Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is an emergency.

DKA develops due to:

  • Long standing undiagnosed diabetes mellitus
  • Insufficient insulin dose in treated diabetics
  • Reduced insulin action - caused by obesity , concurrent illness or drugs. This is the cause of more than two-thirds of cases of DKA.

What causes DKA?

Due to a lack of insulin , glucose cannot be used by the body cells as an energy source. Instead fat is broken down to provide energy.

When fat is used as an energy source, acids known as ketones are produced. Ketones circulating in the blood cause signs of DKA - anorexia, nausea and lethargy.


The diagnosis of DKA is based on detecting ketones in the urine and sometimes in the blood along with signs of illness.

See Urine Monitoring for more information.


DKA is an emergency and treatment must be started as soon as possible.

Your veterinary surgeon will administer intravenous fluids and insulin and correct any underlying disorders to stabilise your cat. Once your cat is stabilised it will be started on long term insulin therapy again.