Average domestic cat weighing 13 pounds is at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes

The average domestic cat weighing 13 pounds or more is at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus. That’s just 3 pounds overweight for a standard-sized cat which would normally weigh about 10 pounds. The point to note is that it is very easy for a cat owner to overlook a 3-pound increase in weight in their domestic cat companion especially if they are overweight themselves and have normalized obesity.

Diabetes tester
Diabetes tester. Photo: VCA Hospitals in the USA.
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The fact of the matter is that there has been a surge in cases of type II diabetes in domestic cats. The experts in America don’t know the exact incidence of diabetes in domestic cats but they state that the numbers are rising rapidly in line with the tremendous increase in the number of overweight and obese cats.

Hodgkins DVM’s theory

Feline diabetes has been described as a “man-made killer” by Dr. Elizabeth M Hodgkins DVM. She states that in 1990 experts estimated that the number of diabetic cats in the US stood at around 150,000. In 2007 when her book Your Cat was published, she stated that at least 50 of her 2,000 feline patients were diabetic at any one time. That represented about 2.5% of her patients. On that basis she calculated that there were, as at 2007, 1.5 million domestic cats suffering from type II diabetes in the US. Of course, over the intervening 14 years you would expect that number to have significantly increased.

Type II diabetes is caused when large amounts of glucose i.e. blood sugar, is released into the bloodstream because the pancreas does not release enough insulin to handle the sugar. The pancreas does not respond to rising blood sugar. Dr. Hodgkins believes that dry kibble cat food which is very high in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars, plays a substantial contributing role in causing the surge in Type II diabetes in domestic cats. She says that dry-food-fed diabetic cats are prone to hypoglycaemia when their blood sugar plummets.

The reason, she says, is because the pancreas cannot respond to high sugar anymore and the liver does not respond to low sugar as it would normally. The liver is less able to respond to falling glucose because the liver has lost its ability to respond quickly to falling blood sugar due to the high sugar content of dry cat food.

This is why she recommends a low-carbohydrate wet cat food for diabetic cats. She provides a number of case examples in which she describes great success in stabilising blood sugar levels.

Feline Diabetes Connected to Dry Cat Food?
Is Feline Diabetes Connected to Dry Cat Food?

Case study

One example is a cat called Goldstein. At the time he was eight-years-old and a neutered male. He had eaten commercial dry food exclusively all his life. His owner noticed one day that he was drinking and urinating more. He weighed 14 pounds. Hodgkins told Goldstein’s owner that he should weigh about 11 pounds so he was 3 pounds overweight. His blood sugar level was 490 mg/dL.

He was hospitalised and fed on canned food. He liked it. His blood sugar level immediately decreased to 300 mg/dL without insulin. He was given insulin and by day three is blood sugar was between 100 mg/dL and 150 mg/dL. He was sent home with a prescription of insulin. A week later she discovered that is blood sugar level was 60 mg/dL. This placed him in the low-normal range the blood sugar. His insulin was stopped for 24 hours and his blood sugar levels checked. They remained at 60 mg/dL and a week later his blood sugar was still low-normal. He no longer needed any insulin injections. He was healthy and happy and he had lost 2 pounds.

Overfeeding on dry

That, I would suggest, is an excellent example of how feline diabetes mellitus type II can develop in domestic cats fed on dry cat food and that it only takes about three extra pounds in weight to develop the disease. It could be argued, too, that free-feeding on dry cat food can encourage some full-time indoor cats who might be bored to eat when not hungry and when nutrition isn’t required. Eating more than they should and lacking exercise as they would results in piling on the pounds and the subsequent issues that I have described.


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