NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

September 13, 2013

Paw Prints: Pet diabetes becoming more common

Diabetes in pets and people is on the rise. Currently, one in every 250 cats is diabetic. The incidence is increasing, with a quarter-million new feline cases being diagnosed every year. And we’re seeing more diabetes in dogs, too.

Whether in a two-legged or four-legged creature, diabetes mellitus occurs when sugar in the blood cannot enter body cells to provide energy. It is usually classified as either Type 1 or Type 2. In both types, the result is high blood sugar and starvation of cells. Individuals feel thirsty and drink a lot.

Feline and canine diabetes have some similarities with human diabetes. But there are also distinct differences.

The latest clinical evidence suggests that Type 2 diabetes is the most common form in cats and people. The cause of diabetes in cats is believed to be a host of factors, including diet, obesity, genetics and pancreatic disease.

If you own a cat, you surely agree that kitties are special creatures. Not only are their outward antics funny, but they are different inside, as well. Cats are unique mammals and cannot process carbohydrate, or sugar, as many other mammals do. In fact, throughout evolution, cats have lost their sweet taste buds because consuming sweets has not helped their survival. The modern-day feline body, whether wild or domestic, is adapted to use protein, not carbohydrate, for energy.

Risk factors for diabetes in cats include living a lazy indoor lifestyle with a Garfield-like body shape and eating a high-carb diet. Genetics likely play a role, too; however, most pet cats have an unknown family medical history.

Sometimes, the early signs of diabetes in cats go unnoticed. Watch your kitty for a change in drinking or litter box habits. The first sign may also be an abnormal gait or difficulty jumping. Diabetes in cats can affect the nerves, especially in the rear legs.

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