Whoa….What’s With All The H2O?

blog_h2o_pawFinding creative ways to drink water isn’t unusual for cats – they are finicky creatures as we know and drinking water from toilets & faucets isn’t unusual. But if you see your cat acting like they can’t get enough H2O, it could be a sign something more serious is going on inside.

Feline diabetes is a common diagnosis when we see a lot of water consumption, especially amongst elderly cats. In fact, it is a common rule out for any cat over the age of 7 years when they are presented to the veterinarian with weight loss or strange behavior, like drinking a lot of water. This strange behavior includes the cat becoming more or less affectionate, hiding more or less, and urinating out of the box. Basically, when your cat is acting strange for no good reason, and especially if they are losing weight, then diabetes is a possibility.

The classic symptoms of diabetes are polydipsia (drinking a lot) and polyuria (peeing a lot). Since most owners don’t camp out to watch their cat do their business and in multiple cat households it can be really hard to tell who is doing what – watching for these signs helps. Sometimes the PD/PU cat will urinate out of the box. Sometimes an owner may notice the cat walking to the box more. Other times there will be an increased number of urine clumps or a need to scoop the box more. Occasionally, the cat will obviously act thirstier than normal seeking out water bowls or dripping water more frequently.

When a cat presents with symptoms such as those above, time is key in catching what’s going on early. We make our diagnosis by conducting routine labwork which can include a full chemistry panel, complete blood count, total thyroid test, and urinalysis. This information will usually guide veterinarians toward the proper diagnosis and identify the diabetic condition. Sometimes, ambiguous results require an additional test called fructosamine to clarify the problem.

A diagnosis of diabetes requires owners to be very much involved in the process, along with their commitment of both time and finances to help their cat, but good news is it can be controlled through diet and medication. The most important therapy is twice daily insulin injections. The insulin we most commonly prescribe for diabetes is called Glargine or Lantus. It’s important to know that once daily insulin injection and oral glycemic medication DO NOT WORK in cats.

blog_h2o_sinkThe second most important aspect of controlling diabetes is nutrition. Similar to human diabetes, nutrition can play an important role in regulating blood sugar levels. Ideally, a diabetic cat should be put on a very high protein diet with a lower carbohydrate diet – the source of the protein and carbohydrate doesn’t matter. Common prescription diets we recommend include Purina DM or Hill’s Science Diet M/D. However, we have also found some high protein over-the-counter diets may also work.

Once diagnosed, started on insulin, and on the special diet, its very important that follow-up labwork is done to fine-tune the dosage of insulin required for the individual cat. Labwork conducted is frequently, a repeat Fructosamine blood test as it measures “average sugar” levels from the past few weeks. Through the owners’ commitment and efforts, and partnership with their veterinarian, diabetic cats can live a happy and healthy life.

For more information on diabetes in cats, check out: