Crisis: More Than 1000% Increase in Feline Diabetes since 2011

According to data from pet insurer Animal Friends, there has been an increase of 1161% in domestic cat diabetes cases since 2011. An expert from UK veterinary charity PDSA says that one the main reasons for this is that people are feeding their pets with human snacks. I would argue that quite possibly the major reason or another important reason is that more people are feeding their cats with dry cat food which is high in carbohydrates.

It a bit like us eating cream buns and bread and jam every evening while watching TV. Humans are bound to put on weight with that sort of diet and yet we are giving our cats an unnaturally high-carbohydrate diet in dry cat food, often on the recommendation of veterinarians who sell the products in their clinics.

I know research is required on this but to me it’s common sense that a cat’s diet should be balanced and should be perfect for the cat and quite frankly dry cat food is not. The same expert says that people should be feeding their pets healthy, balanced diet for their species, age and lifestyle.

Yes, I agree, why are they, therefore, feeding their cats an unbalanced diet of dry biscuits every day? That said, the extraordinary increase in diabetes amongst the feline population is very worrying. This is been going on for a long time. Nothing has been done about it. People have been discussing this explosion in feline diabetes for years now. In parallel people have been discussing obesity amongst domestic cats for a long time as well. Yes, the two go together. But not always.

On August 13, 2015, I wrote an article entitled “Magic Cure for Feline Diabetes: Feed Wet Cat Food Only“. I stand by that article today. A well-known veterinarian and author, Dr Hodgkins, says that feline pancreatitis is also on the increase. Pancreatitis causes a deficiency in the production of insulin which in turn causes sugar diabetes. This, as the data states, is on the increased and Dr Hodgkins says that a major factor in the increase of feline diabetes is a change in the domestic cat’s diet to a large increase in dry cat food with high-carbohydrate levels. Remember, carbohydrates are needed in the manufacture of this food. Is that the only reason why carbohydrates are in the food? If so, it is appalling.

Amongst domestic dogs, there has been an 850% increase in diabetes over the same period (i.e. since 2011). An article in the online daily Telegraph newspaper urges that we stop pampering our pets because pampering them can result in diabetes. It certainly can and I would agree that we should not pamper our pets by giving them too much food but, as mentioned, I don’t think it’s all about pampering our pets. I think the answer is largely in the type of food that we give our pets which is almost always commercially made and which I have to conclude cannot be of sufficient quality otherwise I don’t think we would have such a crisis amongst the best in cats in respect of diabetes.

Another aspect is exercise. Cats cannot be getting enough of it. Owners should be aware of this. People are becoming fatter too. It seems that we are transferring our lifestyle onto our pets.

Symptoms of feline diabetes.

The data concerns UK pets but the problem is not untypical in the West particularly the USA.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

22 thoughts on “Crisis: More Than 1000% Increase in Feline Diabetes since 2011”

  1. Did you know not only dry food is the culprit, but declawing causes diabetes too.

    The Diabetes Connection When we printed the list of declawed cats to inspect, one thing immediately caught our eye: nearly every diabetic cat Animal Ark currently houses was on the list, with only one exception. To be clear: the general population of declawed cats is always around 25% of the total population. The fact that the percentage of diabetic cats that were declawed was near 100% was startling, to say the least. I decided to review the diabetic cats Animal Ark has seen over the last couple of years. More than 50% of them were declawed. I began asking veterinarians about the possible connection to declawing and diabetes.

    One topic kept coming up: Cortisol. Cortisol is a chemical produced by the body to manage chronic pain. It also dramatically affects blood glucose levels. Ironically, elevated cortisol is also a risk factor for diabetes. The linkage may be even more compelling than that, because cats with pain in their paws are more likely to be sedate, get less exercise and are, therefore, more prone to being overweight, another contributing factor for diabetes.

    Take Miracle, for example, a very overweight, diabetic declawed cat… When she came to Animal Ark, we had assumed the fact that she limped so badly was a result of her severe weight problem. However, as she has been trimming down, her limping is getting worse. After watching the Paw Project and examining her paws, it seems clear she is suffering from several of the long-term complications from the declaw procedure. Animal Ark’s relatively limited data set may not be enough to prove a link between declawing and diabetes. However, if a link were to be demonstrated it would go a long way toward clinically proving that declawed felines, even those with no obvious complications from the procedure, are suffering from long-term, chronic pain.

