What is Feline Diabetes Mellitus?
Diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly regulate blood sugar levels (glucose) due to insulin insufficiency/resistance. Insulin is produced by cells in the pancreas. Under normal conditions, glucose is produced when food is broken down in the stomach. This glucose enters the blood stream, and once it reaches a certain level, this stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin.
Risk of Diabetes is Increased by:
- Genetic predisposition—Some cat breeds or individuals are more prone to developing diabetes than others.
- Environmental Factors—Cats diagnosed with diabetes are often strictly indoor cats. This may be because there is less chance for physical activity and greater access to food.
- Insulin Resistance—This refers to the need for more insulin to process glucose. In this situation, the body tries to compensate by over-producing insulin. Sometimes this is successful, but the strain can damage or destroy the pancreatic cells that produce the insulin. In this case, diabetes often develops. Contributing factors:
- Glucocorticoids (class of steroid hormones
- Male gender
- Diet—cats are obligate carnivores and therefore there is no need for carbohydrates (appropriate carbohydrate level is ~2%). Many commercial cat foods, especially dry varieties, can contain up to 50% carbohydrates. Since glucose is produced in carbohydrate degradation, the more carbohydrates present equals more glucose in the blood stream. Higher glucose levels leads to greater insulin production.