Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Cats

Diabetic ketoacidosis in cats is a serious condition that can lead to coma and death. It occurs when your cat’s body does not produce enough insulin, which means it cannot use sugar for fuel. Your cat may also develop diabetic ketoacidosis if the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or if cells are resistant to insulin.

This blog post will explain diabetic ketoacidosis in cats, how it affects pets, why diabetic ketoacidosis happens in cats specifically, and what signs to look out for so you can take care of your pet before any accidents happen.

diabetic ketoacidosis in cats

What is Ketoacidosis in cats?

Diabetic ketoacidosis mostly happens due to uncontrolled diabetes, such as uncontrolled or too high blood sugar levels. This enhances fatty acid within the pet’s body, and when these are broken down, they generate compounds called ketones. Ketones in high levels are extremely dangerous for the pet’s body as they directly affect and change the natural pH balance.

As a result, your cat suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis gets more acidic. The process doesn’t end here; to make things worse, the acids make body vitamins and proteins more prone to damages, distressing a host of processes and making your pet unhealthy and unwell.

Suppose you see your cat is looking unwell, lethargic, less appetite, or suffering from severe vomiting. In that case, it means it might be suffering from Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), and you should take it as an emergency.

How is Diabetic Ketoacidosis Diagnosed?

Overall, the diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis in cats is easy, and the process is a simple one. Usually, the disease is diagnosed by conducting blood work to determine the overall blood sugar of the pet and the levels of ketones present in its blood.

Most animals, including cats suffering from DKA, have high blood sugar and blood/urine ketone values that are found after detailed examination and through the sample. Clinical signs and the cat’s medical history are also helpful in the diagnosis of DKA. You might also witness some abnormalities in blood gas because of a low pH and strong electrolytes imbalances.

Symptoms Of Ketoacidosis:

Some common symptoms of DKA in cats are:

  • Severe vomiting.
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Stress and Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Too much weight loss
  • Muscle wasting
  • Increased thirst or polydipsia.
  • Increased or frequent urination
  • Rough hair coat
  • Fast breathing
  • Low body temperatures
  • Dandruff on the body.
  • Change in breath odor.
  • The skin might get yellowish and yellowness in gums and eyes (jaundice).

Causes of DKA In Cats

The cat’s diabetes ultimately causes the ketoacidosis, but it can be triggered due to underlying reasons such as stress and infections. This problem can occur when there’s not enough insulin in their body, which leads to an increase in blood sugar and carb content due to poor diet or excessive exercise without food intake.

Besides, this condition may also stem from various other factors such as surgery-related complications such as infections anywhere on your kitty’s skin, respiratory system illness, including ear mites, among others.

Some common diseases that you might see with DKA in your cat include the following:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Heart disease (such as congestive heart failure)
  • Liver disease (such as fatty changes to the cat’s liver)
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Chronic kidney failure
  • Endocrine diseases
  • Lung disease (such as pneumonia)
  • Cancer

Treatments Available for Cats with Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Treatment for DKA differs from case to case, but generally, it has two stages. The first stage is called as initial, while the second is ongoing. DKA in cats demands intense and rapid management, especially at the start. This initial treatment process includes analyzing and addressing the cat’s medical history and clinical problems.

Furthermore, you might have to admit the pet to the hospital for several days. Cats suffering from DKA are usually treated through these methods, but as mentioned above, it may differ from patient to patient. The general DKA treatment plan includes:

Rehydration fluid therapy

This includes improving electrolytes (these are salts in the cat’s body that are responsible for many body processes)

Reduction of high blood sugar levels.

Your vet might suggest some more diagnostic tests at this time to analyze the cat’s condition and to find out the root cause of the DKA. Similarly, the vet might also recommend some blood to determine the development of other diseases such as liver disease or pancreatitis.

Ongoing treatments For DKA:

This includes regular monitoring of insulin, controlling the body’s blood sugar levels. Your cat will remain under strict observation during the treatment, and monitoring of the cat’s blood sugar along with blood samples will get regular during the treatment. In some cases, your vet might suggest dietary management plans for your pet.