    To help compile a more complete data set, I am asking shelters and rescue organizations to review records of their diabetic cats to determine how many of them had been declawed. I have also created a simple form they can fill out to submit their findings. You can help with this effort by sharing this article and asking the shelters and rescue groups you support to submit their information.

    • Great comment Cassandra. I will turn your comment into an article as I have never heard of this before and your argument sounds compelling and interesting. I also hate declawing. Thanks again.

  2. I’m hoping that more pet guardians realize how bad the prescription foods are. We need to know that the ingredients can be pulled up online (so you can read them). That way, you will really see the truth of what you’re paying for. It’s basically similar ingredients to the cheapest food on the market. And remember most vets are in the pet food mfgs. pockets. They’re “Friends with Benefits” in the true sense of the word. I’ve had a vet push a large bag of Royal Canin on me, even though I said I didn’t want it, especially because I was eliminating dry food. Her assistant even brought it out to the car, in spite of my protests. And I returned it the next day! Cats fed dry food will more than likely end up fat with diabetes. As Michael reported, an increase of 1000% of diabetes from 2011. We need to “connect the dots”.

  3. One of the reasons, aside from the carb argument is that most commercial grocery store and a few brands are majority grain based. They have to eat more of the cheap stuff to feel full. Mine eat a mix of dry/canned/and dehydrated raw.
    I also have issue with food shaming. If we limit pet, cat ownership to only those that can provide the next to being in the wild diet the shelters would explode.
    Another issue is the marketing tactics. After all if it costs more it must be good. Lets say natural, holistic or what ever constitutes the latest buzz word. Informed consumers and an awareness of your pets actual daily caloric needs.
    I would like to see you write a piece about the effect of stress on cats and illness and even the possible long term connection to serious medical conditions. Even the best diet is worthless if your cat won’t eat it. Stress erodes a cats immune system.

    • I believe that if a guardian is able and willing to take the time to “transition” their cats to higher quality food, it can potentially save their lives, and avoid the diseases that are caused by feeding high carbohydrate dry food only.

      It may be temporarily stressful for both, but it will save a lot of stress and suffering in the long run.

      It’s true that many people who have cats can’t afford to feed them quality food. Some cats seem to be able to survive this way. I know someone who has two cats who are 19 and 20. He’s only fed them the cheapest food, wet and dry. Seldom changes their 1 litter box more than once a week. Leaves their food out all day, until it’s dried, and rarely changes their water. What is unusual is that they’re not siblings, so it’s not an inherited immune strength.

      I, on the other hand, am completely devoted to all aspects of my cat’s life, and spend most of my time with her, aware of any changes in her eating, eliminating, behavior and so on. She has had more health issues than any cat I’ve had before. Just today I learned that she has an infected tooth, so they want to do x-rays, blood work, and surgery to remove any decayed teeth. She was a feral for a year, so she didn’t have a good start. She’s had several problems this past year with constipation, ear infection, urinary infection, drug reactions, and now this. I feel very depressed about this, especially because I can’t afford the dental work which is estimated to be over $1,000. I’m also concerned about the drugs they’ll need to give her; she’s very sensitive to any drugs she’s had. So, this is a serious challenge for me. I know that tooth decay can be very dangerous, so I’ll have to find the money, and take the risk.

      • I only use a facility that has feline status here in the US. My cats dental a few weeks ago was around 450. The drugs used during the procedure are tailored to the cat. Which is the cost you’re paying for. There are clinics here that will do a clean and seal for less than half that.
        Our brilliant new veterinarian emailed me the night before were we chatted concerns. Left a message for me at the desk at drop off and called personally when the procedure was complete. And then followed up that night with a check up email. You can mitigate your risk with the right vet and clinic. Real vets will say NO if there is more risk than the procedure is worth.
        I have given speeches at clubs regarding the need to feed horses a high quality diet that meets not only nutritional needs but instinctual and mental needs as a way to head off colic. The outlay is more expensive but long term you may avoid massive vet bills or loss. Cats are no different.

        • Thank you very much. I had just come across a site this morning, before I took my cat to the vet. It was a Feline Clinic. It’s about an hour’s drive from me, but I’m thinking of calling or emailing them about the suggested dental work. There may be one closer. I really appreciate your comment. Where do you live in the U.S.?

