Diabetic Cats

Diet and Feeding Instructions

Cats need to be on a low-carbohydrate diet.  The good news is that there are a lot of suitable foods available in the grocery store.  The bad news is that none of them are dry.  Dry foods, every one of them, contain too much carbs for diabetic cats.  Click here for a huge list of suitable cat foods.  You can use any food on the list that has 7% carbs or less.  That's the third column from the left.

Switching to a low-carb diet will at least help reduce the amount of insulin your cat will need, will increase the chances of going into remission, will make your cat's insulin dose much easier to regulate, and may even be enough to manage the diabetes without insulin.

It is very important that your cat eat reliably in the morning and evening at insulin injection time.  For this reason, it is vital that they not be allowed to free-feed.  You need to have control over when they are hungry.  If you can feed your cats a few snacks during the day and still get him or her to eat dinner reliably, you can do that, but if the cats do not eat when it is time for insulin there can be big problems.

You will also need to have on hand a bottle of Karo® Syrup, and some "special food," which is food you will use to tempt your patient to eat when perhaps he or she doesn't want to.  It needs to be low-carbohydrate things, meat of any kind, cottage cheese, or other cheese.


Insulin Administration

Insulin is a sterile suspension, and care must be taken to keep it that way, both sterile and suspended.  Be careful to not touch the rubber stopper with your fingers.  Do not attempt to wash or clean the syringes in any way.  Do not touch the needles.  When you take the insulin out to use it, it is important to mix it well.  However, DO NOT SHAKE insulin.  It is delicate and can be damaged by shaking.  Roll the bottle gently to mix.  If the insulin changes colors, you will need a new bottle.  Otherwise, a bottle should last from 6 to 8 weeks, perhaps longer.  Insulin must also be kept refrigerated.


Dosing and Administration

After rolling the bottle to mix it up, insert the needle into the bottle and draw up more than the required dose.  Be sure and get all the air out of the syringe. Flick the syringe with your finger if necessary to make the air bubbles rise to the top.  Then push the plunger back in to the required dose.  Then insert the needle under your pet's skin and inject.  Needles and syringes may be re-used a few times.


Insulin should only be given with meals

Diabetic animals should not be allowed to eat free-choice.  Feed them meals, generally twice a day.  It is OK if your cat snacks during the day, but not at night.  The reason is that we need the cat to eat consistently at insulin time.

When it is time to administer insulin, first feed you pet.  If your pet eats immediately, go ahead and inject the insulin as usual.  If your pet does not eat immediately, do not inject insulin.  We need to get the pet to eat first.  Injecting insulin when they haven't eaten can cause serious problems.

The first thing to do is to wait a few minutes and see if your pet will eat.  If that doesn't work, then try a little "special" food.  You can try canned food, broth,  or even try warming the food up a little.  You can also try hand-feeding your pet.  As a last-ditch effort, you can try some treats that are low in carbohydrates, like meat or cottage cheese.  If your pet eats, go ahead and inject insulin as usual.

If your pet still doesn't eat, it could be a problem, and your pet needs to be examined by the veterinarian before any insulin is given.


The most common problem you can get into with insulin is hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar.  If your pet develops hypoglycemia, your pet will appear lethargic, slow, or sleepy.  Your pet may even have siezures.  If you suspect your pet has hypoglycemia, the first thing to do is to try feeding your pet.  If that does not help, give your pet Karo Syrup orally and call the veterinarian's office for help.  Hypoglycemia can be deadly if allowed to progress.

If you have a dibetic pet on insulin therapy, you are quite likely to sooner or later have a hypoglycemic episode.  Don't panic!  Do get help!


There are several ways we monitor the effect of our insulin therapy

On a day to day basis, we watch to see how much water the pet is drinking.  Pets with poorly-controlled diabetes will drink a lot of water.  They will also urinate frequently.  From time to time, we will bring them into the clinic and do glucose curves.  We measure their blood sugar levels throuought the day to make sure things are going well.

Periodically, we will want to bring the pateint into the clinic for overnight and conduct a glucose curve.  We monitor the blood sugar levels every few hours to get an idea of how the insulin is working.  There is some preparation necessary for the glucose curve.

  • If you typically feed and give insulin at 7:30 AM or later, do not feed the patient or give insulin before bringing him or her into the clinic.  Do bring the food you usually use, and do bring the insulin.
  • If you typically feed and give insulin before 7:30 AM, feed and give insulin as usual, then bring the patient it at 8:30.  Be sure and bring the insuklin and the food as well.