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Preventing Feline Diabetes in Your Cat

Jun 27, 2008
Healthy eating and regular physical activity are not only good for you; they are also very good for your cat. As with humans, there has been a large increase in the number of feline diabetes cases over the past couple of decades. Approximately 800,000 cats in the United States have diabetes. That's about one in every 100 cats.

Causes of Feline Diabetes

Feline obesity is a contributing factor in many cases of cats with diabetes. If your cat spends most of its time indoors, it is vital that it gets a lot of exercise and that its diet not contain a lot of high-carbohydrate foods. Like any other living being, a cat that does not get sufficient exercise or maintain a healthy diet is likely to begin suffering from health problems.

Diabetes in cats has the same causes as it does in humans. The body cannot regulate the levels of blood sugar present because of a lack of insulin or insulin action. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to transport sugar into the cells of the body, where it is used for energy. If the body lacks this energy, the cells starve and eventually shut down and die. This leads to many more complications in the body.

Feline diabetes can occur in two forms. In Type 1, the body does not produce insulin at all. In Type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin, but does not respond to it the way it should. The second type is the most common in both cats and humans.

Metabolism and Diet Requirements in Cats with Diabetes

Cats require high amounts of protein and fat in their diets. Their bodies use the nutrients from their food to produce glucose, which is sugar. This glucose is the body's energy source. A high amount of carbohydrates in cat food causes their bodies to produce abnormally high levels of blood sugar. This causes excess insulin production, which begins a pre-diabetic state in the body. In time, the cat's body cannot produce any more insulin, and it begins to suffer full-blown diabetes.

Most cat food in stores today contains a moderate to high amount of carbohydrates. Long-term consumption of this food by a susceptible cat has a good chance of leading to feline diabetes over time. Seek cat foods that are low in carbohydrates and feed them to your cat throughout its life.

Diabetes Risk Factors

A high-carbohydrate diet is obviously one factor that can cause problems. Other factors that may increase the risks for feline diabetes include:

* Age

* Gender (Male cats are more susceptible.)

* Obesity

* Physical inactivity

* Other illnesses

* Certain medications

Physical inactivity is a major contributor to cats developing health problems, especially feline diabetes. While most people think it is cute to see a chubby fur ball camping out on the couch, this is actually a sign of an unhealthy cat. Obese cats are at the highest risk of diabetes due to the body's inability to provide sugar to the cells properly.

Medical conditions also can contribute to the development of cat diabetes. Inflammatory conditions, infectious conditions and endocrine disorders all can lead to diabetic problems in cats. Be sure your veterinarian has thoroughly examined your cat and that you are taking all the right precautions to prevent illness. It is also important to monitor your cat's reactions to certain medications. Steroids, for example, can increase the chances of your cat becoming diabetic.

If your cat has shown an increase in appetite or weight gain recently, be sure to have your vet conduct an examination. Diabetes does not often show any other signs besides these, so it often goes undetected until serious problems arise. Do not wait until your cat is drinking or urinating excessively and suddenly losing weight. These are signs that feline diabetes is already present. Like humans, cats and other pets need regular check-ups to be sure they are healthy. Don't wait until your pet is already sick to have it examined.
About the Author
Donna Spector, DVM, DACVIM, is a board-certified veterinary internist who has practiced at the Animal Medical Center in New York and the Univ. of California, Davis. She completed degrees in Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State Univ. Dr. Spector writes for Halo Pets, a maker of natural pet products.
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