Diagnosis: Feline Diabetes

Mon, Dec 8, 2008

Health & Nutrition

The Moderncat household has been diagnosed with its first case of feline diabetes. Sophie is a senior kitty — somewhere around 15 — who came to live with me about three years ago. When I first got her, tests showed that she was in what looked like the early stages of kidney failure. I started her on prescription food and her kidney levels went back to normal. Recently her drinking and urination had become excessive, so I took her in for a check-up and some blood work. The vet called today with the news that her blood glucose levels are dangerously high, so I am starting her on insulin right away, as well as beginning the task of learning as much as I can about this disease.

So far, I’ve found one excellent resource, www.felinediabetes.com. They have a page of information if your pet has just been diagnosed, as well as an introduction to diabetes in cats for beginners. The site is very well written and incredibly reassuring. Feline diabetes is apparently a disease that can be treated and conrolled with the proper attention and care. They even have a forum where other cat owners offer advice and support.

I’ll keep you updated on our progress. Sophie is a tough old girl with a great spirit, so I have confidence that she will be able to handle whatever comes our way.

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32 Responses to “Diagnosis: Feline Diabetes”

  1. 1

    A feline diabetes diagnosis can be really terrifying at first. My Sophie (now 14) was diagnose over 4 years ago. Hers was set in motion by an ill advised steriod shot. You’ve already found some great sites. I consulted them regularly.

    We’ve had quite a few hypo and hyper episodes over the years, sending us to the emergency vet many times. It can be very trying, but I learned that if I took control and really got in tune with her that we could manage it. Finally, after all this time (and a vet switch), she’s been considered regulated for the past 6 months. Something my new vet shouted with glee and I cried about.

    Good luck as you begin to learn even more about your Sophie.

    Oh, and I highly suggest (if your vet is ok with it) to us BD ultra fine 1/2 cc short needles – they’re 31 gauge and my Sophie doesn’t even notice it.

  2. 2

    Hang in there – this is going to be a long and painful process. I also had a cat who was diagnosed with diabetes around the same age as your cat. Although I had a male and was told it was much more common in male cats than in female.

    My little buddy lived with the disease for about 4 years and we had many ups and downs. Sadly, the end was not pretty and came on very suddenly. Diabetes usually leads to many other types of diseases and such was the case for my cat who, in the end, passed away due to heart failure.

    Definitely keep an eye on her weight and her food/water intake. Hopefully your vet can regulate her sugar quickly. My cat also became a little hostile, so watch out for that too.

    I am happy to answer any questions you might have, having been through it myself. Good luck and stay strong!

  3. 3

    I have a 13+ year old Maine coon who also has feline diabetes. When he was diagnosed, he went on insulin and we changed the food in the house. He is one of the lucky ones where he was able to be ‘weened’ off insulin after about five months and the change in diet. Though all the vet visits took a toll on our bank budget during that time.

    I suggest the ‘super thin II’ syringes (31 gauge, short needle) if you get them from Walgreens. Our cat barely noticed the pin-prick with those. And ask about how to test glucose levels at home from your vet.

    Good luck… you’ll find you get comfortable with the process fairly quickly.

  4. 4

    One of our pounce, Nikolai, was diagnosed w/FD on June 30.

    First place I found online was felinediabetes.com – WONDERFUL PEOPLE!

    First thing I thought when I heard the FD diagnosis was – death sentence – but, as you now know – it’s NOT. It shouldn’t be!

    Anytime you need an ear, I’m available.

    I never mastered at home glucose testing, but I have a new monitor that was sent to me from someone at FD.COM. The test strips can get expensive so do prepare yourself for that if you decide to do at home testing. (Terrific links on FD.COM for saving money BTW.) Also, should you need/want needles, we have some of the ones Leah mentioned in her comment. I’ll be happy to send them to you for free, as well as the never-used monitor and even a box of new lancets for the monitor if you like. It will get you started and save you some money. I’m a firm believer of paying it forward.

    Feel free to email me anytime at the email address listed above and you can read about our first experience w/FD in this post:


    GOOD LUCK and if you need anything – and I really mean that b/c I am fresh off of the heels from this myself – email me, leave a comment on my blog or twitter me: http://twitter.com/stepher

    The main thing is that this is a disease that a cat (and her human companion) can live with for many years. STAY STRONG.

