Feline diabetes is treated with injectable insulin. Usually given twice daily, just after the cat has eaten. The oral drugs used in humans, for example, Glipizide, are not very effective at controlling sugar in cats. Although many owners are worried about giving regular injections to their cat, they and the cat usually adapt to these injections very well.
Normally the needle used to administer insulin is very small and thin, making the injection as painless as possible. Owners are taught how to inject their cat in the veterinary clinic, normally during an extended consultation with a nurse or veterinarian. The injections are given just under the skin, and it is advised to rotate the site used to prevent the skin from becoming thickened.
There are a number of different types of inject-able insulin available. Each one has a slightly different duration of effect. Most cats will require an insulin injection every 12 hours. Once a cat is started on insulin therapy, it will require regular blood glucose monitoring to check the cat is responding to the medication and to ensure the blood glucose concentration doesn’t fall too low (Hypoglycaemia). Previously blood glucose curves were often performed in the vet clinic, taking regular blood samples over a period of 12 hours. However, as you can imagine these are pretty stressful for cats and now this monitoring is best achieved with testing the blood glucose levels of the cat at home, using specialised blood glucose kits (Glucometers – costing $40–100) that owners can use.
It is often recommended to feed a diabetic cat, a high protein and restricted carbohydrate diet. This helps to maintain lean muscle mass while reducing body fat. Recent studies have shown that restricting carbohydrates can improve the overall control of blood glucose levels in cats with diabetes and reduce the amount of insulin they require daily. There are some specially formulated complete feline diets for diabetic cats, such as RoyalCanin Feline DIABETIC or Hills m/d Feline and its better to avoid canned cat food.
Diabetic cats that are underweight will need to slowly build up their bodyweight again. This may involve extra feedings or just a more nutritionally dense food.
Obese cats with diabetes will be advised to start a slow weight loss programme. Obesity is linked to insulin resistance, so if the cat starts to lose weight while treating diabetes, it may start to slowly improve and sometimes the cat even goes into remission.
Any change in diet needs to be done slowly as the initial phase of treatment may be stressful with regular visits to the vet and the introduction of insulin injections. It is important to work closely with the veterinarian or a certified animal nutritionist.