A diagnosis of diabetes mellitus may sound terrifying to cat owners. Characterized by sudden weight loss, increased thirst, urination and inappropriate elimination, diabetes is diagnosed through laboratory evaluation and a physical examination performed by a licensed veterinarian. Though the diagnosis may sound grim, dietary and lifestyle changes may serve to prolong a cat's life, while herbs and home remedies can help him feel better.
Supplements and Minerals
The addition of certain minerals and herbal supplements may help to stimulate insulin production, regulate blood sugar and balance glucose levels. Chromium, a trace mineral found in the body, is necessary for the proper function of pancreatic beta cells responsible for insulin production, according to Dr. Shawn Messonnier of the Paws & Claws Animal Hospital in Plano, Texas. Vanadium, another mineral, increases glycogen synthesis, which in turn balances blood glucose levels. A diabetic cat's diet may be supplemented with the herb gymnema, which increases the effectiveness of administered insulin and increases insulin production. Any supplement should be administered with the supervision of a veterinarian, as sudden drops in blood glucose levels can be fatal.
Electrolyte Replacement Therapy
Due to a diabetic cat's urine output, they experience dramatic fluid loss that leads to dehydration. The cat may refuse to eat, become restless or have dry, sticky gums, according to PetMD. If a cat becomes severely dehydrated, he must be examined by a veterinarian immediately. If the cat is able to eat and drink on his own, the vet may recommend an over-the-counter electrolyte supplement available at most pet stores. If not, the cat will be treated with lactated ringers administered subcutaneously.
Homemade Cat Diet
Diabetic cats should be placed on a diet consisting of no more than 10 percent carbohydrates, and those should be from sources that are not grains. Steamed vegetables in very small amounts are acceptable, according to Dr. Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, of Lomita, California. Recommended meats include finely ground poultry that includes bone for calcium and phosphorus, chicken livers, rabbit and turkey. Cornish game hens, guinea fowl and quail are other acceptable meat sources. Fish oil, taurine, vitamin E and vitamin B complex should be added to homemade cat foods. Eggs with a lightly cooked white and iodized lite salt also should be added. The cat food is prepared with a cup or more of water to ensure urinary tract health.
Many veterinarians believe that feline diabetes mellitus is brought on by a combination of factors, including obesity. Though extra weight can be removed through a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet and portion control, exercise is an important factor in feline health and weight management. Severely debilitated cats can be encouraged to move with small meals placed in different locations, which will encourage the cat to travel from place to place. Cats who are less frail can enjoy rigorous play sessions chasing feathers or strings, totaling no more than 5 minutes at a time. The medical technology company BD encourages cat owners to make cat exercise consistent for best results. Exercise encourages the removal of insulin from the bloodstream into the cat's muscles.
Consulting the Veterinarian
As with all serious health conditions, cats with diabetes mellitus should be evaluated regularly by their veterinarian, who also can approve changes to the cat's diet and physical activity regimen. Over half of cats diagnosed with diabetes will require insulin, according to Dr. Shawn Messonnier of Paws and Claws Animal Hospital in Plano, Texas. Cats with this stage of diabetes will often need insulin supplementation for the entirety of their lives. A veterinarian can advise cat owners on the best course of treatment for their unique pet, and ensure that the cat is receiving the nutrients and exercise necessary for a comfortable, stress-free life.