Simplifying small animal diabetes
Diabetes in Cats
D iabetes i a b e t e s in i n cats C ATS What is Diabetes?
What are the signs of diabetes?
Glucose (‘blood sugar’) provides the cells in the body with the energy
When the blood contains a high level of glucose, some of it is able
they need to live and function. Cells can only absorb glucose from the
to ‘leak’ through the kidneys and it begins to appear in the urine (in
blood in the presence of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in an
healthy cats there should be no sugar in the urine). This then causes
organ called the pancreas. Sometimes the pancreas becomes unable
increased urine production. To replace this fluid loss, the affected cat
to produce enough insulin, or the cells in the body fail to respond to
must then drink extra water. Also, because an important energy source
insulin properly, meaning that:
is being lost from the body, affected cats tend to lose weight, even
though they often eat more than usual. Finally, there may be more
i) the cells in the body cannot absorb
general signs such as lethargy and poor coat condition.
enough glucose and
ii) too much glucose remains in the blood.
Diagnosis The signs listed above
This condition is called ‘diabetes mellitus’ (this is often shortened to just
suggest that diabetes
‘diabetes’). Diabetes is therefore basically caused by a lack of available
could be present, but
they can also be caused by a number of other
Diabetes mellitus is seen in cats of all ages, sexes and breeds. However,
it most typically occurs in older cats, with neutered tom cats more
your vet will need to
run some blood and urine tests to make a
Can diabetes be cured?
diagnosis. A persistently
Usually the underlying cause of the diabetes cannot be ‘cured’, but
high level of glucose in
with the establishment of a regular routine and the use of an insulin
the blood is the most
preparation such as Caninsulin, your cat can lead a normal, happy life.
reliable indicator that a pet is diabetic.
The main aim of treatment is to restore a good quality of life, not just
Each cat’s requirement for insulin is different and your vet will need
for your cat but for you as well. We can do this by stopping the signs of
to tailor the dosage of insulin to your cat’s needs. It can take several months
diabetes described earlier.
to achieve full stabilisation, although improvements in your cat should be seen within a few weeks of starting treatment.
An additional benefit of treatment is that it helps to reduce diabetic complications. Although cats tend to escape some of the more serious
The starting dose of insulin may be worked out according to your cat’s
complications that we see in human diabetics, they will have a higher
weight and its blood sugar concentration. Your vet may take further
incidence of problems such as hind leg weakness.
blood samples after the first injection to check that the dose is right for your animal. You will also be shown how to draw up the correct dose
Just as in people, diabetes can be effectively controlled by the injection of
of Caninsulin using special syringes, and how to give the injection just
insulin (such as Caninsulin from Intervet). In cats, insulin is generally given
under the skin (see illustration on page 8). It is surprising how easy this all
at a fixed time once or twice a day.
becomes with a little practice. A regular routine,
Once insulin therapy has been adjusted to your cat’s needs, he or she
including not only
should improve rapidly. You will need to keep in close contact with your
the insulin injections
vet but the frequency of visits should reduce once the optimum routine is
but also feeding and
found. You should never change the dose of insulin you give to your pet
weight control is
without first consulting your vet.
vital to the successful treatment of diabetic
You may be asked to test urine samples on a regular basis to check for
cats. The veterinary
glucose and ketones, using special test sticks supplied by your vet. These
nurses at your practice
give an extra indication of how your pet is getting on. Small amounts of
are often a great
glucose in the urine may be acceptable, but the presence of ketones is
source of advice on
usually an indicator of a problem. Always consult your vet if you are unsure
what to do.
Low Blood Glucose (‘HYPOGLYCAEMIA’) One potentially dangerous complication that you should be prepared for is ‘hypoglycaemia’; this is when the blood sugar level falls too low. This may happen if too much insulin is given or if your cat refuses to eat. In this situation the brain, which is very dependent on a supply of glucose, cannot get enough energy. The early signs include unrest or lethargy, weakness and shivering/ muscle twitching, progressing to fits and unconsciousness. The condition is potentially life-threatening if not treated promptly.
What to do if you see signs of hypoglycaemia:
> 1. Give food immediately. your cat doesn’t eat straight away, syringe a glucose > 2. If solution into the mouth and/or rub glucose powder on the gums and under the tongue (see below). Take care not to get bitten.
