Type 2 Diabetes in Cats

Diabetes in cats is a common endocrine disease and it refers to an inadequate processing of the insulin in the body. There are three types of diabetes mellitus: Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3. While type 1 diabetes is caused by an insufficient production of insulin by the pancreas, type 2 diabetes, also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes (NIDDM), is caused by an inadequate response of the body’s cells to insulin.

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes in Felines

The etiology of type 2 diabetes is practically unknown but there are some factors that favor the appearance of the disease:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Obesity
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Certain diseases such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease
  • An unhealthy diet

Cats are carnivores and they take their energy mostly from proteins and fats. Cats lack certain enzymes that are necessary for the utilization of carbohydrates as a source of energy. If your cat gets a diet that is rich in carbohydrates, he can’t process it and the excess of carbohydrates are stored as fat. The increased fat may facilitate the development of type 2 diabetes by causing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition when the insulin can’t combine with fat and muscle cells to let the glucose inside the cells to produce energy. This situation can lead to hyperglycemia. To compensate this condition, the pancreas produces more insulin.

Although diabetes type 2 can affect cats of all breeds, age or gender, it most often occurs in older, obese cats. Male cats are more frequently affected than female cats.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes in Cats

Some common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are:

  • Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
  • Excessive urination (polyuria)
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Skin problems
  • Poor coat condition
  • Liver disease
  • Secondary bacterial infections
  • Diabetic neuropathy (the rear-leg’s weakness known also as plantigrade stance)

As the disease progresses new signs may appear. Ketoacidosis is a severe form of type 2 diabetes and the cat will develop some new symptoms such as weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and dehydration.

Diagnosing Type 2 Diabetes

When doing diagnosing tests for type 2 diabetes, the vet will consider the fact that cats can develop high blood sugar when they are under stress and the testing may cause stress. The diagnosis should be based on a physical examination, lab-tests, blood and urine tests and a serum fructosamine test. This test will help to differentiate diabetes mellitus from stress-related high-blood sugar.

Treatment Options for Cats with Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a manageable condition and your pet can continue to live a normal life, provided he receives insulin shots. The treatment can be individualized for every cat. A change in diet is required: a high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet is recommended. Portion-control is also essential. Exercise is a very important part of the weight control and may reduce insulin dependence as well. Home testing of your cat’s blood sugar level has to be done on a regular basis.