Diabetes is a disease that affects the production of the hormone insulin in the pancreas. Glucose, which is a sugar, is one of the main sources of energy for most cells in the body. When food is digested it releases glucose into the blood stream and stimulates the production of insulin.
The insulin acts like a key, opening up the ‘doorways’ of the cells and letting the glucose in so that the cells can benefit from the energy. Unfortunately, when a human or an animal has diabetes there can be a lot of glucose in the bloodstream but the cells will remain ‘locked’. This is because there is a lack of insulin – or perhaps because something is preventing insulin from opening up the cells.
This results in an unhealthy amount of glucose in the bloodstream because it has nowhere else to go. The glucose levels rise and dangerous signs start to develop.
The Effect of Diabetes
If the glucose levels in your cat’s blood are too high, their kidneys will struggle to retain the glucose and it will escape into their urine. The extra glucose in the urine will drag water with it, which increases urine production and stimulates thirst. This is why it can be a sign of diabetes if you see your cat drinking and urinating more than usual.
Normally, a low level of glucose in the body stimulates the appetite. The body is receiving the signal that it needs more fuel, so the cat seeks out something to eat. You might notice that your cat has a ravenous appetite no matter how much they eat because they have plenty of glucose in their body but it isn’t getting into their cells so they still feel hungry.
What Happens if Diabetes Progresses?
If diabetes is not diagnosed and treated in your cat, it can cause damage as it progresses. The body will start to use fat as an energy source, which results in the production of fat breakdown by-products that are called ‘ketone bodies’. These by-products can be useful in the short term, but if too many of them are produced they can cause lethargy, vomiting, and weakness.
Signs of Diabetes in your Cat
There are certain signs of diabetes that you should keep an eye out for in your cat.
Hind leg weakness
If you have any suspicion that your cat has diabetes, it is important to talk to your vet right away. It most cases if feline diabetes is diagnosed early enough it can be managed very succesfully. Diabetes is mainly a disease if middle-aged cats and older, therefore it is key to keep an eye on your senior cat and their habits to watch for any signs.