Sidestepping the Perils of your Garden Plants

There is a surprisingly large number of plant species that render themselves poisonous to our furry companions. Although some are more toxic than others, it’s important to survey your garden, identify these perilous plants and either restrict or remove them for the safety and wellbeing of your pet.

Did you know that by either adding bran flakes to your pets’ food or including more vegetable fibres in their diet, they may be less inclined to seek out your garden vegetation?

A practical way to assess the most common of these poisonous plants is to classify them according to which system in the body they affect:


Melia azedarach (Syringa berry tree)
Alternative common names:
Seringa; Persian lilac; bead tree; berry tree; Cape lilac; China berry; China tree; white cedar (English), maksering; sering; bessieboom (Afrikaans), umsilinga (isiZulu)
Why?: The leaves, bark, flowers and ripe fruits of the Syringa berry tree are poisonous, with the berries containing the highest concentration of meliatoxins, causing a high mortality rate in affected animals who eat the fallen berries.






Cannabis sativa
Alternative common names: “Marijuana” or Dagga” plant
Why?: It’s the THC in the plants leaves that cause intoxication in animals when they either ingest the actual plant, or ingest the owners supply of the dried leaves, or products make form the leaves like cookies or other edibles. Second hand Marijuana smoke is effects pets.






Amanita Pantherina
Alternative common names: Panther Cap and False Blusher
Why?: Amanita Pantherina or “Panther Cap” is extremely poisonous. They grow under large trees in South Africa and are thought to have been accidentally introduced with trees imported from Europe. They typically flush when the temperature drops after good rain.






Datura (Moonflower)
Alternative common names:
Devil’s trumpets, Moonflowers, Jimsonweed, Devil’s Weed, Hell’s Bells, Thorn-apple
Why?: An annual weed with prickly fruit consisting of tiny pitted seeds. All species of Datura are poisonous, especially their seeds and flowers.
Did you know? Angel trumpets (Brugmansia spp.) are closely related to Daturas and are also highly toxic. These beautiful woody trees and shrubs are nevertheless popular ornamentals throughout the world.






Brunfelsia pauciflora (Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow)
Alternative common names:
Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow, Morning-noon-and-night, Kiss Me Quick, Brazil Raintree
Brunfelsia pauciflora is a species of flowering plant in the family Solanaceae, the nightshades. All parts of this plant can be poisonous to pets but it is often the seed pods falling off the tree that are particularly attractive and often eaten.






Clinical symptoms:

  • muscle tremors and/or spasms
  • restlessness
  • respiratory difficulties
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • excitement alternating with depression
  • excessive barking
  • agitation
  • hallucinations
  • staggering gait
  • dry mucous membranes of the eyes and mouth
  • increased respiration rate or constant panting
  • ataxia (loss of coordination of the limbs, head, and/or trunk)
  • paralysis
  • digestive upsets
  • drowsiness
  • seizures


Ornithogalum thyrsoides
Alternative common names:
Chincherinchee, Star-of-Bethlehem or Wonder-flower, Tjienkerientjee, Tjienk, Wit-tjienk, Viooltjie (Afr.)
Why?: A bulbous plant species that is endemic to the Cape Province in South Africa. Pets are effected when they chew on the plant and ingest it.






Ricinus communis (Castor-oil plant)
Alternative names:
Castor Bean, Castor-oil-plant, Mole Bean Plant, African Wonder Tree
Castor seed is the source of castor oil, which has a wide variety of uses. The seeds contains ricin, a highly toxic component that inhibits protein synthesis; ingestion of as little as one ounce of seeds can be lethal. Ricin is also present in lower concentrations throughout the plant and is toxic to dogs, cats and horses.






Araceae family:
All the plants in the Araceae family contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in their leaves and stems. Chewing or biting into this plants leaves or stem release sharp crystals which become embedded in the mucous membranes of their mouth and tongue causing severe pain and irritation of the mouth and GI tract.