    Random: IDK if the vet has mentioned getting a bottle of Kayro syrup and keeping it on hand in case Sophie’s BG drops too much, but that is something our vet told us – so we did. Thankfully, we never had to use it.

    Take your time. Learn everything you can. Listen to your vet. Love your sweetheart and DON’T GIVE UP!


  5. 5

    If you need any more information, I can ask or look it up for you. I am a vet tech and have been for 4 1/2 years now. I am also planning on going to vet school. I have had much experience with cats and dog that have diabetes and would love to offer any knowledge to you. I am aware you have your own vet, but sometimes I know it is difficult to get a hold of them to discuss things. Anyway, if there is anything you would like me to find out for you or if you would like me to just offer up some of the info I have, please let me know. I’ll do all I can to help. Sophie is in my thoughts.

    I have a cat in renal failure and a cat with feline leukemia, so I know some of the hardships that come with worrying about your pets’ well-being.

    Let me know if I can help you in any way.

  6. 6

    http://www.felinediabetes.com is an excellent resource about diabetes in cats.

    Make sure that the diagnosis is confirmed by a fructosamine blood test. Cat’s glucose levels can vary wildly due to stress at the vet and other reasons. Fructosamine is a much more reliable indicator of diabetes.

    If the diagnosis is confirmed then the good news is, unlike in humans, that with a modern long lasting insulin (for example: Lantus) and good regulation, controlled by home testing, there is a chance that your cat will actually heal from the disease.

  7. 7

    I had a cat with diabetes about 6 years ago. The vet had difficulties regulating his sugar, so he had a lot of hypo episodes, it was awful, so we decided to put him to sleep (should’ve done it sooner, poor thing).

    I don’t mean to upset you, just letting you know about my experiences, there must be lots of diabetic cats living a good life :)

    Good luck!

  8. 8

    Sorry to hear about Sophie. Have you looked into feeding her raw? It may help stabilise her blood sugar.

  9. 9

    My Miles was diagnosed when he was young, which is rare. It was precipitated by a steroid treatment. Luckily, he became regulated, and eventually went off insulin. Like others have said, it is terrifying at first, but just be sure to keep a close eye on Sophie and her behaviors, eating, drinking, eliminating, etc. Definitely the longer lasting insulin is better (Miles used Humulin) as the other can put kitty on a roller coaster. Don’t be nervous about shots; I was so scared of hurting Miles, which just made the whole thing so stressful for everyone. But once I calmed down, I realized that Miles wasn’t afraid and probably didn’t feel a thing. Good luck with your sugar kitty!

  10. 10

    Oh, and Miles is a happy and healthy 10 year old, so these things do end happily!

  11. 11

    Have you discussed what Sophie is eating with your vet? Depending on what she is eating now, you might consider discussing a gradual diet change with your vet. Even more so than humans, kitty diabetics tend to do well on very few carbs. Less of a carb load at meals means less insulin needs to be produced, which leads to less stress on their system and a more even blood sugar throughout the day and night. A previous commentor mentioned going raw, a lot of diabetic cats do well on a raw diet and can kick the insulin. But any diet change needs to be discussed with your vet. Sophie’s insulin needs can change and the vet needs to be in on that. I hope she starts feeling better soon.

  12. 12
    Karen R

    We took Rambo off my Mother’s hands two years ago because he was diagnosed with diabetes and she was ready to put him to sleep. He has done well under our care and he gets two injections of insulin a day without any problem. We changed our cat food so our other cats eat the same food as Rambo. He is 11 years old and we’re so happy to have him in our family.

  13. 13

    Get well, Sophie! You have a loving owner so you will be fine. :)

  14. 14

    Best of luck with Sophie, Kate. It’s clear that you’re a great mom who really does her research, she’s lucky to be in such great hands.

  15. 15

    Feline diabetes iss scary at first, but it’s can be manageable with treatment and diet.

