Diabetes Mellitus in Cats: A Guide to Treatment at Home

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus is caused by a decreased ability by the body to provide enough insulin, a hormone that is made by the pancreas. Insulin moves glucose (sugar) from the blood and in to the cells (which use it as an energy source). Because the glucose cannot get into the cells, the levels in the body rise and spill over into the urine where it is lost from the body. When the cells are not getting their energy source, the body attempts to make even more glucose, not understanding that it cannot get into the cells. Fat supplies are also mobilised to provide energy.

Cats start to drink lots of water as the loss of glucose into the urine makes them urinate more. They also lose weight despite an increased appetite, because without sufficient insulin, the body is unable to process utilise the nutrients in the food your cat eats.


What are the clinical signs of Diabetes Mellitus in cats?

Diabetes can exist for a while before it begins to make a cat obviously ill. The clinical signs that the cat exhibits may vary depending on the stage of disease, but they can include any or all the following:


Aims of treatment

 1) Control the clinical signs


2) Prevent hypoglycemia


3) Remission from insulin


How to give insulin injections

Insulin can be given using disposable needle and insulin syringe or an insulin injection pen. It is personal preference which one you use. If you would like to switch between the needle/syringe system to the injection pen system or vice versa, please let us know and we will assist you in locating what options are available for your cat.

  1. Draw up the prescribed amount of insulin.For cats, this is usually a very small amount and is often right at the bottom of the syringe – it is such a small volume that sometimes you may question whether you actually gave the dose to the cat! If you are unsure, it is best NOT to give another injection as you could end up overdosing your cat. The typical starting dose is 1iu per cat every 12 hours under the skin. Very importantly - use only the insulin needle/syringe or injection pen provided by your veterinarian. This is because there are a number of different insulin needle/syringes and injection pens; and using the wrong delivery system may mean that your cat could receive the wrong insulin dose. 

  2. The injection can be given anywhere under the skin. You can rotate locations where you give the injection. Or, if you find that your cat tolerates injection in only one place or if you struggle to give the injection in other places, stick with the place that works for you. If you haven't given many injections before, the easiest place to learn to give them is in the scruff at the back of the neck/shoulder region.

  3. Some people find that it is easiest to give the injection while the cat is sleeping or distracted (e.g. while he or she is eating).

  4. Often cats go through a period where they absolutely detest injections. If you persevere through this, most cats improve.

  5. Try to give the doses as directed, however, if you miss the occasional dose (e.g. cat goes missing, family emergency), your cat will likely be fine and give the next dose at the usual time.

  6. Do not change the dose of insulin without first consulting your veterinarian.


*Please bring all used needles, syringes, injection pens and lancets back to our clinic for appropriate disposal.*


Appropriate handling and storage of insulin

  1. Always keep the bottle of insulin refrigerated.
  2. Ensure that you gently agitate (shake) the bottle of insulin before giving it
  3. Before administering the insulin, always check that the insulin solution is clear and colourless.
  4. Do not administer the insulin if you notice that the colour of the insulin solution has changed, become cloudy or have little precipitates ("floaties") in it. In that scenario, please contact us at the clinic to arrange a pharmacy script for a new bottle.



Diabetic diet and feeding your cat



There are different ways that we can monitor diabetic cats. We will discuss various options with you during your cat's revisits at our clinic; if there are cost constraints we can adjust the monitoring plan to suit your budget. For all at home monitoring options, we can train you how to do these.

 1. Observation of clinical signs


2. Blood glucose curves


3. "Spot" blood glucose


4. Urine glucose strips


5. Fructosamine levels


Complications of diabetes

  1. Hypoglycaemia

  1. Diabetic Ketoacidosis

  1. Peripheral neuropathy

  1. Infections

  1. Poor diabetic control


Who to contact when concerned about your diabetic cat:



Published by Cahill Animal Hospital on 01 August 2016

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