Objective: The purposes of this study were to characterize the hyperglycemic, hyperosmolar syndrome (HHS), also known as nonketotic hyperosmolar diabetes, in cats; to determine the prevalence of HHS in the diabetic cat population in the emergency room; to document the outcome in cats with HHS; and to identify any predisposing factors or predictors of survival.
Design: Retrospective study.
Setting: An emergency service at a veterinary teaching hospital located in a major metropolitan area.
Animals: The case records of 17 cats with hyperglycemic, hyperosmolar syndrome presenting from 1995 to 2001 were evaluated. An additional 37 cats with diabetic ketoacidosis and 80 cats with diabetes mellitus served as comparison groups.
Measurements and main results: Signalment, history, physical examination findings, clinico-pathologic data, concurrent disease, and outcome were recorded. Hyperglycemic, hyperosmolar syndrome was seen in older cats that were often long-standing diabetics receiving insulin for many months. Client concerns included polydipsia, polyuria, and lethargy. Neurologic and respiratory signs occurred frequently. Evaluation at presentation revealed profound dehydration, lactic acidosis, and azotemia. Serious concurrent diseases that likely contributed to the development of the HHS crisis were diagnosed in 88% (15/17) of the HHS cats. The most common concurrent diseases were renal failure, respiratory compromise, infection, congestive heart failure, neoplasia, and gastrointestinal tract disease. Pancreatitis and hepatic disease did not occur frequently in this diabetic cat population. Sixty-five percent of HHS cats did not survive the initial hospitalization, with most dying or being euthanized within 10 hours of presentation. The long-term survival rate was low (12%).
Conclusions: HHS is a serious life-threatening form of diabetic crisis and cats with HHS often have other severe systemic diseases. Cats with diabetes and concurrent disease, especially renal failure and congestive heart failure, are at increased risk of HHS and should be closely monitored for signs of crisis. The mortality rate for HHS cats is high.