          • I’m in New Mexico. I use the VCA hospitals. Who provide an excellent genera practice with all the bells and whistles in house.
            The feline accreditation is just not medicine. It’ how cats are handled and requires obvious things like separate waiting rooms for cats and dogs. right down to restraint and feline behavior advise. They also follow cat save vaccine protocols.

            My cats aren’t second rate pets there.

            • Interesting. I live near Raleigh, NC, where VCA is considered only a baby step above Banfield because of the high prices, cookie cutter approach, and consistent insistence on the most extreme treatment options.

              • I live in Northern California, and VCA is extremely expensive. I’d never take any pet to Banfield. They have “De-Clawing on their list for “Wellness” plan for kittens and cats. Ugh!

                • I believe the VCA hospitals are no longer perfuming declaw. I’ve had this argument and while some find it distasteful some vets will still do it to try and mitigate the damage done when it’s not correct. Quite simply it should be considered animal cruelty. That takes it away from dumb owners, vets that will do anything for money and good vets who are stuck in the middle.
                  Repeating again. If instead of cats this were a case of dogs having their toe chopped off to remove their claws to avoid damage in the home there would be a march on Washington and an act of congress to make it treason and evoke the death penalty…but alas, it is only the welfare of cats.

                    • My misunderstanding. And why does it not surprise me that you meant Banfield.

                      VCA is expensive here. The one I use has some of the best vets on staff you can find.
                      One thing I learned having a tubby cat was while the vet may chastise you for it being overweight they offer few solutions. It’s not enough to yell about carbs. They need to help by explaining your cats caloric needs. How to check wet and dry foods and make sure the owners know their cats actual weight.
                      It’s proven fact that pet owners respond to well composed take home instructions and goals.
                      Aside from cats becoming overweight we are also seeing out pets live for extended periods of time. Many ailments in humans are age related. Also adding that on Mercy’s 4 month check up I was given a bat of Science Diet dry kitten food. Product placement is an issue there. I believe corn was the first ingredient. Since I’ve had similar happen at private vet clinics it’s not just a company policy.

                  • I also use a VCA clinic. I don’t know if they declaws since I’ve never asked, but they’ve never encouraged it at least, and the VCA website have never mentioned it explicitly on the list of procedures and their web page on behavior and scratching concentrates on training and trimming.

                    My area is very expensive, so by my area standards 450 for a dental would be considered a bargain. My previous cat required several, and I’ve never paid less than 900, and that was several years ago.

                    While I like many aspects of this clinic, I think it was better before VCA took over. It was founded by a wonderful vet, first as a regular practice then changed to a 24-hour state or the art hospital with specialists. At some point he sold it to the VCA and moved South, unfortunately a couple of other great vets moved with him. Mine left a couple of years ago. Even though the current one has been with the clinic for a while, I just don’t trust her as much as I did the previous one. I’ve actually been thinking of switching though I’ve not decided if I want to go to a different vet in the same clinic (which might be a bit awkward) or to a different clinic.

                    Some changes I didn’t like – it became more difficult to get a hold of a vet, they often call a vet nurse to answer when I call. I’d rather just leave a message for the vet and have a vet call me. They take cats to the back room for minor things like vaccines, I’d rather it were done in front of me. The main reason I am considering switching is that the vet lied to me. It was a stupid, completely idiotic lie to a generic question about clinic’s plans of offering the new 3-year Purevax Rabies vaccine that was approved in 2014. She said it makes cats “incredibly sick” (among other things) which was a lie. It was a stupid lie, but I am not sure how I can trust a vet that lies.

                    The main difference between the VCA and Banfield is that while Banfield opens the clinics then hires vets and basically sets the policies, VCA buys existing clinics, usually good ones, and then takes over the business matters while leaving the vets do their stuff mostly as they want. So there is a greater variety between different VCA clinics.

                    • I believe there is some controversy but the vet I use is comfortable with it. Which is far better than the local vet I used that said she gave my cats Purvac but gave defensor3 year instead.
                      I was told long ago the difference between the 1 and 3 year was the labeling.
                      And again this is on topic as we get into vaccine issues and cat illness.
                      Cats have been treated like dogs medically and it is still common. The month before Mooks dental my cat vet was at a seminar for a week on improving safety and procedures. I know because we were emailing about topical heartworm/flea treatment.