Toxic plants included in this family are:

– Elephants Ear (Caladium, Malanga)






Dumb Cane (Charming Dieffenbachia, Giant Dumb Cane, Tropic Snow, Exotica, Spotted Dumb Cane, Exotica Perfection)






Delicious Monster






Arum Lily (Calla Lily, Pig Lily, White Arum, Trumpet Lily, Florist’s Calla, Garden Calla)






Alternative names:
kaffir lily, caffre lily, cape clivia, and klivia
The flowers contain lycorine and other alkaloids that are toxic to cats when ingested. Although the bulb is considered the most toxic part of the plant, cat owners should not allow their cat to eat any part of this dangerous plant. Large quantities must be ingested to cause symptoms of toxicity however it’s estimated that complete kidney failure can occur within 24 to 72 hours after ingestion. Because of this, it is imperative you take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you recognize any of these symptoms or if you catch him in the act of eating the plant. There is no antidote for clivia poisoning, but there are other effective treatment methods available.  






Clinical symptoms:

  • vomiting
  • acute diarrhoea
  • bloating
  • cramping
  • blindness
  • multiple organ failure
  • severe pain
  • paralysis of the tongue
  • excessive salivation
  • difficulty swallowing because of a numb mouth and throat


Alternative names:
Sago Palm, Fern Palm
Cycad palms produce three toxins: cycasin, beta-methylamino-L-alanine, and an unidentified toxin. All parts of the plant are toxic, but the seeds contain higher levels of cycasin than other parts of the plant. Dogs usually ingest the seeds. Although toxic, the young leaves are palatable.






Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)
Alternative names:
The most common species being Microcystis. Dogs are exposed to this species by drinking or swimming in water contaminated with it. Intoxication occurs when they groom themselves, subsequently ingesting the toxic algae.






Amanita phalloides
Alternative names:
Death cap mushroom
One of the most poisonous of all know mushrooms, the death cap is extremely toxic to animals even when only a small amount is ingested. It’s toxins cause acute liver failure and can also damage other organs such as the kidneys and the intestinal tract. These toxic mushrooms resemble several edible species (caesar’s mushroom and the straw mushroom) commonly consumed by humans, increasing the risk of accidental poisoning. Amatoxins, the class of toxins found in these mushrooms, are thermostable: they resist changes due to heat, so their toxic effects are not reduced by cooking. Found growing under large trees like oak, chestnut and pine.






Clinical symptoms:

  • appetite loss
  • excessive salivation
  • depression
  • early symptoms can manifest themselves as gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting, salivation and diarrhea
  • permanent liver damage



All Lilies are toxic to cats so owners should make sure that their cats never have access to these plants. The entire plant is toxic and toxicity may occur when mouthing on or ingesting parts of the plant. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause kidney failure within 36 – 72 hours.

Toxic plants included in this family are:

– Asiatic lily





– Calla lily






– Day lily





– Easter lily





– Peace lily
The Peace lily is mildly toxic to animals when ingested. The peace lily is not a true lily from the Liliaceae family. True lilies are far more  toxic to cats and dogs. The Peace lily contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause skin irritation, a burning sensation in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and nausea.





– Tiger lily





– Lily of the valley






Clinical Symptoms:
Nephrotoxin in the above mentioned lilies can lead to renal failure within 24-72 hours of consumption. It only takes ingestion of one leaf to commence renal decline.

  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drooling
  • Increased urination, followed by a drastic reduction in urination for 1 – 2 days.


Oleander family of plants:

Nerium oleander
Alternative names:
Nerium, Oleander
Nerium oleander is one of the most poisonous commonly grown garden pants and is toxic in all its parts






Yellow oleander
Alternative names:
Lucky nut
All parts of the Yellow oleander plant are toxic to most vertebrates as they contain cardiac glycosides.






Digitalis (Foxgloves)
Alternative names: Foxgloves, Dead man’s bells, Witch’s gloves
Depending on the species, the Digitalis plant may contain several deadly physiological and chemically related cardiac and steroidal glycosides.  The entire plant is toxic (including the roots and seeds).






