PhotoDiabetes is a growing problem in humans -- and also in our pets, including cats. The good thing about it is that it's manageable. But if left untreated, diabetes can drastically lessen your cat’s quality of life and shorten its lifespan. It is very important to see your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your cat has diabetes.

What actually is diabetes in cats? The technical name is diabetes mellitus and it simply consists of excess glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream. It really is very similar to humans -- the cat doesn't produce enough insulin or it just doesn't process the insulin that it produces.

Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by the pancreas; it helps balance the glucose levels in the blood.

As in humans, diabetes comes in two forms -- type 1 and type 2. There is a type 3 diabetes which is more uncommon and may occur due to other conditions (for example, secondary to another disease which may damage the pancreas).

Diet matters

Your cat's diet is very important, especially with diabetes. The majority of cats diagnosed with feline diabetes are overweight. If your cat has had unregulated diabetes for some time, however, it may be underweight. Controlling the diabetes will help a cat achieve normal weight.

Diabetic cats shouldn’t eat dry food. Most vets recommend a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet for diabetic cats, and no dry food is low in carbohydrates. Even grain-free dry foods contain a lot of substitute carbohydrates such as potatoes, peas, or tapioca. Carbohydrates tend to make blood sugar levels fluctuate quite a bit.

You probably won't be taking your cat to a gym but exercise is of paramount importance in dealing with diabetes. Simply playing with your cat daily will help a great deal. Toys on strings and hand-held lasers are great interactive toys. Also, consider toys that stimulate play on their own.

If diet alone isn't enough to control the diabetes you will have to give your cat regular injections of insulin. There is a lot of great advice and websites on the internet that can support and guide you down this road.

Remember that pet health insurance doesn't cover pre-existing conditions, so if your cat is diabetic when you adopt her, you'll need to be ready financially if she has a health crisis.

Here are a few sites with helpful information:

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