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Diabetic Shock in a Cat

| Updated September 26, 2017

Feline diabetes affects one in 400 cats, according to the Pawprints And Purrs Inc. website. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) occurs when a diabetic cat’s insulin level needs to be changed or if the cat gets too much insulin. The insulin triggers the cat’s body to continue producing glucose. This ultimately causes blood glucose levels to become dangerously low. The cat develops hypoglycemia (also known as insulin shock or diabetic shock). Hypoglycemia is life-threatening.


Mild hypoglycemia can turn quickly into diabetic shock, so you must be vigilant in recognizing symptoms. According to the Feline Diabetes website, symptoms progress roughly in the following order: sudden ravenous hunger; restlessness; weakness and lethargy; shivering; poor coordination such as walking in circles, staggering or acting drunk; vision problems; changes in head or neck movements including head tilting; yowling and urgent meowing; behavior changes such as aggressiveness; convulsions or seizures; unconsciousness; coma and finally death.


Even if a cat is already unconscious or having seizures, you must rub a glucose solution such as corn syrup, maple syrup or honey immediately onto its gums, cheeks and under its tongue. Be careful not to obstruct the cat’s airway. The blood glucose-raising effects of syrup last only a short time, so offer food as soon as the cat can eat. The hypoglycemia may return, so you should consult with veterinarians concerning future insulin doses until you can make proper adjustments.

Prepare For Emergencies

Emergency preparedness is vital since cats can be fine one moment and hypoglycemic the next. Keep supplies of glucose handy such as packets of honey, pre-loaded syringes filled with corn or maple syrup, glucose solutions from the pharmacy or tubes of cake decorating gel. The Feline Diabetes website says, “Trust your instincts. If you are at all concerned that your cat is hypoglycemic, especially if the cat is shivering or worse, give sugar! Temporary hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) will not harm your cat. Hypoglycemia kills.”

Home Testing

Generally, home testing requires pricking the cat’s ear or paw pad and then analyzing the blood drop’s blood glucose level via a meter called a glucometer. “Advantages of home testing,” says the Feline Diabetes website, “include less stress to your cat, considerably decreased costs and time of monitoring compared to [veterinarian] visits, closer control of your cat’s blood glucose level by more frequent monitoring and possible avoidance of deadly hypoglycemic episodes.” You should discuss testing techniques and results with veterinarians before you change the amount of insulin you give to your cat.

Expert Insight

The Pawprints And Purrs Inc. website says, “A cat who has untreated diabetes will—sooner or later—become depressed, vomit, breathe more rapidly than normal, stop passing any urine at all, and will eventually go into a coma and die. If he gets too much insulin or doesn’t eat enough food, his blood sugar could dip [to] dangerously low levels (hypoglycemic shock), causing seizures and even death... Keep careful track of injections so that your cat doesn’t get a double dose... When in doubt, no insulin is better than too much.”