MSNBC reports that as with people, the incidence of diabetes in cats and dogs is increasing. Not so much of a problem in decades past, diabetes now affects as many as one in 50 of the animals, some statistics show, especially pudgy pets.
“There is no question from what I know that is published in the literature that obesity is on the rise, No. 1, and No. 2, diabetes is on the rise right along with it,” says veterinarian Robin Downing, hospital director of Windsor Veterinary Clinic in Windsor, Colo.
Diabetes results when the body doesn't produce enough insulin, a hormone that processes glucose (blood sugar), or properly use it. As a result, the body's tissues cannot use glucose for energy, and the sugar builds up in the blood and urine.
Veterinarians say that while obesity clearly is linked to diabetes in pets, it appears to contribute to the disease differently in cats and dogs.
Fat cats are prone to diabetes because they develop insulin resistance, meaning their bodies don't effectively use insulin. As a result, the pancreas pumps out more insulin as well as another hormone called amylin.
With dogs, obesity is associated with an increased risk of pancreatitis — an inflammation of the pancreas — which can then lead to diabetes because the body doesn't make enough insulin.
A change to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet — nicknamed the “Catkins” diet — can promote weight loss and make diabetes more manageable in cats, often sending them into remission so that they no longer require insulin injections. At the Windsor Veterinary Clinic in Colorado, three out of every four diabetic cats have their disease controlled through diet alone.