to develop a regular routine. Without this then it can prove very difficult to achieve a good quality of life for your pet. Your individual vet will go through feeding and insulin requirements with you.
  • With feline diabetes we need to try to obtain a normal bodyweight. Many cats with diabetes are overweight, which hugely contributes to the problem. Often your vet will advise a specific diet to help stabilise the diabetes, it is important to try to stick to this. 
  • If you are having problems with any aspects of the treatment suggested please let us know. Often there are solutions to these difficulties
  • To help your vet make sense of your pets' condition and to improve stabilisation it is important for you to keep records so that we can advise the best treatment.
  • Charts are available from the surgery and will be provided with your diabetic information pack
  • Observations such as monitoring water intake can also be very valuable. It is also useful to record observations such as changes in appetite or demeanour.
  • At any point please do not hesitate to phone the surgery with any queries. We always have experienced nurses and vets on call 24 hours a day.

Below is a list of useful pointers to help you through the initial period when your animal comes home

  1. It is important to ensure that your pet is eating daily as directed. Keep the quantity and the type of food constant to try to avoid any fluctuation in your pets' insulin needs. Avoid all titbits.
  2. Once your pet is eating you need to inject the insulin. The insulin should always be kept in the fridge. Gently roll the insulin bottle to mix the contents. Never shake the bottle, as this will deactivate the contents. Draw up the required amount into the syringes provided. Ensure there are no air bubbles in the syringe and inject your pet in the loose skin at the back of the neck. 
  3. Try to vary the injection site slightly to avoid the skin becoming sore or thickened. Depending on the type of insulin you may need to give the injections once or twice daily. Keep the times of injection as regular as possible i.e. every 12 hours or 24 hours.
  4. Finally do not be tempted to re-inject if you think you missed the first time. It is much better to continue as normal at restart the insulin at the next set time.
  5. Giving too much insulin is potentially very dangerous and could lead to severe collapse.
  6. Never inject your pet with insulin if they are not eating.

Monitoring diabetes: Your vet is likely to want you to come in for reasonably frequent check ups initially after diagnosis. The frequency of these check ups generally reduces once we have managed to stabilise your cat on therapy. Please be patient during this time as it can take up to a few months to achieve the right dose for your pet. We monitor diabetic animals by weight checks, blood glucose checks and we will intermittently send off samples to external laboratories to assess control over the proceeding few weeks (fructosamine levels)

Things to Watch Out For

Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
Consistently negative glucose readings


Use hypostop or, feed or apply honey/glucose solution on to gums
Do not inject insulin
Phone vet
Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) signs
Excessive drinking and urination
Collapse and coma
High glucose readings
Positive for ketones


Phone Grove Lodge Vets for advice on 01903 234866