Diabetes has risen sharply in our feline friends over the past decade or so – attributed to more cats being overweight. It can be a very serious and sometimes life-threatening disease. But, if caught and treated early, remission is possible. Though, your cat can become insulin-dependent for the rest of their life should diagnosis and treatment be delayed.
So what is feline diabetes? The most simple way to describe diabetes is with two words – Sugar and Insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which helps a cat’s body regulate the flow of glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the cells. Cells use glucose to run cellular functions and provide energy to your cat’s entire body. If the insulin supply is low, cells won’t function well.
And, without insulin the cat’s body instead breaks down more fat and protein to supply energy, meaning the excess glucose stays in their bloodstream. Cats with diabetes therefore tend to eat more without gaining weight.
Is your dog or cat a little on the chunky side? Just kidding! Even though I’m a licensed veterinarian, I must admit my Labrador Retriever, Bridger, was once very overweight. I mean huge. Obese. And yes indeed, chunky!
It was not his fault at all, although he does love to eat. He would pounce on the food bowl and be done in a jiffy. But who was it that overfed him? Me, of course! Pet owners really enjoy watching their furry family members eat ravenously. But what about their health? Obesity is a major health problem for pets (as well as their owners)! According to research by Animal Friends Pet Insurance, cases of arthritis in cats and dogs are up 312% since 2012. And they are predicted to rise even further by the end of 2016. Based on analysis of 20,000 pet health records, the study found obesity is the leading cause of the dramatic increase, as a consequence of overfeeding.
Pets are massively overfed due to many reasons. First, pet food manufacturers encourage overfeeding. Pet food is advertised as scrumptious – as something to make even human mouths water – with flavors like roast chicken and vegetables, bacon, or even steak.
Second, pet owners want their pets to be “Happy”. Taking a look at the problem psychologically, it’s hard to gauge how much our pets enjoy their lives sometimes. And food seems to make them very happy. They’ll even beg or indeed purr for it. So overfeeding them becomes a way to provide instant and ongoing satisfaction.
We wouldn’t want our pets going unhappy now would we? But this is serious! True quality of life for pets hinges on good health, which in itself relies on a normal weight. The old saying goes like this: “the less you weigh the longer you will live,” and this applies to pets too. And that’s not all. Pet obesity causes a number of problematic health conditions.
Arthritis is directly related to your pet’s weight. The more pressure on their legs, the worse the degenerative changes in the joints. And, as pets age, joints become inflamed and any extra weight will only increase the inflammation. Lean and mean is the best look.
The risk of liver disease increases with obesity. Fat is stored in the liver, so excessive fat can lead to a large decrease in liver function. The liver is vital to the body’s health. Hepatic Lipidosis can be a real threat for overweight pets.
Diabetes is common in dogs and especially cats! Diabetic pets do not make enough insulin or have insulin resistance. Obesity can be thought of as excessive body tissue which, in turn, demands more insulin production. However, the pancreas may not be able to mass produce enough insulin or be overworked, leading to a complete insulin shutdown.
What to do if your Pet is Overweight?
So how much should your dog or cat be eating? If they appear to be overweight, the simple answer is less.
A healthy diet and weight control are essential to overall pet health. First off you need to be sure of the type of food you’re giving your pet. There are many brands you should be wary of because they contain a huge amount of fat and fillers. Labels can be confusing too. Be sure to talk to your veterinary specialist to discuss options and ask questions. They will also give you the normal weight range for the specific breed and size of your pet. For many of my clients, I provide a daily food plan and a cup to measure the amount. It can be very hard to stick to and weight loss takes a long while. But be patient. Make sure they get plenty of exercise and be sparing with the treats! You’ll be pleased to hear Bridger is now back to his optimal weight (thankfully)!
Diet and low-calorie pet food is also available. Again, be wary. Some diet pet food is not really suitable for dieting at all. Do your homework. A quick Google search will provide reviews of other pet owners’ experiences with the same brands. Again, if in doubt, talk to your veterinarian.
How can Activ4Pets Help?
The Activ4Pets app and online platform enable you to measure and track your pet’s weight on a regular basis, which makes hitting those weight-loss goals even easier. It’s one of the many features of our Health Measure Tracker. You can even graph the values out to easily identify problematic periods.
And, if your pet is experiencing health complications because they are overweight, Activ4Pets keeps all your veterinary records available at the touch of a button, should you ever need them in a hurry.
Need to ask your veterinarian questions, but struggling to find the time to visit in person? Activ4Pets also provides virtual visits to talk to your vet via webcam. If your veterinarian participates, you can book an e-Consultation around your schedule and ask all the diet-related questions you can think of. It’s food for thought, at the very least.
Meet the Author
Dr. Clayton Jones
Dr. Jones has 25 years of veterinary medical experience as a staff veterinarian and medical director of his own practice. As well as being the Chief Veterinary Medical Officer for Activ4Pets, Dr. Jones is also a member of the American Veterinary Medical Society and President of the US-Cuba Veterinary Cooperation Society.