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diabetic ketoacidosis in cats symptoms

Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Cats Symptoms

diabetic ketoacidosis in cats symptoms

Diabetic ketoacidosis in Cats Symptoms (DKA) is a serious complication that can occur in cats with diabetes mellitus. It occurs when there is not enough insulin in the body, causing a buildup of glucose and ketones in the blood.

Symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis in cats include:

Increased thirst and urination

Weight loss

Loss of appetite

Vomiting and diarrhea

Weakness and lethargy


Rapid breathing
Sweet or fruity smelling breath


If  left untreated, Diabetic Ketoacidosis can lead to severe metabolic imbalances, organ damage, and even death.

The underlying cause of DKA in cats is typically uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. This can occur due to a lack of insulin therapy, inadequate insulin dosing, or a concurrent illness that interferes with insulin absorption.

Diagnosis of Diabetic Ketoacidosis is typically made through a combination of blood tests, including glucose and ketone levels, and urinalysis. Cats with Diabetic Ketoacidosis will typically have high blood glucose levels, high blood ketone levels, and a low pH (acidic) urine.

The veterinarian will want to run bloodwork, including a serum chemistry and complete blood count to assess blood sugar and electrolytes. Urinalysis will be useful to determine if there are signs of glucose and ketones in the urine and to rule out urinary tract infection. Ketones may also be found in the blood serum.   

Once the pet is determined to be diabetic and their blood shows the presence of ketones, the focus moves to determining what disease could be occurring in addition to the diabetes that led to the Diabetic Ketoacidosis.  

At this point, the pet will likely be transferred to a 24-hour specialty/emergency hospital for advanced diagnostics and possible hospitalization. The veterinary staff will likely perform an abdominal ultrasound to assess the pancreas for signs of inflammation (pancreatitis), assess the liver, kidneys and other organ systems of signs of disease or tumors.  

Chest X-rays may also be considered to rule out any evidence of pneumonia (source of infection) or metastasis (evidence of cancer). Finally, a blood-gas analysis may be performed to determine the severity of the acidosis.   

Treatment of Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Cats

There are three main goals in treatment of Diabetic Ketoacidosis:

  1. Restore hydration through fluids

2. Restore glucose as the main energy source through insulin therapy

3. Stop ketone production, and correct electrolyte abnormalities

To accomplish these goals, most cats will require hospitalization for at least a few days but might be hospitalized longer.

Hospitalization of Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Cats.

An IV catheter will be used to provide IV fluid therapy for rehydration as well as electrolyte replacement. Initially, the patient will receive short-acting insulin and transitioned back to their normal long-acting insulin for discharge and at-home management. Blood sugar and electrolyte levels will be checked frequently during your cat’s hospital stay. Other medications for nausea, vomiting, pain or infection (antibiotics) may also be administered.  

Treatment of Diabetic Ketoacidosis in cats typically involves hospitalization and intensive management. This may include fluid therapy to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, insulin therapy to lower blood glucose levels, and treatment of any underlying illnesses or infections.

In some cases, it may also require treatment with glucose and electrolyte solutions and other supportive care, such as oxygen therapy, to stabilize the cat’s condition. Cats with DKA require close monitoring and frequent recheck blood glucose levels and other parameters to ensure that their condition is improving.

Preventing DKA in cats with diabetes mellitus involves closely monitoring blood glucose levels and adjusting insulin therapy as needed. It also involves regular veterinary check-ups, monitoring for signs of DKA, and prompt treatment if DKA is suspected.

Overall, diabetic ketoacidosis in cats symptoms is a serious complication that can occur in cats with diabetes mellitus and requires prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent severe metabolic imbalances, organ damage, and even death.

In addition to the above treatment options, there are some other things that can be done to help manage DKA in cats.

One important aspect is to address any underlying illnesses or infections that may be contributing to the development of DKA. This may include treating any underlying infections with antibiotics, or addressing other underlying medical conditions such as pancreatitis or liver disease.

Nutrition for DKA in Cats Symptoms

One important aspect of DKA management is nutrition. For a diabetic pet to be successful at home they need to eat without vomiting to receive insulin and prevent DKA from recurring.  

In the hospital, blood-sugar levels will be closely monitored and insulin can be adjusted frequently. But at home, cats will need to eat twice per day and receive long-acting insulin.

Since cats often refuse to eat during a hospital stay, it is important a cat eats when transitioning back home to ensure they get their insulin. In some cases, cats with DKA will need a temporary feeding tube to provide nutritional support to help with the transition. Your veterinarian will help you in understanding the type of feeding tube needed, and how to successfully use at home, should your cat need one.

If your cat has previously been free fed, you will want to work with your veterinarian to transition them to meal feedings. If your cat does not eat, please contact your veterinarian immediately to discuss how to proceed with their insulin administration. Giving insulin, if a pet has not eaten without instructions from your veterinarian, can result in low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and seizures.    

Nutrition also plays an important role in managing DKA. Cats with DKA may have poor appetite and may be unable to eat, so they may require tube feeding or parenteral nutrition. Once the cat’s condition has stabilized, it’s important to transition them back to a balanced diet that is appropriate for their individual needs, such as a low-carbohydrate diet.

Regular monitoring of blood glucose levels is also an essential aspect of managing DKA. This helps to ensure that insulin therapy is effective and that blood glucose levels are returning to normal. Monitoring blood glucose levels at home can be done with a glucometer, a small device that measures blood glucose levels.

It’s also important to note that DKA is a life-threatening complication of diabetes mellitus, and that cats with DKA require close monitoring and frequent recheck blood glucose levels and other parameters to ensure that their condition is improving.

In summary, DKA is a serious complication that can occur in cats with diabetes mellitus and requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. Treatment options include fluid therapy, insulin therapy, and treatment of underlying illnesses or infections. Additionally, nutrition, regular monitoring of blood glucose levels, and close monitoring of the cat’s condition are important to manage DKA effectively.


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