In an era in the United States when up to 50% of domestic cats are said to be obese, it is appropriate to discuss the signs of Type 2 diabetes in domestic cats because obesity is a predisposing factor for all cats and Burmese cats may have a genetic predisposition. Male cats have twice the risk of females and at greatest risk are neutered male cats over 10 years of age and over 15 pounds in weight.
Obesity greatly reduces the response of tissue to insulin and makes diabetes difficult to control. It’s fair to say that one of the signs of diabetes in a cat would be that the cat is very much overweight to which you would combine the effects of a cat trying to compensate for their inability to metabolise blood glucose by eating more food. Later there is a drop in appetite and weight loss.
Because there is an excess of glucose in the blood (hyperglycaemia), in diabetic cats excess glucose is eliminated by the kidneys resulting in frequent urination. The knock-on effect is that the cat compensates by drinking more than the usual amount of water.
The signs should be followed up with a urine glucose test, which if positive indicates diabetes. However, some cats show a high level of glucose in urine and blood because of stress. A second test is needed to verify the first. Also sometimes damage to the kidney due to, for example, antifreeze poisoning can cause high glucose levels in blood in urine.
When diabetes becomes more advanced there is acetone on the breath which is a sweet odour like nail polish remover. This is due to the presence of ketones in the blood because of the inability to metabolise glucose. The condition is called ketoacidosis. Other advanced signs include loss of appetite, vomiting, weakness, dehydration, laboured breathing, lethargy and coma. Diabetic cats rarely develop cataracts unlike in dogs.
Finally, a muscle weakness resulting in an unusual stance with the cat walking down on her hocks instead of up on her toes is sometimes due to poor glucose regulation in a cat. As an afterthought there is a link between dry cat food and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.
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