Has Steroids Caused Her Cat’s Diabetes

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A reader asks has steroids has caused her cat’s diabetes. Her 11 year old cat has been on a steroid drug for sometime now for allergies but has lately also been diagnosed with cat diabetes. She has questioned her vet but he seems unaware of any connection between the drug and the diabetes.

The drug in question is  Depo Medrol which is a long-lasting injectable steroid that is commonly used in cats. Initially this drug is often seen to have a miraculous effect however over time the effects appear to wear off and can cause side effects.

 “My 11-year old cat has gotten Depo Medrol shots for allergies for some time now, and is newly diagnosed with diabetes. My vet is unaware of a connection between the two. Going this afternoon to learn to give insulin shots. My question is, if she stops getting the Depo Medrol, what do we do about her allergies? Will we possibly be able to change her diet and eventually not use insulin?”

“What are those side effects? Steroids can be linked to increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, behavior changes, and weight gain. Cortisone and its analogues also have an effect on blood sugar — they make it go higher. Therefore, some cats who receive enough Depo Medrol will develop diabetes mellitus.”

Although Depo Medrol can cause cat diabetes it does not necessarily mean that it has caused it in this situation, however it certainly doesn’t help. In addition many cats that develop cat diabetes as a result of this drug to tend to revert back to normal  once the drug is stopped. Even if Depo Medrol is not responsible for the diabetes continuing the drug will make it very difficult to manage the diabetes.

“I therefore recommend that you talk to your vet about elimination of steroids from your cat’s allergy treatment regimen. Go back to the basics to treat the allergies: Use appropriate flea control.

Consider switching to a novel protein (hypoallergenic) diet. See a veterinary dermatologist to talk about other non-steroid treatments for allergies. If your cat’s allergies can’t be controlled without steroids, talk to your vet about oral steroids at very low doses that won’t lead to big intermittent steroid surges like Depo Medrol provides. Those steroid surges will make controlling the diabetes really difficult.”

So has steroids caused her cat’s diabetes? The answer is maybe, so to try and get the cat off steroids and treat the diabetes, if it needs treating. The blood sugar levels need to be closely monitored to prevent any overdose of insulin. Hopefully after a short period of time the cat may revert back to normal. However one thing missing in the above discussion is diet. You may find that putting the cat on a natural high protein diet may solve both the issues of the allergies and the diabetes.

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