Lily of the valley
Alternative names:
May bells, Our Lady’s tears, Mary’s tears
The bulbs, flowers and berries of the Lily of the valley are poisonous. The whole plant has toxic levels of cardiac glycosides, but the bulbs contain the highest levels. Nearly 40 different cardiac glycosides have been found within the Lily of the valley plant. They also contain saponins, which is also toxic to cats and dogs.






Clinical symptoms:

  • Early indications of ingestion manifest themselves in the onset of gastrointestinal tract symptoms, such as diarrhoea, vomiting and excess salivation.
  • More severe signs subsequently follow including acute heart and respiratory distress, disturbances in cardiac rhythm and heart failure.
  • low blood pressure
  • seizures
  • coma


All  onions, raw or cooked are dangerous. They contain thiosulphate which is toxic to cats and dogs. The ingestion of onions causes a condition called hemolytic anemia, which is characterized by damage to the red blood cells. Onion toxicity can cause the red blood cells circulating through your pet’s body to burst.






Clinical symptoms:

  • anaemia
  • jaundice


Rubber euphorbia (Poinsettias)
Poinsettias, of which there are many varieties, contain a milky latex in the stem that is severely irritating to the skin, mucous membranes and gastrointestinal tract. The toxic principles in the latex of euphorbias are diterpenoid esters. These plants are sometimes regarded more of an irritant rather than toxic, however, poisoning by poinsettias is more frequently encountered in cats.






Dianthus caryophyllus (Carnations)
Alternative names: Carnation, Clove Pink, Pinks, Wild Carnation, Sweet William
Why: Particularly in cats when their skin comes into contact with the flower.






Grass seeds:
Grasses such as Spear grass, Rooigras (Themeda triandra), Assegaaigras and Bur Bristle grass (Setaria verticillata) have seeds that can penetrate the animals skin. This is most common between the toes of the animal but the seeds can also penetrate the skin, nose, eyes, eyelids, ears, gums or soft palate. Once the seed has penetrated the skin, they are able to migrate far inside the body.






Clinical symptoms:

  • Symptoms associated with grass seeds and awns are determined by the shape of the seed and are specific to where it has lodged itself on the pet:
  • Eyes may become inflamed and red.
  • Sneezing or nasal discharge.
  • Scratching the ear or shaking of the head.
  • Chewing on an agitated area of skin may result in abscesses developing.
  • dermatitis

What to do if your Pet is Poisoned?

  1. Have your veterinarian’s contact details along with an ER vet and Pet Poison Helpline pre-saved on your phone so it’s always available in case of an emergency.
  2. As soon as you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, remove them from the area where the suspected intoxication occurred.
  3. Remove any residual poisonous substances from other pets or your children’s reach.
  4. Call your veterinarian or the national 24-hour Poisons Information Helpline on 086 155 5777.
  5. Ensure your pet is breathing and acting normally.
  6. Keep a sample of the toxic material and any other information that may be useful to the vet or the Pet Poison Helpline expert.
  7. Do not give your pet any form of prescription or over-the-counter medication to try remedy the situation without your vet’s consent.
  8. Do not feed your pet milk, oil, salt or any other home remedies.
  9. Never induce vomiting without first consulting your veterinarian.

Keep in mind that there is a narrow window period when professionals can induce vomiting or pump the stomach of toxins to save your pet. Your reaction time may make the ultimate difference in saving your loved one’s life, so act immediately.

The severity of the associated symptoms fully depends on the quantity of toxin that has been ingested and how promptly they are treated thereafter. Plant poisoning in our pet pals is uncommon, but there have been reported cases of related fatalities. By being aware of the types of plants you have in your garden, you can prevent an unnecessary incident or tragedy from happening.

