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March 4, 2008

Cat drinking more and eating less, but diabetes isn't Honda's problem

Honda is a 12-year-old cat whose world is made up of multiple rooms full of large objects that his caretakers pay much more attention to than does he. He does have areas of interest, especially his food dish, which is kept full most of the time and, when on those rare times he finds it empty, he has trained Teresa to fill it upon his demonstration to her of the need.

For the past few weeks, water has become much more important to Honda. He is at the water bowl much of the time and Teresa reports having to fill it sometimes four times in a day; in the past, he would hardly finish half a bowl. Over this same period, Honda has become much less interested in his food and Teresa is at the point now where she has been changing foods every three or four days to try to get Honda to eat.

Teresa has done some Internet searching to try to discover why Honda might be drinking excessively and is convinced he has diabetes mellitus. She has made an appointment with Honda's veterinarian.

One of the hallmark signs for diabetes mellitus is increased thirst. The disease is associated with a lack of normal insulin production, which leads to elevated blood sugar. With this increase in sugar within the blood, there is a stimulus to drink more water to try to balance out the osmotic pressure in the blood. When this disease is unregulated, patients will drink almost constantly. Correspondingly, they also will have to urinate more.

Also common with diabetic patients is an increase in appetite. This is because the blood sugar is not being utilized by the body due to lack of insulin and, thus, the body thinks it is starving.

Honda, while he does have increased thirst, does not show the symptom of increased appetite. It is for this reason that I do not think he has diabetes. I would consider kidney disease as a more likely cause. Honda is an aging cat, and chronic kidney disease is a common disease in older cats.

One of the more common symptoms of chronic kidney disease is increased thirst because the kidneys are not doing an adequate job of saving fluid from the blood as it runs through the kidney filtration system. This fluid is simply incorporated as part of the urine and eliminated with urination. This then forces these patients to drink more to try to keep up with the wasting of fluid by the kidneys. These cats almost never eat excessively and, for that matter, usually have reduced or absent appetites depending on how far along their kidney disease has progressed.

Chronic kidney disease is not curable, but with treatment tailored to the severity of the disease and diet modification, Honda can maintain an excellent quality of life.

Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto.

Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.

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