Once the vet confirms diabetic ketoacidosis in your cat, they recommend further diagnostic investigations to determine concurrent problems such as acute pancreatitis or urinary tract infection. Some tests that your vet might recommend are as follow:

  • Detailed blood count
  • Serum biochemical profile
  • Various urine tests and culture
  • Gastrointestinal profile
  • Abdominal examination and sonography
  • Chest radiographs and X-rays
  • ACTH stimulation test
  • Screening of other infectious diseases

The prognosis for cats with diabetic ketoacidosis

Unluckily, the long-term prognosis for animals, including cats suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis, is extremely poor. However, this also depends on the severity and how you treat the problem. In all cases, regardless of severity, you will have to be extremely attentive regarding your cat.

You should constantly monitor her during the treatment and recovery period if she is at home. Observe your cat closely and try to notice the apparent symptoms like weight loss, vomiting, yellowish skin, and other symptoms. And if you notice any of these in your cat, rush to your vet.

What can I Expect if my Pet is Treated for DKA?

Most pet animals, around 70%, including cats treated for DKA, are cleared from the hospital successfully. However, it also depends on the disease’s initial management, including intensive hospitalization and adequate treatment with regular monitoring and nursing of the patient.

Problems Secondary to Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Inappropriately, there are many serious conditions that DKA can bring, including:

  • fluid in the lungs
  • heart failure
  • persistently low potassium levels
  • low blood sugar
  • low phosphorus levels
  • brain swelling
  • kidney failure

Due to these possible fatal complications, hospitalization and aggressive treatment are vital for cats with diabetic ketoacidosis.

Preventing Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Preventing diabetic ketoacidosis is essential because of its life-threatening nature. The most critical step in preventing it is proper insulin dosing, which can be done with home monitoring blood glucose levels. Home blood glucose monitoring is essential for cats with diabetic ketoacidosis. And if you are not already doing it, seek help from your veterinary team, as they will help you in getting started.

Furthermore, your vet will guide you on how and when to take readings and when to show the results to the vet. In simple words, they will guide you on how they are interpreted and what you need to do to monitor your cat’s insulin dose.

The key to averting a recurrence of diabetic ketoacidosis in cats is to remain aware of your cat’s sugar levels throughout the day. Similarly, you need to understand the pattern of your cat’s blood glucose levels. In some cases, you will have to report the glucose levels to your veterinarian so that they can fine-tune the insulin doses and set the stage to prevent this disease from recurring.

Which cat breeds are more susceptible to ketoacidosis?

Various studies have shown that the cat breeds that are more prone to diabetes and ketoacidosis are:

  • Russian Blue
  • Norwegian Forest Cat
  • Abyssian breeds

The study also revealed that many domestic cats compared had an increased risk of developing this diabetic disorder as compared to the purebred cats.

Feeding Your Cat With Diabetic Ketoacidosis:

You can control the disease through a balanced diet, exercise, and insulin, in most cases. The best choice for cats suffering from any type of diabetic issue is a low carbohydrate, high protein diet. This is because such diets also encourage balanced weight in obese diabetics, and you will find them in both canned and dry variants.

For cats, fiber-based diets are ideal, as it helps them to become more sensitive to insulin. However, in many cases, your vet will prescribe a balanced diet for your cat with diabetic ketoacidosis, and sometimes cats may not need insulin.

Hence first consult the matter with the vet to achieve a balanced diet. However, avoid the meals and food items that have added preservatives or include sugar as a preservative. Similarly, don’t feed them breads and sweet treats.

As mentioned earlier, try to feed them in every 12 hours before giving them an insulin injection. Therefore, it is not recommended to feed them treats or an extra meal in between these times as your cat’s sugar and glucose level will increase. Try to give diabetic-friendly homemade food to a diabetic cat after discussing it with the vet. Because the food that you prepare for your feline would have extra ingredients love and care.


We know that you love your kitty. Thus you should take care of them by learning and understanding about diabetic ketoacidosis in cats and how to prevent it from happening in the first place. Early diagnosis of the disease is critical for a positive outcome because the sooner treatment begins, the better their chances are of making a full recovery.

If you see any symptoms or notice changes in behavior around food sources, please consult the matter with your vet so that they can figure out what might be going on before things get worse.

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