Additional toxic plants to keep your pet away from:

  • Azalea
  • Baby’s breath
  • Begonia
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Cyclamen
  • Gladiola
  • Hosta
  • Ivy including the following: California, Branching, Glacier, Needlepoint, Sweetheart and English.
  • Milkweed
  • Morning glory
  • Pothos
  • Tulip/Narcissus

Avoid Other Forms of Pet Poisoning @ Home:

  • Store all household cleaning material, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, paint-related items, chemicals and vehicle-related products in secured cabinets out of your pet’s reach.
  • Even small doses of medication such as antidepressants, vitamins, pain killers, cold medicines and diet pills can be deadly to cats and dogs so keep them out of reach from your pets.
  • Only use pest baits or traps (for rats, mice, snails or cockroaches) in areas that are inaccessible to pets.
  • Only administer prescribed medication from your vet to your dog or cat as many human medications can be fatal to animals.
  • Everyday household items can cause serious harm to your pets, so keep the following inaccessible to them:
  • Consult your vet before applying a flea prevention product to sick, old or pregnant dogs.
  • Do not use products intended for dogs on cats, and vice versa.
  • Restrict your pets from accessing areas that have undergone insecticidal fogging or house sprays as indicated on the instructions.
  • Restrict your pets from gardens that have been treated with herbicides, fertilisers or insecticides until they have dried entirely.
  • Consult with a product’s manufacturer if you are unsure how to use it safely in your house.


Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.


The Shots Your Pets Need

Image: Pixabay

Making sure that your pet is kept up to date on vaccines is part of being a responsible pet owner. However, recommendations can differ between clinics and even between pets, and vaccine schedules can be confusing. Many owners also have concerns about overvaccination, and no one wants to cause their pet more harm than good. That said, it is important to understand which diseases you need to protect your pet against and why. In all cases, it’s best to work with your veterinarian to weigh the risks and benefits.

What Are Vaccines?
The purpose of a vaccine is to protect your pet against acquiring a specific disease. Vaccines contain antigens, which are essentially small segments of a disease-causing organism that, when given to your pet, stimulate his or her immune system to produce protective antibodies against the disease. Most vaccines generate only a mild response from the immune system. However, it is possible for some pets to have more severe reactions. Your vet can advise you of these reactions and what type of symptoms to watch for.

What types of vaccines are there?
Vaccines are generally broken down into two categories: core vaccines and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines protect against diseases known to cause significant illness in dogs and cats, those that are highly contagious and those that may be transmitted to humans. These vaccines are generally recommended for every healthy pet. Non-core vaccines are usually reserved for pets who are at higher risk for acquiring a specific disease. The vaccines that your pet requires to stay healthy will depend on age, health and lifestyle. Your veterinarian can help you determine which vaccines are appropriate for your pet. (Get details about vaccines for dogs and vaccines for cats.)
Why does my puppy or kitten require a series of vaccines?
When puppies and kittens are born, they acquire protective antibodies from their mothers through nursing. Before or around 16 weeks of age, these antibodies fade and no longer offer immunity. Without testing, it is impossible to know the level of antibody protection each pet has at any given time (some stray puppies and kittens, for example, might not have had the opportunity to nurse). The purpose of the vaccine series is to provide immunization during a time when your pet might not be protected. Adhering closely to this schedule is extremely important for proper immunity. If you miss a vaccine appointment during this series, your veterinarian might recommend additional boosters to ensure that your pet is adequately protected.
What if I don’t know my pet’s vaccine history?
If your pet is an adult with an unknown vaccination history, such as a newly adopted dog or cat, he or she should essentially be treated as an unvaccinated pet. One rabies vaccination and two sets of each core vaccine generally will be recommended.

Why do vaccine schedules differ among clinics?
Depending on the veterinary clinic, certain vaccines might be recommended annually or every three years. While research exists to show that some core vaccines offer protection past their one-year booster, some veterinary practices still adhere to an annual vaccination schedule. Thus, it is not uncommon to find variation among clinics. It is best to keep your pet on a consistent schedule and defer to your veterinarian’s recommendations.

Regardless of vaccine schedule, every pet should have a yearly wellness exam. Our pets age faster than we do, and regular veterinary check-ups are crucial for keeping optimum health and early detection of disease.

Should I be worried about vaccine reactions?
For commonly recommended vaccines, the risk of disease far outweighs the risk of any vaccine-associated complications. Most pets do not show signs of illness after a vaccine. Mild lethargy or itching in the area where the vaccine was given is common. In some cases, pets might have allergic reactions following vaccination. For this reason, it is best that owners schedule appointments when they are able to monitor their pet for 24 hours after vaccines are given.