> 3. Call your veterinary surgeon for advice. Glucose powder and solution are available from your local pharmacist. Make sure you have some available at all times in case of emergency. When treating hypoglycaemia aim to give 1 gram of glucose per kilogram bodyweight. For example, a 4 kilogram cat would require approximately 1 level teaspoon of glucose/sugar.
Tips on looking after your insulin Insulin is a very fragile substance. Incorrect storage
> Move on to a new bottle - Caninsulin comes in small vials specially
and handling of insulin may mean that it doesn’t
designed for use in cats. This means that you don’t have to keep
have the proper effect when you give it to your cat.
using the same vial month after month. Prolonged use of the same
Follow these rules with Caninsulin:
vial may lead to reduced insulin efficacy. A fresh vial is always best!
> Always keep Caninsulin in the fridge - remove
it only when you are drawing up an injection. If
When you find out that your cat is a diabetic it can be a daunting
Caninsulin remains at room temperature for extended periods it may
experience - there is a lot to learn in the first few weeks. However, in
time, many owners establish a routine that becomes second nature to both them and their cats. Looking after a diabetic cat is a challenging,
> Do not allow Caninsulin to freeze - freezing destroys the insulin.
yet rewarding undertaking. It must be accepted that regular injections,
Remember that items kept at the back of the fridge may freeze if
a fixed routine and frequent visits to the vet will become a way of life.
they come into contact with the cooling plate.
However, with the right care, cats can enjoy a full and happy life after the diagnosis of diabetes.
> Always store Caninsulin in an upright position - insulin can be affected by substances in the rubber cap on the top of the vial. If stored on its side the activity of your insulin may be decreased.
> Swirl, don’t shake - shaking the bottle can break up the insulin molecules. However, it is important to mix your insulin before drawing up an injection, so swirl or gently rock the bottle to resuspend any material that has settled in the bottom since you last used it.
M e t hod o f I n j e c t i o n f o r feeding A dvice
A vet or veterinary nurse will show you how to inject your cat with Caninsulin.
Draw up into the syringe slightly more insulin than needed. Expel any air bubbles by tapping the upright syringe with your finger and then gently press the plunger until the correct dose remains.
Pull the skin of the scruff of the neck upwards and form a depression with your forefinger.
Insert the injection needle at right angles gently through the skin in the depression you have formed. Gently draw back the syringe plunger and if blood
appears remove the needle from
the skin and start again with a
fresh syringe (this will very rarely happen).
Release your hold on the skin. Slowly depress the plunger.
To r e be atm e n t Mout o n iby t oyour r i n gveterinary surgeon filled
Morning: Give Date
units of Caninsulin at
Units of Caninsulin a.m.
Demeanour (rate 1-5) reduced
units of Caninsulin at Further information
Caninsulin® is a winner of the FAB (Feline Advisory Bureau) Easy to Give Award - awarded to products that are particularly easy to administer to cats. Caninsulin was a winner thanks to its 40IU/ml strength, dedicated syringes and magnifiers, making it easy to accurately measure the small doses that cats require. The small vials also mean less wastage.
Caninsulin is indicated for the treatment of diabetes mellitus in cats and dogs. Caninsulin is an intermediate acting insulin product containing porcine insulin, which is structurally identical to canine insulin. Contra-indications, warnings etc 1. Caninsulin is a medium duration insulin and is not intended for the treatment of animals with severe acute diabetes presenting in a ketoacidotic state. 2. The use of progestagens (oestrus inhibitors) in patients suffering from diabetes mellitus should be avoided. Ovariohysterectomy may have to be considered. 3. Stress and irregular extra exercise must be avoided. Care must be taken with the use of corticosteroids. 4. It is important to establish a strict feeding schedule in consultation with the owner which will include a minimum of fluctuations and changes. 5. Administration of Caninsulin must be carried out by an adult responsible for the welfare of the animal. 6. Caninsulin must not be administered by the intravenous route. Caninsulin is for animal treatment only and must be prescibed by your veterinary surgeon, whose advise should be sought. Keep out of reach of children. Further information is available from Intervet Ltd, 12 Shakespeare Ave, Upper Hutt. For technical information phone: 0800 263 768 or visit www.intervet.co.nz Caninsulin is registered pursuant to the ACVM Act 1997 No A7401. Prescription Animal Remedy (P.A.R.) Class 1. For use only under the authority or prescription of a veterinarian. Registered to Intervet Ltd, 12 Shakespeare Ave, Upper Hutt.
Simplifying small animal diabetes