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Diabetes in Cats

Yawning Cat

More often than not, pet parents are seeing a rise in diabetes in their beloved animals. Many times these diagnoses seemingly come from out of the blue; they were fine one day and they weren’t the next. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case, as they have been fighting an uphill battle against it for years.

On average, the number one culprit in these situations is: diet. The one thing the majority of these animals have in common is being fed a kibble based diet for most, if not all, of their lives. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they depend on meat for survival. They are unable to synthesize certain amino acids, most importantly Taurine, and must get it from meat and organs. Cats also lack the enzymes to break down carbohydrates into sugars, which causes them to be stored as fat - this can lead to obesity and other health concerns.

Diabetes in cats is quite similar to Type2 diabetes in humans in which the pancreas is able to produce insulin, but the cells do not respond to it like they should. Whereas, in Type1 diabetes, the pancreas is unable to adequately produce insulin due to an immune response attacking the pancreas.

Signs Of Diabetes In Cats

  • Frequent urination and/or larger clumps in the litter box – diabetic cats drink a lot and pee a lot.

  • Hunger – your cat will be extra hungry because their cells are screaming for glucose.

  • Weight loss – because the cells cannot use sugar without insulin, your cat will start burning off tissue to produce more glucose, and they’ll lose weight.

  • Change in Grooming - their coat looks in poor condition or matted.

  • Weakness or fatigue - they are sleeping more, or not partaking in common activities.

If you see these signs in your cat, you’ll want to have your vet test them for diabetes before their condition potentially worsens.

Risk Factors For Diabetes

  • Autoimmunity

  • Genetics

  • Inflammation

  • Obesity

  • Diet

Managing your cat’s diabetes doesn’t have to be an insulin-injections filled nightmare. Many can reduce the amount of insulin, the frequency of which it's given, and even eliminate the need for insulin, simply by changing their cat's diet. Switching from a kibble based diet, that is sometimes upwards of 80% carbohydrates, to a raw diet, or even canned, with upwards of 5% carbohydrates from vegetables in the form of fibre, can be night and day for your cat. Ideally, your cat should be getting less than 10% of their calories from carbohydrates.

If your cat has been on dry food their entire life, it may be somewhat of a challenge to transition them to a raw or canned diet but it can be done. Don't lose hope! You may have to trick your cat a bit initially. When changing diets it is important to ensure that your cat is still eating. While it is okay for a cat to go without eating for 12 hours or maybe even 24 hours, if more time than this passes since a cat has had a meal, they may be in danger.

Adding supplements to your cat's diet can also bring relief. Things like digestive enzymes can help increase the nutrition absorbed from their diet, and lessen the burden on their bodies; antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and fight tissue damage.

If your cat does develop diabetes, this advice should help manage their condition and may help you minimize the need for insulin.


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