Signs of a vaccine reaction can include vomiting, swelling of the face, difficulty breathing, lethargy or collapse. If your pet ever develops any of these signs following vaccination, seek immediate veterinary care. Generally, these types of reactions can be managed easily by your veterinarian. Pets that are known to have reactions can receive treatment before future vaccinations to minimize these responses.

When should my pet not receive vaccines?
There might be certain situations or medical conditions in which it is not safe for your pet to be vaccinated. If your pet is ever very ill, it is probably best to wait until he or she is healthy before receiving vaccines. The goal of any vaccination protocol is always to offer your pet the best protection for his or her health while minimizing the risk. Every case is unique, and vaccine requirements may vary over the course of your pet’s life as travel and other variables change. Always check with your veterinarian and defer to his or her recommendations.

Core Vaccines for Dogs

Canine Distemper and Adenovirus Vaccine
Distemper is an extremely contagious viral illness that can cause symptoms ranging from coughing and sneezing to vomiting and diarrhea, and even seizures. Infection with adenovirus leads to a condition called hepatitis (an inflammatory condition of the liver). Both of these viruses can cause significant illness in dogs, requiring lengthy treatment and supportive care. In many cases, infection can be fatal.

Puppies should be vaccinated for distemper and adenovirus every 3-4 weeks, beginning at 6-8 weeks of age, until they are at least 16 weeks of age. Adults should then be vaccinated at 12 months of age and every 1-3 years thereafter.

Canine Parvovirus Vaccine
Canine parvovirus, commonly known as parvo, is a highly contagious virus that destroys the lining of the small intestine. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. Parvo is an extremely serious condition. Dogs who become infected can require days of hospitalization receiving fluids and additional supportive care. Complications from parvo can include extreme dehydration and secondary bacterial infections which can be fatal. The virus is spread through the feces of infected dogs. Young, unvaccinated puppies are especially susceptible, although unvaccinated adult dogs can easily acquire the disease, too.

For best protection, puppies should be vaccinated against parvovirus every 3-4 weeks, starting at 6-8 weeks old until they reach at least 16 weeks of age. Dogs are then vaccinated at 12 months of age and every 1-3 years after that.

Canine Rabies Virus Vaccine
Rabies virus is the causative agent of a grave disease affecting the nervous system. Infection with rabies is universally fatal, meaning that animals who become infected will eventually die from the disease. Due to tightly regulated vaccination practices, the occurrence of rabies in domesticated dogs in the United States is rare. However, wild animals can serve as a reservoir for infection, so it is especially important that every pet be protected.

Rabies is most commonly spread by the bite of an infected animal. Rabies can be transmitted to humans; therefore vaccination for dogs is required by law. Every state has its own laws regarding rabies vaccination and licensure, so be sure to check the specific requirements in your area.

Puppies should receive a single rabies vaccine, generally around 12-16 weeks of age, which will be repeated at one year of age and then every 1-3 years after that.

Non-Core Vaccines for Dogs

Bordetella and Parainfluenza Vaccine

Bordetella bronchiceptica and parainfluenza are the bacterial and viral agents respectively involved in causing the upper respiratory disease in dogs commonly known as kennel cough. Although kennel cough is a highly contagious disease among dogs, symptoms are generally mild. Dogs most notably develop a rather dramatic-sounding hacking cough, often accompanied by sneezing and watery eyes. Some dogs might show more severe symptoms such as lethargy or a reluctance to eat or drink, and in some cases, secondary pneumonia is possible.

Like the common cold in people, kennel cough can be spread through the air and by coming into close contact with infected dogs. Dogs who take frequent trips to the dog park, grooming salons or doggy day care are more susceptible to acquiring kennel cough and should be vaccinated.

The recommended schedule for vaccination against kennel cough will depend on the type of product used, so check with your veterinarian. Please note that while the bordetella vaccine is generally considered by most veterinarians to be protective for one year, some kenneling and boarding facilities require it to be updated every six months.

