Q: Can cats develop diabetes? Our cat, Fred, is drinking and urinating more than usual, very much like our son did before he was diagnosed with diabetes.
A: Yes, cats and dogs can develop diabetes mellitus, sometimes called sugar diabetes because the disease is marked by increases in blood sugar levels. Diabetes is most often seen in older cats, particularly those that are overweight or male.
You are correct that cats with diabetes drink more water and fill their litter boxes with more urine clumps. Many diabetic cats also eat more, although some lose weight and muscle mass. Eventually, they lose energy, and some walk low on their hind legs because of diabetes-induced nerve damage.
The goal of therapy is to reverse these clinical signs and prevent the problems associated with uncontrolled diabetes. Fortunately, a cat with well-controlled diabetes enjoys an excellent quality of life and a normal life span.
Remember that a cat exhibiting increased drinking and urination may have another condition, such as chronic kidney disease, so it’s important to have your veterinarian examine Fred and do some lab work.
Like humans, cats may have either non-insulin-dependent diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. To further complicate matters, some cats go into remission after treatment begins. Your veterinarian is the best person to guide you in caring for Fred.
Most diabetic cats require insulin injections and regular monitoring of their blood sugar. You seem to already be proficient in these skills, so it should be easy for you to manage Fred’s condition.
Other readers will find these skills easier to master than they expect, and they’ll save money by checking their pets’ blood sugar levels at home.
November is National Pet Diabetes Month, so now’s a good time to make an appointment with your veterinarian to screen Fred for the disease.
Q: Our veterinarian recently diagnosed our dog Fluffernutter with epilepsy and prescribed phenobarbital. Is there anything more we can do to help control Fluff’s seizures?
A: Epilepsy, the most common chronic neurologic disease of dogs, is best controlled through multimodal therapy. Medication is essential for most dogs, but other treatments add significant benefit.
Begin by minimizing stress in Fluff’s life and identifying her seizure triggers. A good way to recognize what precipitates Fluff’s seizures is to keep a seizure diary, noting what she eats and when, how much she exercises and when, where she goes, who visits your home, and so forth. The diary should document each seizure, including its severity, when it begins, and how long it lasts.
Another important part of seizure control for many dogs is diet. The Purina prescription diet NeuroCare contains medium-chain triglycerides, dietary fats with shorter carbon chains than the usual fats used as energy sources.
In placebo-controlled clinical studies, this diet decreased seizure frequency and increased seizure-free days.
Sadly, 71 percent of dogs with epilepsy have behavioral problems, most commonly fear, anxiety, defensive aggression, and abnormal perception, manifested as barking for no apparent reason, chasing light reflections, staring into space, and pacing. The NeuroCare diet also lessens these behavioral problems.
Continue Fluffernutter’s medication. Start a seizure diary, and ask your veterinarian about adding a medium-chain triglyceride diet to her regimen to improve seizure control.