Diabetes is a relatively common illness in cats and can be quite challenging for pet parents to manage. They need to carefully monitor their pet’s blood glucose levels, regulate the amount and timing of their meals and give injections of insulin once or twice daily to keep blood glucose within normal limits. There may be hope for concerned people, and more importantly, cats with diabetes.
Studies have shown that diabetic cats can go into remission. This means that they have been able to maintain a normal blood glucose level themselves for four weeks or more without any insulin injections. For vets and pet parents, the main aim for a newly diagnosed cat is no longer just to return blood glucose levels to normal and reduce the clinical signs of diabetes, but to essentially cure the condition at least for some period of time.
Diabetic remission isn’t a rare occurrence. It’s thought that as many as 50% of diabetic cats will go into remission after insulin injections are started, and one 2015 veterinary conference paper suggested as many as 80% will no longer need insulin injections. However, a very specific treatment protocol has to be followed with respect to the type of insulin used and the diet that’s fed to the cat. It’s also critical that the cat is closely monitored by their vet to make sure that the levels remain within normal limits while they are withdrawing the insulin. It takes on average around 45 days for remission to occur and the duration varies widely from just a few days to several years.
Here are some factors that affect the likelihood of diabetic remission and how long it could last.
- If a diabetic cat is intensely managed straight after diagnosis with long-acting insulin and their blood glucose levels are stabilized quickly, they are more likely to enter remission.
- Cats that have been routinely fed canned food instead of dry food appear to be more stable as they are weaned off insulin injections.
- Weight loss plays an important role in reducing insulin requirements and is vital in not only achieving remission but also in maintaining it.
- If a cat has a very high blood glucose reading when they are diagnosed with diabetes, they can still go into remission but it’s not likely to last as long. This is because high blood glucose levels damage the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for insulin production. The result is there isn’t enough insulin being produced by the cat’s own body to regulate her blood glucose without ongoing injections.
- A cat in diabetic remission should be fed a nutritionally balanced canned food that is low in carbohydrates. They don’t do quite as well on a diet of dry food. Monthly blood tests will detect any changes in blood glucose early so any relapses can be managed promptly.
These findings are exciting news for pet parents and will allow them to be very proactive in managing their cat’s health, particularly if Fluffy is a bit on the heavy side. Changing your pet’s diet to low carbohydrate canned food will help with weight loss and this alone can help to regulate insulin requirements. Always read the labels of pet foods. Many weight loss diets are low in fat and high in carbohydrate and this isn’t ideal for this purpose. If overweight cats have their blood glucose levels checked routinely, any increase will be detected and treated early so they are more likely to go into remission for longer.Managing diabetes in cats depends on early diagnosis, appropriate and aggressive treatment and regular monitoring. By doing this, there’s a very real chance that there will be no ongoing need for expensive and inconvenient insulin injections.