Just like other animals, cats can develop many types of disease.
Common Feline Diseases
Click on the tabs below to read more about several of the most common diseases affecting cats.
Feline hyperthyroidism is caused by an over-abundance of circulating thyroid hormone. In the vast majority of cats, excess thyroid hormone secretion is caused by a benign thyroid tumor (adenoma).
Signs of hyperthyroidism can include any of the following:
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Chronic vomiting
- Increased water consumption
- Unkempt haircoat
- High blood pressure
- Heart abnormalities
Hyperthyroidism can be diagnosed by measuring the circulating T4 level – an elevated T4 level is diagnostic for hyperthyroidism. In some cases of hyperthyroidism, however, total T4 may be normal and further thyroid testing is needed for diagnosis.
Hyperthyroidism can be treated in one of several ways:
- I131 Radioactive Iodine Therapy
- Prescription diet
In healthy animals, food is broken down into digestible components, including glucose. Glucose then enters the bloodstream and is transported throughout the body to supply energy to body cells. Insulin allows this circulating glucose to enter the cells. In the absence of adequate or functional insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells and starts to accumulate in the bloodstream. The body’s cells are also not supplied with the energy they need.
Diabetes can be caused by a lack of adequate insulin production (Type 1) or by production of non-functional insulin (Type 2). Feline diabetes is most often Type 2, meaning cats produce insulin but are essentially immune to its effects.
Factors predisposing to development of Type 2 Diabetes:
Obesity is a significant underlying cause of Type 2 diabetes in cats. Excess body fat results in gradual insulin resistance, which can ultimately result in development of clinical diabetes. Genetic predisposition may play some role as well, with certain breeds being more likely to develop diabetes than others.
Signs of feline diabetes can include any of the following:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination (urinating more frequently than usual, larger clumps of urine in the litter box)
- Weight loss, despite a good appetite (although diabetic cats are taking in adequate nutrition, glucose from the diet cannot enter their cells to supply them with energy)
- Lethargy, or decreased energy and activity
- Unkempt haircoat (poor grooming, dull coat)
Insulin therapy: As diabetic cats become insulin resistant, they begin to require extra insulin in order to move glucose from the bloodstream into cells. Diabetic cats therefore require daily insulin injections to regulate their blood glucose and manage their diabetes. Several types of insulin can be used to treat feline diabetes, each insulin type varying in its duration of action. Strict insulin therapy is needed for excellent glycemic control in diabetic patients.
Diet: Perhaps equally important to insulin therapy is appropriate dietary management. Diets that are high in protein (energy) and low in carbohydrates are essential for good glycemic control. This diet is also needed for healthy weight loss. Obesity often causes insulin resistance to develop in the first place, and weight loss can potentially help diabetic cats to become more sensitive to insulin.
With strict insulin therapy and weight loss, some diabetic cats can even go into diabetic remission, meaning their diabetes resolves and they no longer require daily insulin therapy.
Click here to learn more about treatment of feline diabetes and caring for your diabetic cat.
Maintaining a healthy weight: Weight management is perhaps the most important way we can prevent feline diabetes—maintaining a healthy body weight can prevent insulin resistance from developing. Feeding a balanced diet, an appropriate number of calories, and maintaining adequate daily exercise and activity are all important for keeping your cat fit and trim. If your cat is overweight, weight loss is needed to reduce its risk of developing diabetes. WTVC specializes in nutrition and helping cats achieve healthy weight loss—call the clinic today to schedule an appointment to discuss your cat’s weight and ways you can help your cat to achieve an ideal body weight.
Regular check-ups: Bringing your cat to the vet on a regular basis (yearly for younger cats, and every 6 months for senior cats) is important for assessing your cat’s diabetic risk and detecting disease early. Regular wellness testing plays an important role in detecting early diabetes—cats with early disease often have elevated blood glucose and glucose in their urine, even without showing obvious signs of diabetes at home. We recommend annual wellness testing for all cats.
Click here for more information about feline diabetes.
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