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 starting dose of the insulin will vary from cat to cat and is largely dependent on their bodyweight and pre-feeding glucose levels. 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. See the next section on caring for the diabetic pet at home.


Caring for the Diabetic Pet at home

Here are some helpful tips when caring for a diabetic cat at home:-


Summary of appropriate handling and storage of insulin

  1. Always keep the bottle of insulin refrigerated upright
  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. Caninsulin may be a very light white opaque consistency.
  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.
  5. Always date the bottle of the insulin on the day you have opened it as different types of insulin will need to be discarded after different periods of time once opened.



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:

  The above information is provided for educational purposes only and not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional veterinary medical advice, diagnosis or treatment; and should not be relied on solely as veterinary advice. If you are worried your pet may have diabetes, please phone us on (06) 3588675 to book them in for a check over.


Published by Cahill Animal Hospital on 01 August 2016
The team at Cahill Animal Hospital is here to provide you and your pet with the best possible medical, surgical and supportive care. Our motto "We care as much as you do" is a very important part of our day to day work. We are committed to providing you and your pet with the best options for care.

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