Tuesday, April 27, 2010 1:25 PM

What Causes Diabetes in Cats?

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that is becoming ever more prevalent in both human and animal populations. The disease affects all mammals similarly, and the symptoms for humans and animals are very much the same. The islets of Langerhans, located in the pancreas, either secrete no insulin or not enough to be able to convert the glucose from carbohydrate-heavy foods into a form usable by the body. The latter situation causes adult-onset or Type 2 diabetes in humans, and is very often due to poor nutrition and obesity.

With cats (and dogs), the commercial diets they are commonly fed are definitely suspect, since there are many added sugars and carbohydrates that would not be present in a natural diet. Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn also points out that, just as with humans, diabetes is very possibly a form of auto-immune disease in animals. He notes that over-vaccination can actually bring on this disease, and that diabetic animals should no longer be vaccinated at all.

With insulin either not present or present but ineffective, blood glucose levels soar. Because the body cannot transform this glucose into energy that is bio-available, it simply moves through the kidneys and out of the body. The lack of usable nutrients and energy causes the animal to eat voraciously, often as they lose ground nutritionally. As the body struggles to dilute the high sugar content of the blood, thirst increases.

Usually, the first symptom the owner notices is that the cat is increasing its water intake and urinating much more than usual. If the cat is an outdoor pet, however, this change many not be noticeable until the disease has progressed so far as to be virtually untreatable. Although the owner may notice some weight loss and decreased energy levels in their pet, they may attribute these changes to natural aging, particularly since this disease usually shows up in middle-aged and older cats. Therefore, by the time the owner is concerned enough to have the cat checked by a veterinarian, the physiological damage caused by diabetes may be irreversible. Fatty liver disease, chronic pancreatic inflammation, nerve damage and circulatory insufficiency are all side effects of untreated diabetes.

The situation is not without hope, however. Treatment, generally consisting of drug and nutritional therapy, can prolong life. Tomorrow's post will discuss these issues.
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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