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The Causes of Diabetes in Cats


All cells in the body require glucose for energy and the body provides a mechanism to determine how much glucose enters the cells.  Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that regulates the way that glucose is delivered.  If there is any disruption in this mechanism, it means that the cells do not receive the energizing glucose that they need and excess glucose remains in the blood stream.  Thus resulting in high blood glucose levels.

Inflammation of the pancreas is a primary cause of diabetes in cats , dogs and humans as well. Type 1 diabetes is the inability of the pancreas to produce sufficient insulin. Type 2 diabetes is a combination of a similar problem as in type 1 diabetes accompanied by a condition known as insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is characterized by the inability of the cells to accept glucose. This leads to a vicious circle wherein due to the elevated blood sugar level a signal is sent to the pancreas for production of more insulin. Sometimes this excess production overrides the excess blood sugar and the pancreas exhausts itself and gradually stops functioning.

Just as overweight humans are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, obesity is one of the major causes of diabetes in cats also. Adipose, commonly known as fatty cells produce a substance that increases the resistance of the body cells towards insulin. In addition, cats are not efficient at processing carbohydrates since they are obligate carnivores and therefore derive their energy from proteins and fats and not from carbohydrates.

While diabetes is mostly related to metabolism, stress hyperglycemia (abnormally high blood sugar temporarily) can sometimes complicate a diagnosis. Diabetic conditions caused by stress can sometimes reach hyperglycemic levels and cause glucosuria, a condition where glucose is passed out through urine.

Glucose is necessary for life and the normal reaction of the body is to preserve it at all costs. Though the kidney works as a barrier that restricts the loss of glucose in urine, the extra glucose in the blood must go somewhere. Since the cells are not accepting the glucose, the kidneys are swept over by an excess of sugar that spills over into the urine.

For its expulsion through urine, the glucose has to be in liquid form. To enable this expulsion process, an increasing amount of water is drawn from the body towards the bladder. This gives rise to two of the characteristic symptoms of diabetes in cats – excessive thirst and excessive urine.

Despite a fair amount of research, science has still not been able to determine the real cause of diabetes in cats with reasonable surety. In some cases, diabetes is caused due to an underlying disease. Risk factors like obesity, carbohydrate rich diet, treatment with corticosteroids, stress and shock are considered to be the biggest causes for diabetes in cats. Recent studies suggest that it may be an auto-immune disease but a genetic predisposition cannot be ruled either.

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