November 23, 2011
More than half of all cats owned in the United States are obese
and one in every 50 cats is diabetic. Every November, Americans
give thanks on Thanksgiving and they also observe National Diabetes
Month. According to Dr. Katherine Scott, lecturer at the Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
(CVM), feline obesity is one of the most common reasons cats become
diabetic. During this season of entertaining, remember to have
healthy options for your cat too.
"Diabetes may occur in any age, breed, or gender of a cat, but
we see this disorder most commonly in middle-aged to older cats,"
Feline diabetes is very similar to type 2 diabetes in humans.
Feline diabetes is a deficiency in the body's ability to change
glucose (sugar) into energy. Insulin is needed for glucose to be
transferred from the blood to the cells. Type 2 diabetes develops
when the body does not properly respond to insulin or is resistant
to the effects of insulin and cannot move glucose into cells.
Scott explains that like type 2 diabetes in humans, there is
almost always a predisposing factor enabling feline diabetes to
"Feline obesity is one of the most common reasons cats become
diabetic," Scott says. "They can also become diabetic after
receiving some types of medications like steroids or progesterone.
Other diseases like pancreatitis, cancer, or an overactive thyroid
might also be to blame."
Scott indicates that there are signs owners can watch out for
that are indicative of diabetes. The most common signs are an
increase in water intake, urinating more often and in larger
quantities, excessive appetite, and weight loss.
"If owners note a change in the size or amount of clumps in
their cats' litter boxes, or the water bowl is always empty, it is
definitely a good reason to have them checked out by a
veterinarian," Scott explains.
If owners are dedicated and well-informed, feline diabetes is
manageable for affected cats and their owners. Sometimes diabetes
can be temporarily or permanently cured dependent upon how long
diabetes was present in the cat.
Your veterinarian will help you with the best treatment plan for
your cat. For standard therapy, Scott recommends giving your cat
injections of glargine (insulin also given to people with type 2
diabetes) twice a day.
"Along with the insulin injections we also almost always switch
cats to a low-carbohydrate diet known as the 'catkins' diet," Scott
says. "This diet sometimes alleviates the need for insulin
For more information on low-carbohydrate diets for cats see a
recent pet talk titled Low Carb for Cats at /news/pet-talk/low-carb-for-cats.
Scott adds, "Diabetes is a very manageable disease in cats that
responds very well to therapy. However, it is a real commitment for
owners of these cats. Owners have to learn to give insulin
injections, make time to give these injections twice daily, and
bring their cats in at least every 3-6 months for veterinary
visits. Some owners even learn how to monitor their cats' blood
glucose levels at home using a glucometer, just like people
The most important preventative measure owners can take to avoid
the pitfalls of feline diabetes is to keep their cats healthy and
"We can't control some of the diseases our cats will get that
will result in the development of diabetes, but owners have
complete control over how many calories their cats can eat," Scott
So during this time of Thanksgiving, show some gratitude toward
your beloved cats by providing them with a healthy diet to ensure a
healthy, happy life. In the meantime, it is important to stay
informed and be cautious of your cat's habits. If you suspect or
have any questions about your cat and/or diabetes contact Small
Animal Clinical Sciences at the CVM at 979-845-2351 or at .
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