Treating Diabetes in Cats

Tess Thompson

Diabetes in cats is treatable and normally has a good prognosis. Cats usually respond to insulin treatments and a low carbohydrate diet. If diabetes is detected early, treatment is usually successful in preventing nerve damage and in some cases, even remission. However, if left untreated it can lead to organ failure, blindness and even death.


In many cases, diet alone is able to treat diabetes in cats. A low carbohydrate diet lowers the requirement of insulin in diabetic cats. In cats and dogs, carbohydrates are converted to blood glucose must faster than fats and proteins. A low carbohydrate diet thus reduces the risk of extreme blood sugar highs immediately after meals. Home cooked food is always the preferred option over commercial foods since canned food tends to have a higher proportion of carbohydrates. Try to get hold of a cat food calculator and determine the type and quantity of fats, proteins and carbohydrates that you can safely feed your cat.

Oral pills

The oral anti-diabetic drug, Glipizide, stimulates the release of insulin from pancreas and in some cases even curbs production of glucose. These drugs can be useful only if the pancreas is working. Moreover, these drugs are known to adversely affect pancreas, which can reduce the chances of remission in cats. It is better to switch to injectable insulin because in certain cases Glipizide can even damage the liver.


Insulin usually metabolizes faster in cats than in humans. A particular type of insulin that lasts, say, for a day in humans will remain effective only for 12 hours in cats. As such a twice-daily dose is recommended for cats. Beef based or human synthetic insulin is most suited for cats. The choice of which insulin brand suits your cat the most and the appropriate dose can be determined with a little experimentation.

Effective treatment of diabetes is based on the severity of the disease. Intensive care is required in cases where the disease has progressed beyond the initial levels. Cats with ketoacidosis require fluid therapy to check dehydration and electrolyte imbalances and short-acting insulin rather than the preferred long-acting one.


Both dosage and mealtimes have to be regulated. If the cat is on pronounced peak action insulin, the meal timings need to be scheduled and planned to match it. If your cat is used to eat freely throughout the day, make sure that slow-acting insulin is used so that blood sugar levels are maintained all through the day. As cats metabolize insulin very fast, slow-acting insulin is not generally recommended for cats.

Diabetes can be fairly managed and treated without any major danger to the cat’s life but like all diseases, prognosis of diabetes also depends on early treatment. Even initial symptoms of diabetes in cats , like excessive urination and/or thirst should be reported to a veterinarian so that a proper diagnosis is done. The condition might be curable simply by diet modification.


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