    Our cat, Anubis, also was diagnosed with diabetes about a year and a half ago. He was pretty well regulated for about a year after being on a strict low carb diet and insulin injections, but this summer we had a bit of a scare. He’s doing much better now, except that he’s been much pickier about his food. We had been feeding him the grain free Wellness brand canned food, but now he’s decided he won’t eat anything without gravy, so that’s been a bit of a challenge for us. We haven’t gotten the hang of home testing, but I know there are quite a few sites out there that walk you through the process, including step by step videos.

    Good luck!

  16. 16

    Kate – I’m sorry to hear about Sophie, but like many others that have commented here, I to had a Diabetic kittie (also as a result of steriods).

    Babbs did really well for 3 years before her pancreas failed. I gave her two shots a day – meaning that your life is tied to the time schedule of your cat. I would do it again if it ment that Babbs was still here!

    Sound like you’re doing your research so that you’ll know what can be expected.

    Hugs to you and Sophie (and Ando, Mackenzie, Flora, Dazzler and the rest). See you Saturday!

  17. 17
    Cathy S

    Sophie is a beautiful girl. Best of luck to her and you.

  18. 18

    I wish you and Sophie the best. I don’t have experience with feline diabetes but have had a couple of friends whose cats lived long and happy lives with it.

  19. 19

    I wish Sophie and the entire family all the best. My thoughts are with you all!

  20. 20

    Oh, also – catinfo.org is a terrific site – it’s the main reason I switched to a raw diet. The feline diabetes link is below:


  21. 21
    Kerry W

    About 7 years ago my cat Doggie was diagnosed with diabetes and we thought it was the end of the world. His blood sugar was throught the roof and at the time the vet was not so sure that the insulin would work. We ended up giving him 10 cc in the morning and 10 at night. I was so worried constantly about is he drinking too much water, is he losing weight etc. It was a difficult time but we were just acting like nervous parents. We then moved to another state which meant we changed vets and the new vet suggested trying Purina DM food. We kept him on the insulin , adjusted, and tried the food. My husband called it the catkins diet and we were able to lose the insulin. He was on that diet for about 2 1/2 years. At his prime weight he weighed 26 lbs, but we got him down to about 17.
    This past february he became sick, but was not suffering, it was just very difficult to diagnose what was wrong and in the end we had to put him down. They think it was cancer.
    I miss him every day, he was the best cat ever. So please keep the faith regardless of what anyone says. Miracles do happen, and try not to overwhelm yourself with learning the ins and outs of the disease, it will wear you thin. Give a shot in the morning, a shot in the evening and maybe it can be controlled with food. We never tested his sugar at home and only had to use caro syrup once. I tried to tell him if he felt woozy eat a piece of candy but he wouldn’t listen! Enjoy the time you have with her and my thoughts are with you.

  22. 22

    Thank you so much to everyone for the incredible comments and emails! The Moderncat community is truly the best! I really appreciate all your kind words and advice. We went to the vet tonight and she showed me how to give the insulin, which was really quite easy. I’m using the needles that everyone suggested and Sophie has already had her first shot at home. The vet and I also discussed changing Sophie’s diet, but I need to keep her kidneys in mind, too, so I can’t go completely high-protein. For now we’re trying Royal Canin Renal LP (supposedly lower carbs than other renal foods) and Prescription Diet w/d (high fiber, low-carb). I need to do some research into other food options that everyone can eat, but that will also be safe for Sophie.

    Soph is napping on the sofa next to me right now and she says thank you to everyone for sending their good wishes!

  23. 23
    Amy Russell

    Get some Karo syrup from the grocery store, and read about hypoglycemia and curve tests. Don’t worry too much, the insulin shots are a piece of cake. My 16 year old Ozzie-Bell passed in 2006 from complications from her 3 year battle with diabetes. I miss her terribly and blame her for her being so amazing and making me apparently ….,a huge cat lover. because we now we somehow have six cats. Good luck I think you are great for afdopting an 11 year old!

