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Cat diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is one of the most frequently diagnosed endocrinopathies in cats. As with diabetes in humans, the disease is generally divided into type 1 and type 2 in cats. 80-95% of diabetic cats experience something similar to type 2 diabetes, but are generally severely insulin-dependent by the time symptoms are diagnosed. In type 2 diabetic cats, prompt and effective treatment can even lead to diabetic remission, meaning injected insulin is no longer needed. Chances of success are highest in the first few months after initial diagnosis, due to ongoing damage from glucose toxicity caused by prolonged hyperglycemia. Many have found that immediate treatment with a low carbohydrate diet and/or a slow-acting insulin analogue is extremely beneficial in preventing the progression of the disease, and may even result in diabetes remission If left untreated, the condition leads to increasingly weak legs in cats, and eventually malnutrition, ketoacidosis and/or dehydration, and death.

Diabetes most often occurs in older, obese cats. Some of the important factors are improper nutrition and physical inactivity. Male cats are more commonly afflicted. The exact cause of the disease in cats is not known, although obesity, chronic pancreatitis, other hormonal diseases (e.g., hyperthyroidism, Cushing's disease, and acromegaly), and certain medications have all been linked to the disease. Research suggests that Burmese cats in New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom are prone to developing diabetes, while this does not appear to be the case in North America (Caney, 2013; Gottlieb et al. 2013; Osto et al. 2013; Rand et al. 2004).


  1. Caney SM (2013) Pancreatitis and diabetes in cats. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 43:303-17.
  2. Gottlieb S et al. (2013) Remission in cats: including predictors and risk factors. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 43:245-249.
  3. Osto M et al. (2013) Diabetes from humans to cats. Gen Comp Endocrinol 1:48-53.
  4. Rand JS et al. (2004) Canine and Feline Diabetes Mellitus: Nature or Nurture? J Nutri 134:20275-20805.