Monty is a lovely 10 year old ginger with a tummy almost as big as his heart! He came in to see us because he had been drinking more and going to the toilet in unusual spots. Monty’s mom was worried that he might have been agitated by the new cat in the neighbourhood. Little did we know the real cause of his abnormal behaviour!
A full blood profile revealed a blood glucose (or blood sugar) level of 22.6! Monty was showing signs of diabetes mellitus!
Diabetes mellitus in cats is similar to “Type-2” diabetes in people where there is “insulin resistance”, meaning that the body does not receive and interpret the signals from insulin appropriately. Insulin is the hormone that controls absorption of glucose from the blood into cells. When no signal is received or is received incorrectly, the glucose stays in the bloodstream, leading to a high blood glucose level. In cats, the normal glucose level should be between 3.9-7.5, although this can be elevated for a short period in times of stress. We differentiate diabetes from stress by checking the level of glucose in a urine sample. In Monty’s case, there was lots of sugar in his urine too.
Monty was started on an insulin supplementation regime involving morning and night injections of insulin. We also needed to keep him in hospital for a day to see how his body responded to the insulin. The biggest danger when supplementing insulin is actually dropping the blood glucose too low and causing hypoglycemia. We needed to know that Monty would still maintain his blood glucose at safe levels with the extra insulin, which he did. We were now ready to start treating Monty’s diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats is a very “hands-on” disease for pet owners. Monty’s mom was very worried initially about giving injections to her beloved boy. Luckily, Monty, being the sweet boy that he is, did not mind having injections given at all! Insulin needles are very small and, when inserted through the skin correctly, are generally well tolerated. A bit of a treat at the time of the injection never hurts though! After a bit of training and practice, Monty’s mom has become very confident giving Monty his twice daily doses of insulin.
Since starting the insulin, Monty has responded very well, with his blood glucose maintained at normal levels within a month of starting treatment. This is great news as some cats can actually go into “remission”, meaning they become able to respond to their natural insulin better and stop requiring insulin injections. At the same time, there is still a lot of work to be done, especially with getting the weight off Monty. Obesity is a major risk factor in the development of diabetes and weight control is a major part of modern veterinary healthcare. As we help Monty lose weight, we reduce the amount of insulin his body needs and help him on the road to remission and a healthier life. Obesity also increases the risk of heart disease, arthritis, other hormonal diseases and many other health issues. Monty is currently on a weight loss diet to help him use up the extra body fat.
The team is keeping our fingers crossed for the friendly ginger boy as he and his mom have done very well so far. With luck, Monty will go into remission, reducing the stress on him and his mom. He may even go on to be Pascoe Vale Veterinary Hospital’s Biggest Loser!