  24. 24

    Our Midi, a neutered male cat, looks very much like your Sophie. Midi is now 12 years old and was diagnosed with diabetes almost three years ago. He has been on Vetsulin for the entire time and luckily we have lowered his dosage to only three units twice daily. He eats certain varieties of Fancy Feast that are lower in carbs and Science Diet M/D, which our cats prefer over W/D. Midi’s glucose levels are very controlled and we feel fortunate that he has done that well. Chin, one of our other cats was diagnosed at the age of 8 and unfortunately we could not get him controlled, due to other health problems (skin issues) which required steroid injections. Chin passed away suddenly this past summer and we discovered that he had some abdominal tumors that we think were mast cell tumors. His skin issues had escalated and that apparently goes along with mast cell tumors. So, you never know. We miss Chin, but he is in a better place now.
    Good luck to you and Sophie. I hope she gets along as well as our Midi.

  25. 25

    My first cat, Locke, ended up with diabetes after taking steroids for chronic skin irritation. It was very scary at first, but thanks to resources like the feline diabetes site you’ve already found and a caring vet, I think we dealt rather well with it. I found that giving insulin was actually quite easy – much easier than trying to give a cat a pill! He actually didn’t even seem to notice his daily poking. Unfortunately, he had to be put down only six weeks later due to the advanced stages of FIP (the poor thing had a lot of health problems, also including toxoplasmosis, thanks to the terrible person/people who dumped him off in a barn before I adopted him), so I can’t say anything about dealing with feline diabetes long term, but best of luck to you.

  26. 26

    If you are going to start doing blood glucose at home, there is an easier way to get blood that from the veins in the legs. Your vet might have told you about this already, but I have found that it is easier for a lot of owners who have to do it at home. If you look at the inside of Sophie’s ears, you should be able to see small red veins that go along the outside border of the inner ear. You can use prick needles to put a small poke into one of these veins which will give you just enough of a drop to run the glucose test. Be sure to use a new needle each time. I wish the best of luck to you and Sophie. Hope this can help.

  27. 27

    Have you seen this site?


    I found it when trying to deal with my young cat, who was having terrible digestive troubles.

    It’s very interesting.

  28. 28
  29. 29

    yahoo groups also has a feline diabeties group. i belong to a few other of the yahoo feline groups and they are excellent resources.


  30. 30

    I must say, to have lived that long, in one hand, is a miracle. 15 is a long time in kitty years. I have a persian who is 18, and counting, and lost two persians around the ages of 2 years and 7 years, both of kidney failure. Our long-time Dr. did not know what had been the cause, and it was only after loosing them both, that we realized it was the soft food they ate. My older kitty did not eat the soft food, she liked the hard kibbles, and always has. She survived, simply because she stuck to the hard food, and away from the soft, which happened to be contaminated with rat poison. If you remember the pet food recalls, both of my males developed the crystals in the bladder, and it was a long painful process. We tried everything to nurse them back to health, but it came down to the hardest decision, with both of them to be put down.

    I also had a friend who had a mancoon with feline diabetes. He lived his entire life, all 17 years, with this disease. His owner gave him a shot of insulin everyday before noon, and another every night before bed. He grew to be an inspiration to me, that he had so much love and life to give, all through his disease. He to this day was one of the most lovey cats I have ever known, besides my own that is 18. He eventually passed away, but not from diabetes or kidney failure. He grew into his old age, and his body was tired, he took his last breath in my best friend’s arms.

    I must say, be strong, have hope and faith. Our pets become such members of our families, it hurts the same as when we have a loved one become ill.

    I’m sure little Sophie has many more years left in her & I wish you the best in the journey you are about to begin on with her.

  31. 31

    I foster a cat for a NY based rescue organization called KittyKind (www.kittykind.org). When they told me about this particular cat she had been living at the vet for three months because she was severely diabetic and virtually unadoptable. Her blood sugar was above 600 and she was on 7 units of insulin twice a day. I took her home and, to make a long story short, three months later she was completely off the insulin and her blood sugar has been consistently between 75-110 for months. She’s still on Purina DM food, just to be safe (and she loves it).

    Being a rescue, we don’t know how old she is. She’s probably a bit younger than your Sophie, we estimate she’s about 8-10 years old. Diabetes is extremely manageable and, as you can see, may even reverse in some cases. If she likes the food and doesn’t mind the shots too much, her quality of life will not be affected.
    Best of luck to you all!

  32. 32
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