Diabetes is a condition that if left untreated, can greatly affect your cat's quality of life. Here, our San Angelo vets share some information about diabetes (diabetes mellitus), how cat diabetes can cause blindness, and what you can do to help prevent these complications.

Cat Diabetes & Blindness

Some conditions like diabetes, can lead to unexpected secondary conditions and diseases, such as muscle weakening and vision loss. In these cases, quick diagnosis and management of the initial condition can help to prevent the development and worsening of these complications.

What is diabetes in cats?

Diabetes mellitus (also referred to as diabetes) is a condition that cats can develop when blood sugar, or glucose, cannot be effectively utilized and regulated by the body.

Insulin is produced in the pancreas and controls the flow of glucose to the body's cells to provide energy. If your cat's insulin levels are too low, glucose cannot reach the cells as it should. When this happens, the cat's body begins breaking down fat and protein cells to use for energy, while the unused glucose gradually builds up in the cat's bloodstream.

Type I and Type II Diabetes in Cats

  • Type I (Insulin-Dependent) - While rare in cats, Type I Diabetes occurs when the cat's body is unable to produce or release enough insulin into the body.
  • Type II (Non-Insulin Dependent) - Type II Diabetes is most common in overweight male cats over 8 years of age, and those cats who eat a high-carbohydrate diet. A cat with Type II diabetes produces enough insulin, but the tissues or organs do not respond appropriately to insulin and have become insulin-resistant. 

Can cat diabetes cause blindness?

When affected by diabetes, the first signs are commonly weight loss along with excessive thirst and urination. If not addressed quickly it can become more advanced, causing physical changes such as sunken, bloodshot eyes, difficulties standing and walking, and blindness.

This blindness is the result of the weakening of the blood vessels caused by high glucose levels in the blood. This is known as diabetic retinopathy.

When the blood vessels become weak, the blood and fluids can leak into the retina causing vision loss.

Preventing Blindness & Other Complications From Diabetes

An official diagnosis from your cat's vet is the first step in the process. Your vet will then prescribe daily management of the condition with insulin injections, (which your vet may train you to give at home). You may also need to make changes to your cat's diet to ensure that they’re getting the right combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. In more severe cases, your vet may recommend a special prescription food to help manage your cat's diabetes.

If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, regular visits to the vet for blood sugar tests will be essential, or if you prefer, ask your vet if testing your cat’s glucose at home is an option. You may also find it helpful to keep a diary of your cat's appetite and litter use so that any changes are spotted early and checked out.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat is showing signs of diabetes, contact our veterinary office today to schedule an examination with one of our San Angelo vets.