What is diabetic ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious condition which develops after diabetes, and occurs when your blood acid level has increased significantly due to ketone bodies.

What is diabetic ketoacidosis in cats?

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a dangerous health complication that normally occurs in cats with diabetes. This happens after there is abnormal rise of acids in the bloodstream as a result of ketone presence in the bloodstream, just as with humans. DKA is a serious condition that requires prompt treatment to prevent the risk of coma or even death to a diabetic cat. DKA usually affects cats that are older. Also, female cats have a higher chance of getting diabetic ketoacidosis compared to male cats. Your veterinarian will carry out a physical examination of your cat, including a complete blood count (CBC) and possibly a urinalysis and biochemistry profile.


Diabetic ketoacidosis in cats can be caused when their bodies burn fat as opposed to glucose. If your cat cannot produce enough insulin to regulate the blood sugar, it can lead to a buildup of blood acids. Other factors can also contribute to DKA in cats, including severe infection, surgery, stress, illness, or the cat becoming severely dehydrated. DKA can also be caused when the cat has consistently high levels of blood glucose or concurrent medical conditions such as kidney failure, heart problems, cancer or asthma.


The signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis in cats usually develop quickly. DKA share the same signs and symptoms as diabetes.

If your cat has diabetic ketoacidosis, it may result in the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration or increased thirst
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weakness
  • Sweet breath smell
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased urination


The treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis in cats usually involves insulin therapy, which helps to normalize the level of ketone bodies and blood glucose. To successfully treat DKA, hospitalization may be needed. At the animal hospital, your veterinarian may give your cat IV fluids to help flush the ketones out of the cats body fluids. Electrolyte replacement can help restore electrolytes levels that have fallen abnormally low as a result of low insulin levels.

Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.