Beautiful, healthy sable American Burmese cat - photo by michaelbennett (Flickr)
This concerns a research paper on the subject of the over representation of Burmese cats in Queensland, Australia, with diabetes mellitus. The abstract, publishers and authors can be seen on this page (link to site broken 2012). This is my simplified summary. If interested I would advise reading the full article. I do not have a license to republish the article. The paper is dated 1997. I have quoted in a limited way for accuracy.
Cats can develop a form of diabetes mellitus that is "analagous to type 2 or noninsulin diabetes." It is considered to be a genetically inherited disease. Diabetes mellitus is defined as persistent hyperglycaemia.
Do Burmese cats have a predisposition to developing this disease? The research carried out tests on the blood of "all cats of known breed that had blood submitted to a veterinary...laboratory (in Queensland). Cats were grouped into Burmese cats and the rest. The percentage of diabetic Burmese cats was compared to cats with a normal glucose content of the blood.
Four thousand, four hundred and two (4402) cats were in the 22 month study. Half of all the cats (2203) were considered to have a normal glucose content of the blood (normoglycaemic cats), while 1% (45 cats) were classified as diabetic. Of the 2203 normoglycaemic cats, 148 were Burmese cats.
Of the 45 that were diabetic, 9 were Burmese (20%). The researchers concluded that, "this study confirms that in Australia there is a breed predisposition in diabetic cats, with over representation of Burmese." Burmese cross cats in the study did not have diabetes.
A study of American Burmese cats found no such predisposition. This American study found that weight, age and gender were risk factors; age was the most important single risk factor. The study also found that male cats that were not Burmese were more likely to be diabetic. The Queensland study found that of the diabetic Burmese cats, the female was more likely to have the disease but the numbers are small.
The "phenotypic expression of the genes that predispose the Burmese..to diabetes" (the observable physical or biochemical characteristics of a diabetic Burmese cat) is unknown.
The study suggests that older Burmese cats should or might be screened due to the increased risk for developing diabetes mellitus.
"Burmese cats had 3.4 times the adjusted risk of diabetes compared to non-Burmese cats.." Although the report concludes that "breed did not reach significance as a predictor of diabetes".
The final conclusion is that of the sick cats presented to a veterinarians in Queensland, Australia, Burmese cats that were 10 years of age or older were more likely to have diabetes than non-Burmese or younger cats.
Note: I have deliberately left out some of the statistical science whereby the researchers established this conclusion; confining myself to selected figures and conclusions for the sake of objectivity and accuracy.