Leptospirosis Vaccine
Leptospirosis is an infection caused by a microscopic organism known as a spirochete (a type of bacteria) that can cause liver and kidney disease in dogs and humans. While once thought to be primarily a rural disease, Leptospirosis is being diagnosed increasingly in dogs in urban and suburban areas.

Dogs generally acquire the disease by drinking or wading through contaminated water or by being exposed to infected wildlife (such as rodents, skunks and raccoons). Because the infection can be transmitted to humans, extreme care should be taken around any dog thought to have Leptospirosis. Several strains of Leptospirosis exist, so vaccination is not considered to be completely protective.

Talk to your veterinarian to see if your pet should be vaccinated for Leptospirosis.

Lyme Disease Vaccine
Lyme disease (also commonly known as tick fever) is an infectious disease of the blood that is transmitted by ticks. Lyme disease can affect both dogs and humans, although infected dogs cannot directly transmit the disease to people. Symptoms in dogs can include lameness, fever, depression and anorexia. Dogs who live near heavily wooded areas are more susceptible, however, any dog who comes into contact with an infected tick can acquire the disease.

Routine tick control is an important aspect of prevention against Lyme disease. Talk to your veterinarian to see if your pet should have additional vaccine protection.

Miscellaneous Vaccines for Dogs
Other, less common vaccines such as Giardia, canine influenza and the rattlesnake vaccine may be beneficial to some dogs in specific situations. As always, defer to your veterinarian for the best recommendations for vaccines for your pet.

Core Vaccines for Cats

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia Vaccine

Feline viral rhinotracheitis and calicivirus cause upper respiratory disease symptoms in cats such as fever, runny eyes and sneezing. Symptoms are generally mild, although kittens can develop corneal or oral ulcers and pneumonia. These viruses are spread through close contact with infected cats. Transmission can also be airborne, and spread, for example, through the droplets of a sneeze.

Feline panleukopenia is a highly contagious virus that causes a severe infection of the bone marrow and intestinal tract of cats, leading to fever, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and a dangerously low white blood cell count. The virus is spread through the feces as well as oral and nasal secretions of infected cats. Young kittens, especially strays who haven’t had an opportunity to be vaccinated, are particularly susceptible.

Kittens will generally receive a combination rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia vaccine beginning at 6 weeks old and then every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. After that, boosters are given every 1-3 years.

Feline Rabies Virus Vaccine
Rabies can affect cats just as it does dogs. Because wildlife can serve as a reservoir for infection, outdoor cats are particularly susceptible. Although indoor cats are at considerably lower risk for acquiring rabies, some states regulate feline rabies vaccine administration, so check with your veterinarian for recommendations.

A single dose of the rabies vaccine should be given to kittens at 12-16 weeks of age, at 12 months and then every 1-3 years thereafter.

Non-Core Vaccines for Cats

Feline Leukemia Virus Vaccine

Leukemia is a contagious viral disease of cats that can result in immune system suppression, blood abnormalities, and even cancer in some cases. Infected kittens will show signs of fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. Adult cats can carry the virus in their system for years and can be prone to chronic infections and illness resulting from a suppressed immune system.

Feline leukemia virus is highly contagious and can be spread by infected to non-infected cats through grooming, sharing food and water dishes or simply being in close contact. Every cat should be tested for feline leukemia virus before introducing new cats into a multiple-cat household. Outdoor cats are considered at high risk for infection and should be protected.

All kittens receive two sets of leukemia vaccine 2-3 weeks apart. After the kitten series, if a cat is to remain indoors and not exposed to other cats of an unknown health status, further leukemia vaccination is not necessary or recommended. Outdoor cats should be vaccinated annually.

Miscellaneous Vaccines for Cats
In special circumstances, vaccination against diseases such as FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) or other conditions may be beneficial. Check with your veterinarian for his or her recommendations.
Source: Spark People

Taking Feline Diabetes Down

Feline diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is being found in a startling number of cats and if left untreated, the consequences can be fatal. It’s essential to be attentive of the signs potentially suggesting the presence of this condition so you can give your cat the best possible treatment at a chance of a quality life.

