Diabetic hypoglycemia symptoms in an elderly cat

Updated February 21, 2017

Cats suffering from hypoglycaemia have abnormally low blood sugar levels. In serious cases, this condition can be life threatening. Hypoglycaemia is a common side effect of feline diabetes, and also may occur in otherwise healthy older cats, if insulin levels are too high, or if the cat does not consume enough food. Fasting before vigorous exercise, liver disease and pancreatic tumours also can cause hypoglycaemia. Hypoglycaemia in cats can lead to various problems, such as lethargy, weakness and digestion issues.


Cats suffering from hypoglycaemia may appear lethargic and sleepy. It may be difficult to wake a hypoglycaemic cat if it has been sleeping, and your cat may tend to hide in unusual places, such as a cupboards or behind furniture, in order to be left alone. These symptoms may be hard to notice in an older cat, which already sleeps most of the day. However, low blood glucose levels lead to unconsciousness or coma, if left untreated, according to Pawprints and Purrs Incorporated.


Cats suffering a hypoglycaemic episode also may seem significantly weak. Hypoglycaemic cats may move as though drunk, stagger or fall over. Elderly cats often suffer from stiff joints and are at higher risk for falls than younger cats, who have an easier time keeping their balance. Glassy eyes and swaying or tilting while standing also are common symptoms of hypoglycaemia. These cats' bodies are not providing the energy they need for proper neural function. In serious cases, they may become unresponsive or seriously disoriented. Some may have seizures or convulsions.


Hypoglycaemic cats often have digestive complications, as well. They may appear to be ravenously hungry, or vomit after eating. Some cats have litter box "accidents" during a hypoglycaemic episode, especially those older cats, whose bowel functions have deteriorated with age. A hypoglycaemic cat may become too weak or disoriented to eat, despite strong interest in food. These cats' conditions can be improved by feeding them sugar, such as honey or syrup. Cats which cannot swallow, can be treated by rubbing the sugar into their gums, but should not be force-fed. As soon as the cat is capable of eating, it should be offered solid foods to counteract high blood insulin levels.

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About the Author

G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.