Author: Ann Staub, Vet Tech & Pet Blogger, Pawsitively Pets!
Diabetes mellitus is a common medical condition that can affect cats. Some cats just have the right genes for it. Others may be at risk due to their weight and diet. But were you aware that cats can actually come down with diabetes after receiving steroid treatments?
There are many cats out there who are plagued with itchy skin due to allergies. Many vets today are more cautious with their use of steroids in feline patients, but sometimes they may feel that steroids are necessary. In a cat with horribly itchy skin, a steroid injection could be recommended for relief.
One method of treatment is an injection called Depo medrol which is a steroid injection with effects that last a few weeks. If your cat is already at risk for diabetes, a steroid treatment like this could give them that push over the edge and some become diabetic after the injection. Repeated long-term use of steroids in cats also puts them at more risk of becoming diabetic.
Steroids also have a number of side effects on cats. Increased urination, thirst, and hunger are a few. Steroids raise a cat's blood glucose levels. These are some of the side effects of diabetes mellitus as well. Diabetes is not caused by the steroids alone, but is more like a "side effect" of the drug.
Fortunately, steroid induced diabetes in cats can go away in time with treatment, but this is not always the case. After the cat has been weaned slowly off of the steroids, given an insulin regimen, and started to eat a proper diet, it is possible for the diabetes to go away all together. The patient will need to return to his or her veterinarian for regular check ups and blood tests to regulate how their treatment is going.
Of course, a cat who is diagnosed with diabetes should not receive steroids. Taking steroids will make it difficult, if not impossible, to treat diabetes in cats. Cats with allergies should seek different treatment options to help their itchy skin.
Always keep a cat with severe skin allergies on a flea prevention. Even one bite from a flea can cause a severe reaction in cats with allergies. Try a hypo-allergenic diet with a novel protein and less grains. This may also help with your cat's diabetes.
I don't think that it is wrong to have your cat treated with steroids when it is needed, but you should keep in mind that steroids can have unwanted side effects. I treated my own cat with steroid injections and pills for asthma and oral ulcers on several occasions. It may be easy to tell the vet that you just want to get a shot and stop your cat's itching, but it might not be in their best interest over time. A quick and easy fix is not always the best answer.
I am inspired to write this by one of my favorite cat patients. He had steroid induced diabetes and severe skin allergies. Unfortunately, his steroid induced diabetes did not go away with time and treatment. His family eventually decided to let him cross over the rainbow bridge due to his poor quality of life. I don't typically become very attached to patients, but this cat was one that I will never forget and his story has always stuck with me.