Insulin therapy can be used to help diabetic cats regulate their blood sugar through a series of daily injections. This can be a necessary treatment for a chronic condition that can be very costly. A single vial of insulin can range between $30 – $300 depending on the type of insulin your cat needs.
These estimates don’t account for additional expenses such as specialty diets, accessories, and vet visits that your pet may need. In this article, we’ll break down what you can anticipate happening if your cat’s diabetic.
Understanding Feline Diabetes: Causes and Symptoms
Diabetes mellitus – or simply diabetes – can be a very common endocrine disorder that affects 1 in 300 pets.¹ Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas that helps the body regulate blood sugar levels. A pet diagnosed with diabetes can experience a lot of issues including high blood pressure and kidney issues.
Causes of feline diabetes
There are many causes that can lead to developing diabetes so it's important to discuss your individual cat’s medical history with your vet. The main risk factors of a cat becoming diabetic are:¹
- Age: Middle-aged to senior cats tend to develop diabetes more than young cats.
- Sex: Male cats can develop diabetes more than female cats.
- Genetics & Breed Type: Some cats inherit diabetes from their parents, especially certain breeds of cats including Burmese, Russian blue, and Norwegian forest cats.
- Obesity: Overweight and obese cats can be more likely to develop diabetes.
Keep in mind that cats may have a combination of risk factors that can increase the risk of developing diabetes. For example, male Burmese cats who are obese are more at risk than a female obese domestic short hair.¹
In rare cases, cancers like pancreatic cancer can cause pets to become diabetic.² Signs of cancer can be detected in routine blood and urine tests. Sometimes, your vet may suggest exploratory surgery to locate cancerous tumors that may be causing diabetes.
However, cancer isn’t a common cause of diabetes in cats.¹ It's more likely a combination of age, sex, and lifestyle that can lead to a diabetes diagnosis.
Symptoms of feline diabetes
It’s important to try and diagnose diabetes early. Delaying treatment can often lead to serious complications, like organ failure.
Diabetes can be difficult to diagnose early because it often takes several weeks or months to present itself. The most common signs of feline diabetes include:¹
- Recurring infections
- Wounds that are slow to heal
- Sudden weight loss
- Decreased appetite
Even though cats can be elusive, you shouldn’t ignore any changes in their behavior. It’s best to discuss these symptoms with your vet as soon as you notice them.
A MetLife Pet Policy May Help Cover Cat Diabetes Costs
How Insulin for Cats Is Used
One of the keys to successfully treating and reversing feline diabetes can be to communicate with your vet.¹,³ Insulin for cats may be given once a day or multiple times a day depending on the kind of medication you are prescribed. The goal of insulin therapy is not just to regulate blood sugar.
The other goal can be to mitigate the side effects of being diabetic and send the diabetes into remission.³ To do so, pet parents may have to give their cat insulin on a strict schedule.
Types of insulin for cats
First, you and your vet will decide what type of insulin your cat may need. There are three main types of insulin your vet may offer depending on your individual cat’s condition:⁴
- Short-acting: Lasts less than 8 hours
- Intermediate-acting: Lasts roughly 8 – 14 hours
- Long-acting: Lasts roughly 8 – 24 hours
Once you’ve chosen the kind of insulin your pet needs, your vet may coach you on how to monitor your cat’s blood glucose levels and how often you should administer insulin. Pet parents may expect to need to give their pet injections and check blood sugar levels.
Cat Insulin Cost
The cost of your insulin depends heavily on the type of insulin your cat needs and how many doses they can need a day. Below are cost estimates for each type of insulin:
Type of Insulin
Average Cost for a 10 mL vial
Short-acting (less than 4 hours)
$30 – $70
Intermediate (6 to 12 hours)
$30 – $100
Long-acting (12 hours or more)
$100 – $300
As a general rule, long-acting insulins (e.g. Detemir, NPH, and PZI) can cost more than intermediate or short-acting insulin medication. You may also pay more for these prescriptions based on where you live, which supplier you buy the prescriptions from, and the number of vials you purchase.
Talk with your vet about ways to potentially save on insulin. You may also consider investing in cat insurance while your pet is young and healthy, especially if they’re one of the listed breeds at risk for diabetes. Pet insurance could help you cover the cost of cat insulin along with associated supplies.
Other costs for managing cat diabetes
Feline diabetes should be monitored regularly. Some of the supplies pet parents may have to purchase for diabetes include:⁵
- Testing supplies: $25 to $50 a month to purchase syringes, blood glucose monitors, and testing strips
- Vet visits: $50 to $100 per visit
- Prescription diet: $40 to $80 a month
While this can be overwhelming for pet parents, it's important to work with your vet to avoid potential complications of diabetes like:⁵
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Emergency vet visits
MetLife Pet Insurance Could Help You Save on Cat Insulin
The cost of insulin may range from $30 to $300 a month but this disregards the additional cost of syringes, testing supplies, and prescriptions. Cat insurance can help pet parents to manage feline diabetes. Pet insurance works by helping to reimburse pet parents for covered and approved veterinary expenses. Consider investing in pet insurance today so you can get back to spending quality time with your feline friend.
¹ “Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs and Cats,” Merck Veterinary Manual
² “The Relationship Between Diabetes Mellitus and Cancers and Its Underlying Mechanisms,” National Library of Medicine
³ “Diabetic Remission in Cats,” VCA Animal Hospitals
⁴ “Insulins Commonly Used in Dogs and Cats,” American Animal Hospital Association
⁵ “Cost of Cat Diabetes: How Much Does Cat Insulin Cost? (2023 Price Guide)”, Pet Keen
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