What is diabetes mellitus?

In a healthy cat, sugar in the form of glucose, is required by the body for energy. The pancreas produces the hormone, insulin, which attaches to cells and indicates when to absorb glucose. This absorption provides essential fuel to the liver, muscles and cells in fat deposits, simultaneously reducing the glucose levels in the blood. Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which some feline bodies are unable to produce or respond to the hormone insulin, thereby causing a dangerous surge in sugar glucose levels.

Type I diabetes is when the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient levels of insulin, resulting in higher concentrations of glucose. Type II diabetes is caused by the body’s cells’ inefficiency to respond properly to insulin. Cats with diabetes typically suffer from Type II.

Clinical Signs

  • Weight loss irrespective of increased appetite
  • Excessive thirst and urination, thereby causing a possibility of dehydration
  • In neglected cases, nerve damage to the hind limbs may occur
  • Depression
  • Coma
  • Death


Your vet will not only enquire about potential symptoms your cat maybe experiencing, as mentioned above, but they will need to test blood and urine to establish the glucose concentrations therein. Although these symptoms could signal your kitty has diabetes, they may also be the result of several other diseases.

Blood tests to diagnosis diabetes are not always clear-cut because even healthy cats may display elevated glucose levels in their blood, resulting from stress onset by a veterinarian visit, otherwise known as hyperglycemia. Therefore, healthy cats that don’t have diabetes, may have temporary heightened blood glucose concentrations when tested by a vet. To avoid this misconception, veterinarians will alternatively measure the levels of fructosamine in the blood. Cats with acute diabetes will show increased levels of fructosamine which is assumed not to be considerably influenced by stress levels. Fructosamine levels are therefore, accurate in ascertaining the valid blood glucose measures, thereby establishing an accurate diagnosis of diabetes in cats.


Treatment of cats with diabetes aims to:

  • Reduce and/or prevent any further weight loss
  • Reduce and/or prevent any further indications of excess thirst and urination
  • Regulate appetite
  • Re-establish blood glucose to normal levels

Insulin Therapy

Diabetic cats are typically treated with injectable insulin and owners can learn to execute the procedure at home. With practice, owners and cats will feel more at ease with the process. Insulin preparations vary in terms of duration and the outcomes associated with fluctuations of blood glucose. Your vet will periodically administer insulin over a duration of between 12 – 24 hours, as a control to determine the type of insulin and dosage rate that ideally manages your cat’s particular blood glucose concentrations.


Low carbohydrate diets have proven to control blood glucose concentrations in the body. If your cat is underweight, because of the diabetes, ensure to feed them numerous meals a day or allow them unlimited access to their food, both day and night. On the other end of the spectrum, ask your vet to prescribe a diet suitable for an overweight cat which will likely assist their bodies in maintaining more balanced glucose levels.

Management and Monitoring

Although there is no cure for feline diabetes, it can be managed if the owner is well-informed and dedicated to treating the condition. If the disease is treated with commitment, a cat can live a high-quality life for an extended number of years. In some cases, cats may go into remission, no longer depending on insulin treatments. However, owners should still be consistently vigilant of any clinical symptoms of diabetes and maintain a low carbohydrate diet.

Parents of diabetic cats should closely watch their purry pal’s appetite, body weight, water consumption, urination frequency, the quantity of insulin given as well as blood or urine glucose levels. All this information should be recorded and conveyed to your veterinarian on a regular basis. Weakness, lethargy, tremors, seizures and vomiting are signs of hypoglycaemia. In such cases, a glucose solution, dextrose gel or honey should be smeared onto your kitty’s gums followed by an immediate consult with your veterinarian.

As daunting as feline diabetes appears, it really is manageable, and your cat can still live a long, high quality life. With some research and education from reputable sources; commitment to administering the necessary treatments and keeping a watchful eye on your kitty, you’ll be able to take feline diabetes down!

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson