All about cats

What causes diabetes in cats

Diabetes in cats is caused by a disease of the pancreas that prevents the body from properly responding to the hormone insulin. Insulin is a hormone that the body uses to regulate glucose (sugar) levels in the bloodstream. Insulin is released when a meal is digested, and it helps the body to absorb glucose from the intestines, so that it can be used for energy.

In a healthy individual, the pancreas secretes enough insulin to provide the body with adequate levels of glucose at all times. When there is not enough insulin available, the body cannot use glucose properly, and insulin is not produced in the amount required to compensate for the lack of insulin.

In cats, two different types of diabetes are recognised. Type 1 diabetes is genetically inherited. It occurs when the body does not produce insulin, which causes the blood glucose level to rise. Once the blood glucose level rises, the body must be given insulin to control the level of glucose in the blood. Type 2 diabetes is caused by disordered insulin action in the body.

How is diabetes diagnosed in cats?

Diabetes is diagnosed by a health professional using a blood test. A sample of blood is taken from the vein in the cat's arm, and sent to a laboratory that can identify the proteins in the sample that give rise to the formation of glucose. The test is useful in making a diagnosis, but it is not very specific, and a blood test cannot be used to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for diabetes in cats?

Treatment for diabetes in cats is aimed at eliminating the cause of the condition, not at managing the symptoms. The most common cause of diabetes in cats is diabetes mellitus, which is caused by a lack of insulin secretion.

A combination of treatments may be needed to control the blood glucose levels in cats with diabetes:

• Insulin

• Metformin

• Insulin sensitizers (insulin secretory inhibitors)

• Oral hypoglycaemic drugs (oral diabetes drugs)

Metformin is the most commonly prescribed drug for treating type 2 diabetes in cats. It works by normalising the insulin levels in the body, which helps to control the blood glucose levels. Insulin sensitizers such as acarbose, vildagliptin, and sitagliptin are also very useful in controlling the blood glucose levels in cats with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Insulin secretory inhibitors, such as saxagliptin, are also effective at controlling blood glucose levels in cats with diabetes.

Insulin secretory inhibitors work by preventing the release of insulin from the pancreas. This delays the development of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Insulin secretory inhibitors are usually administered with a low dose of insulin, and they should be used only in combination with insulin.

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