            • For some reason your last reply doesn’t have a reply button (some restriction on depth of a thread?), but I’d like to address the Purevax Rabies vs other vaccines, also the issue of 1-year vs 3-year.
              Merial Purevax Rabies is the only non-adjuvanted Rabies vaccine on the market. It is believed that non-adjuvanted vaccines carry less of a risk of Feline Injection Site Sarcoma (FISS) than adjuvanted vaccines because they cause less inflammation at the injection site, though this part is a little controversial. Any vaccine and any injection (e.g. steroids, antibiotics) into the cat can cause FISS, but since inflammation is believed to be the cause, it stands to reason that Purevax recombinant vaccines would be safer, but the studies are a little conflicting about it, one showing no difference and others showing considerable difference. However, given that no study showed that even 1-year Purevax would be less safe than adjuvanted vaccines, non-adjuvanted vaccines are considered preferable.

              Up to the summer of 2014, there was only 1-year Purevax Rabies available whereas the old adjuvanted vaccines came in 3-year variety, and yes as far as adjuvanted vaccines are concerned, 3-year and 1-year versions were identical. Merial, the company that produces Purevax vaccines, had tried for several years to get approval for a 3-year version. Their first application was rejected because in their trials, one of the cats in unvaccinated group didn’t die, so the FDA said the challenge was not strong enough. They then added more antigen apparently into the vaccine and did a second trial which was successful after which they got an FDA approval. This was in summer of 2014.

              Not many vets switched to using the 3-year Purevax Rabies because they say a) it’s new, the listed formulation is different, they want to wait and see if it causes more side effects b) it’s expensive, it’s sold in batches of 25 (though I saw that Merial may also sell in batches of 10), they don’t think enough of their clients will want to pay. Merial priced it around 3 times the cost of one-year Purevax, and Purevax is already more expensive than the old 3-year adjuvanted vaccines. So in cheaper areas where a 1-year Purevax costs about 25, the cost of a 3-year Purevax is 65. My vet charges 42 for a 1-year Purevax, so I assume they’d have to charge about 110 for the 3-year version.

              When I first found out about 3-year Purevax being available (from skeptvet blog that I find very interesting), I sent an email to our clinic’s director asking about it. She reply they may offer it in future, but as it’s new they want to wait. Fine. About 6 months passed before my regular visit, so I figured I’ll ask my vet about it. She could’ve simply said that clinic doesn’t offer it. She could’ve mentioned the cost issue, though given their prices I don’t see why that would be an issue given how many rich people are in the area. Instead, she gave me song and dance about how this vaccine “makes cats incredibly sick”, how at a conference she met Merial representative who told her that they only intended it for barn cats. I know the former isn’t true because I know vets on the web who use it (including skeptvet), and the latter doesn’t even make sense given how much money Merial spent to get the FDA approval and the cost of the vaccine.

              So this was a lie, and a stupid and unnecessary one at that, but now I am not sure how I can trust a vet thinks nothing about lying.

          • I was about to write, myself, to suggest that you find an all feline clinic. You would be surprised how they can assess dental issues and do surgery without costing you a fortune.
            They know and deal only with cats.
            My beloved feline vet took on my Cora that was losing weight quickly from tooth pain and not wanting to eat. She didn’t need elaborate x-rays or blood work to know that Cora had infection and bad teeth. She could see the issues and had to pull nearly all of her teeth.
            My total cost was $300.00 which included the surgery, antibiotics, and 3 days worth of pain medication.

      • I strongly agree with what you say in the first couple of paras. It is sad that your cat has these health problem. At 7 years old it shouldn’t be like this. But it is possibly due to her feral life or just a genetic predisposition. It certainly is not caused by anything you are doing. Sometimes vets can make things worse too.

        My Charlie who had cancer I believe suffered kidney damage before he was euthanised because we thought he might have a viral infection and was prescribed Metacam for pain killing which is dangerous.

  4. I agree, but I stumbled upon the good fortune (for my cats) that none of them developed diabetes as a result of quitting dry food in my effort to have them minimize and avoid kidney and bladder stones/crystals. In fact I had one cat who developed both struvite and calcium crystals (with diametrically opposing treatments). I also concluded that dry food was only beneficial for the purchaser as a convenience, but the least nutritious option for the cat. Since I started feeding canned meat 16 years ago, not only have none (of 18 cats) developed diabetes, the cats who had crystals cleared up and never had them again. Other problems have to do with the quality of the meat no doubt, but to avoid diabetes and crystals/stones, avoid dry and it’s huge amount of carbohydrates.


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