Cowboy and Canines; Understanding feline diabetes New formulated foods help promote lower blood sugar

Written by Dr. Nicholas Pappas. Posted in Featured, Pets

Published on October 09, 2013 with No Comments

COLUMN PETS - Nick Pappas - Cowboy and Canines“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”  It’s almost as if Dickens was trying to describe the current state of diabetic care in cats—a tale of two kitties!

One of the most common retorts after informing a client that their cat is diabetic is still, “I didn’t know a cat could get diabetes”.  There are many similarities between human and feline diabetes.  Overweight older females are particularly susceptible in humans and felines.  The differences are what make controlling feline diabetes particularly difficult as compared to canine diabetes.  For example, canine diabetes is very similar in its diagnosis, treatment and control but not our feline friends.

In felines, the insulin injectables are usually zinc-based, which are not used commonly in human diabetes.  Also, two and three injections per day are required as with humans.  For practical reasons, the insulin pumps are not used outside academic institutions at this time.

The greatest differences are the decisions to start insulin injections in the first place.  This is because the cat is the only species that may be temporarily hyperglycemic (high blood sugar). This may happen for a myriad of reasons, such as upper respiratory infections.  Generally, normal levels resume as the illness subsides.  The vast majority of times insulin is not used–though it may be.  Some years ago, my cat, Cowboy, was on insulin for three weeks with blood sugar levels over 500 (normal, as with humans, is about 120).  On occasion, people can become temporarily hyperglycemic, such as during pregnancy or with pancreatitis, but rarely is insulin instituted.

Type I or juvenile diabetes is rarely observed in cats as compared to humans where it is, sadly, all too common.  Also, cats are the only species where type II diabetes may be confirmed and treated but, on rare occasions and unknown reasons, may obviate the need for insulin.

Conversely, the need to reinstitute insulin may reappear quickly.  Therefore, checking sugar levels in cats often is important.  Doing so is certainly more difficult.  Diagnostic urine sticks can be used to indicate sugar is spilling into the urine, but checking blood is more problematic.  A new procedure for lancing the ear of a large dog can give us a hint and is more accurate.  We can’t do this in cats, however, because we would penetrate the ear and you possibly may never see your cat again!  One caveat: new glucometers must be used to read only cat and dog blood.

A friend’s cat was on insulin for two years, off for one year and then back on insulin.  It is crucial to be aware of the signs of trouble.  There is an increase in appetite followed by anorexia, weight loss and extreme lethargy.

The new formulated foods that help promote lower blood sugar have been a bright spot in the control of feline diabetes.  I feel fairly certain Cowboy would still be on insulin if it were not for these foods.  My personal favorite, based on personal and empiric data, is Purina DM. Cats seem to love it.

As an aside, kudos to Dr. James Read for helping Cowboy to lose weight.  After two long vacations, Dr. Read has helped get Cowboy’s weight down from 29 pounds to 19 pound.  He almost seems svelte and, after years of a relatively sedentary existence, Cowboy once again can jump up onto the bed.  Due to her allergies, my wife is not thrilled!

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About Dr. Nicholas Pappas


Dr. Nicholas Pappas is a former Chairman of the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. He has been involved in veterinary medicine for 40 years and has practiced for more than 30 years. You can reach Dr. Pappas at katdrpappas@gmail.com.

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