What is diabetes mellitus and what causes it?
Diabetes mellitus is caused by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin. Animals with an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin are called diabetics.

Insulin deficiency can develop for different reasons:

What signs do cats with diabetes typically show?
The most common signs of diabetes mellitus are:

What do the terms polyuria, polydipsia and polyphagia mean?

How is diabetes diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will measure your cat’s blood glucose and test your cat’s urine for the presence of glucose and ketones and for a urinary tract infection.

Persistently high blood glucose levels along with glucose in the urine usually mean that your cat has diabetes mellitus. Diabetic cats may also have a urinary tract infection.

Are all cats susceptible to diabetes?
Cats and of all ages can get diabetes. Diabetes most typically occurs in older cats. Castrated male cats are affected most commonly. In Australia and the UK there is an increased prevalence of diabetes in Burmes cats.

What other problems can be associated with diabetes?
Problems associated with diabetes are generally seen in long standing cases, these include hindlimb weakness in cats.

What other diseases have the same signs as diabetes?
Cats with diabetes mellitus drink and urinate a lot. They may also have a good or increased appetite but usually lose rather than gain weight. Other common diseases where some or all or some of these are also seen include:

To reach a definitive diagnosis of diabetes mellitus your veterinarian will test your cat’s blood glucose and urine glucose and ketones.

What is the expected life span of a diabetic cat?
With dedication, the correct treatment, lifestyle and adequate monitoring a diabetic cat should have the same expected life span as a non-diabetic cat of the same age.

Can I still use a vial of insulin if it freezes?
No. Freezing will damage the insulin and reduce the efficacy of the product. If a vial of insulin accidentally freezes in the fridge, it should be discarded and a new vial should be used.

What should insulin look like?
insulin is a mixture of two different types of insulin. Normally, after gentle mixing (invert (upend) the bottle several times), insulin will appear uniformly clear to slightly cloudy and should not have lumps or flakes floating in it. If you see clumps or flakes floating in the vial after you have resuspended the product, do not use it.

A small white ring of sediment may be seen in the neck of some vials of insulin. The ring of sediment forms when the product has not been kept stored continuously in an upright position. A small ring of dried out insulin does not affect the quality of the product. insulin should be stored refrigerated and in an upright position.

Always check on the appearance of the insulin before using it!

How long can I keep and use a bottle of insulin after the first dose has been withdrawn?
Insulin should be stored in a refrigerator and not frozen. It is usually advised that any pharmaceutical product should be disposed of around one month after opening.

What must I do if I know that I missed part of an injection?
Do not try to top up the insulin dose. It is best to leave your pet until the next insulin dose is required and then continue as normal. A brief period of high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) due to too low an insulin dose is not as serious or as dangerous as the possibility of causing low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) by topping up with too much insulin.

What should I do if I have or think I have given too much insulin?
Contact your veterinarian and explain the situation.

Monitor your cat carefully for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia):

If you see any of these signs try to encourage your cat to eat a small meal or if this fails rub some glucose solution or honey onto your pet’s gums.
Read more under emergencies.

What should I do if I think that my pet has very low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)?
The following signs may indicate hypoglycaemia:

If you see any of these signs try to encourage your cat to eat a small meal or if this fails rub some glucose solution or honey onto your pet’s gums.
Read more under emergencies.

Should my diabetic cat still receive annual vaccinations?
It is perfectly safe for your diabetic pet to receive their annual vaccinations. In fact, this annual check up also gives your veterinarian a good opportunity to give your pet a complete check up. By keeping your diabetic pet healthy, there will be fewer fluctuations in its insulin requirements.

Is it safe for a cat with diabetes mellitus to receive a general anaesthetic?
Your diabetic cat may need an anaesthetic for a minor procedure like teeth cleaning. Mouth infections could affect your cat's insulin requirements so keeping its teeth clean is advised.

Normally animals need to have an empty stomach before they are anaesthetized. A diabetic pet that has not been fed needs far less insulin. Your veterinarian will advise you how much insulin to give your pet before it is admitted or may wish to administer a reduced dose of insulin for you. Usually a diabetic pet is administered intravenous fluid therapy during an anaesthesia. This is a means of giving fluid to the animal when it cannot drink itself. Apart from needing a reduced amount of insulin and fluid therapy (which is also given to some non-diabetic animals undergoing anesthesia), your diabetic cat not at any additional risk from anaesthesia than a normal cat of the same age.

My cat refuses to eat commercial cat food. Can I continue with her normal diet?
Diabetic cats must be fed regularly. Some cats prefer eating small amounts throughout the day. If this is your cat’s habit, your veterinarian probably will not try to change it. Many cats simply refuse to eat different food. If your diabetic cat will not eat the diet prescribed, your veterinarian will advise you on another suitable diet. If your cat is overweight, your veterinarian will advise a weight management programme to help reduce its weight gradually. Weight loss will make your cat’s diabetes easier to manage.