Loving Your Cat to Death- Obesity and Diabetes in Cats

The vet’s obese cat          June, 2011

 Post written by my daughter, the veterinarian                       Original posting  November, 2011

Bonnie and Phil are an awesome couple in their mid-40s who moved to my neighborhood several years ago. They are without human children, but have two furry kids. One is Merlin, a giant fuzzball of love. He is a beautiful rescued Old English Sheep Dog with a wonderful personality. He is sweet, fun, lovable, and a great patient. (This leads me to remind readers that if you want a pure bred dog,  you can get one that just needs a loving home and help alleviate the problem of millions of unwanted animals). Bonnie and Phil’s other pet is a cat named Chaos that I had not seen as a patient before. I had seen Chaos out of the corner of my eye during a house call to see Merlin. Chaos is a calico cat with quite a reputation for causing chaos during vet visits. This beauty is an indoor cat only and I commend her owners for not allowing her to go outdoors. 

I will digress here just a bit. The great outdoors is fraught with danger for any cat. Coyotes, bob cats, fox, cougars, stray dogs, and  (possibly evil neighbors) are an ever present danger.  Living in the city or suburbs does not mean your pet is safe from these predators. Getting into a fight with another cat or hit by a car are other real possibilities that will shorten your pet’s life.  

This kitty’s owners were not aware of the importance of an annual physical exam by a vet. Until they heard about me, Bonnie and Phil were not aware that a house call visit was just a phone call away.  Honestly I can’t blame them for not taking their rather fractious cat for an annual exam, but not getting an annual exam can lead to some serious diseases being overlooked.

Phil called me because Chaos had been urinating outside of the litter box, which was out of character for her. I instructed the owners how to collect a urine sample. When  Missy (my tech) and I got to their house the first thing we did was check the urine specimen with a dipstick to look for blood, bilirubin, ketones, etc.  We put the urine on the stick and we all watched the strip turn from a lovely blue (negative) for glucose (sugar) to a very dark brown color which  indicated Chaos was spilling 4 plus glucose in her urine. I immediately knew that we needed to get a blood sample to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes. The presence of glucose in the urine and also an elevated blood glucose level is the indicator of diabetes. Chaos, like many calico cats I’ve seen proved difficult to handle. We sedated her and drew blood samples for full panel testing to go to Idexx laboratory. Venipuncture (puncturing a vein with a needle) was quite a challenge with this cat, but with the help of my awesome cat wrangler Missy, I was able to obtain enough blood for a complete work-up. 

The real CRUX of this story is that Chaos is extremely obese. She is actually morbidly obese and weighs a whopping 14 pounds. She should weigh about 8-9 pounds. Obesity causes INSULIN RESISTANCE and that is why Chaos has diabetes. Bonnie and Phil adore their pets and were only trying to do the best for them. Symptoms of diabetes include increased hunger and thirst, extreme appetite,  and some cats will begin to urinate outside the litter box. Finding unusually large clumps of clay in the box indicates a large amount of urine and drinking an excessive amount of water is also a symptom.  Some cats will  drink out of the toilet or from the bathroom faucets because they are so thirsty. Many of them will have a wet chin most of the time because they are always at the water bowl.
Chaos was  constantly hungry -the owners simply fell into the trap of over feeding her. Cats gain weight slowly over time and it really sneaks up on you.

Bonnie and Phil did not realize that obesity in cats can lead to such serious problems. So please,  if your cat is overweight,  see you vet for a prescription weight loss diet and feeding guide. Your vet will tell you how much food to feed and your cat will lose weight slowly over 1-2 years. INDOOR cats are very sedentary and need to be encouraged to play and execise.  A simple toy made of feathers on  a stick will entice your cat to jump and play. I have a food loving cat and I run all over the house with her can of Purina OM (RX diet cat food), banging on the can with a spoon and calling “Kit Kat!! Dinner time!!!” She loves to eat and runs behind me meowing for several laps around the house before I feed her. I am sure I look completely silly, but in this way, Kit Kat gets some exercise. 
Chaos will now need to eat prescription food for diabetic cats. There are several choices including Hill’s M/D Metabolic Diet for diabetics. It is high protein, low carb,  and low fat so that she can lose weight and keep stable blood sugar levels through out the day. She will now also need injectable insulin twice a day. There are several forms of insulin to chose from, but I like Glargine, which is a long acting insulin. We will start her on a low dose and then proceed from there according to her glucose levels.  The story of getting Chaos back on the road to health is just beginning.  

Kit Kat a few pounds lighter   September,2012

 Dr. D. DVM       Photographs:  Yvonne   


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2 thoughts on “Loving Your Cat to Death- Obesity and Diabetes in Cats

  1. exiledprospero says:

    Cats are carnivores. They require meat (90 to 100% of their diet). Many commercial pet foods contain grains (not species apppropriate) and other fillers.

    And it isn’t only cats that have problems with diabetes. We as North Americas eat far too many carbohydrates.

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