Most cases of feline diabetes occur in overweight cats. Giving them the right diet and encouraging them to exercise every day may be all that’s needed to control their weight. For some cats, this diet-exercise combo may do more, that is, stabilize their glucose level even without insulin. In short, it can cure feline diabetes. However most diabetic cats need regular shots of insulin aside from the right diet and exercise.
When we’re talking about the right diet for the diabetic feline, we mean low-carbohydrate, high
quality protein, high fiber, wet food. Carbohydrates should compose only 10 percent of their
diet. Unfortunately, dry commercial cat food usually contains 30 to 70 percent carbohydrates.
If you have to use commercial cat food, it is better to choose canned cat food instead of the
carbohydrate-rich dry cat food.
Insulin for Feline Diabetes
You will need a good consultation with your vet. Some vets still use NPH (generally suitable for
dogs and people) to treat feline diabetes. Felines metabolize insulin much faster than people so
NPH, which is a fast acting insulin, is actually not suitable for diabetic cats. Lente and Ultralente
(Humulin L and U) have been discontinued, so most vets prescribe veterinary PZI insulins or
insulin analogs glargine or Lantus, and detemir or Levemir for diabetic cats. Diabetic felines are
usually injected with slow-acting insulin twice a day after meals.
Insulin pens for pets are available for easier and more comfortable insulin administration.
Good injection sites in cats with feline diabetes include the following: between the shoulders and in the hips or flanks and sides of the stomach. Avoid the scruff because it has few blood vessels and insulin is not absorbed well. As in people and dogs, rotate or put a couple of inches between the actual injection sites to prevent the formation of scars, nodules and lumps.
Preparation for the Injection
- Organize and set out the supplies that you will need, including the treats that you will give your cat. Make sure the insulin is not cold but at room temperature so that your pet feels less discomfort.
- Keep your cat and yourself calm and relaxed. If help is necessary, call your designated assistant. Sit in a comfortable position that is on level with your cat.
- It is best to feed your cat before injecting it with insulin.
Step-by-Step Insulin Pen Injection
- Remove the cap from the insulin pen. Check if the insulin looks okay; some types are supposed to look cloudy; others like clear water. Attach a needle carefully. Roll the pen gently between your palms or move it from side to side at least 20 times to mix the insulin.
- Make sure the cartridge or pen is filled with insulin by priming. Hold it with the needle pointed straight up and then tap the pen gently so air bubbles rise to the top. Then do an “air shot,” that is, shoot a drop or two of insulin into the air. This removes the bubbles and ensures that your cat is getting the full insulin dose.
- Dial the insulin dose.
- Pinch up a fold of skin surrounding your chosen injection site. Insert the needle into the layer of fat beneath the skin at the proper angle. Make sure the needle’s bevel faces up so the injection is less painful. Make sure the needle penetrates the fatty layer, but does not reach the muscle below.
- Let go of the fold. Press the pen’s injection button and wait until the full dose is finished. This may take a few seconds.
- To remove the needle pull it straight up; do not twist or bend it since it will be harder and more painful to remove. You can rub or press your finger gently on the injection site for a few seconds to prevent bleeding. Praise and stroke your pet as a reward.
- Be sure to remove the needle from the insulin pen and dispose of it as advised by the vet.
The Right Pen for Feline Diabetes
Consult your vet for the right choice of insulin pens for your pet. Whichever you choose, these pens are an accurate, convenient and comfortable way to manage feline diabetes and are more pet-friendly than syringes and bottled insulin.