Cat World > Cat Health > Ketoacidosis in Cats

Ketoacidosis in Cats

ketoacidosis in catsDiabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life-threatening complication of uncontrolled diabetes caused by a lack, or insufficient amount of insulin. This means glucose is unable to be used by the body for energy. The body begins to search for alternate supplies of energy and begins to break down fat.

When fat is broken down (metabolised) into fatty acids, waste products known as ketones (also known as ketone bodies) are produced and accumulate in the bloodstream. This causes the blood to become too acidic (acidosis).

The body will try to get rid of the ketones by excreting them into the urine, which causes increased urine output and increased thirst.

What causes ketoacidosis in cats?

There are several possible causes including:

  • Undiagnosed diabetes
  • Insufficient insulin
  • Missed insulin
  • Not enough food
  • Illness and or infections (especially of the urinary tract)
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Surgery
  • Idiopathic (no known cause)

What are the symptoms of ketoacidosis?

How is ketoacidosis diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination from you and obtain a medical history. Some tests he may wish to perform include;

  • Blood tests (including biochemical profile and complete blood count) to check the blood sugar levels, ketones, blood acid levels and liver function.
  • Urinalysis to check for ketones, glucose, and urinary tract infection.
  • Abdominal x-ray

How is ketoacidosis treated?

Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, where your cat is still bright and alert home therapy may be all that is necessary. Regular monitoring of blood glucose levels should be performed.

In more serious cases, treatment includes;

Intravenous fluids and electrolytes  to treat  and correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalance (possibly supplementing with electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride). This also dilutes glucose and acid levels.

Frequent administration of short-acting insulin to lower blood sugar levels.

Where possible, find out the cause (such as infection) of ketoacidosis and treat.

Regular monitoring of blood glucose, blood chemistry, electrolytes and urine for ketones.

Once the cat is stable (eating, hydrated, no vomiting etc), your veterinarian will change to a long-acting or intermediate-acting insulin. [2]


[1] Cat Health Encyclopedia (P.262)- Edited by Dr. Lowell Ackermann.

[2] The Feline Patient - Essentials of Diagnosis and Treatment (P168) - Gary D. Norsworthy, Mitchell A. Crystal, Sharon K. Fooshee, Larry P. Tilley.

Also see:

Cat symptoms