Causes of Diabetes in Your Cat or Dog

Causes of Diabetes in Your Cat or Dog

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From genetics, to weight, to preexisting diseases, lots of factors can cause diabetes in your pet. Learn about the causes of diabetes here.

Diabetes mellitus, or sugar diabetes, occurs when a cat or dog’s body does not properly produce or process insulin. Insulin plays a vital role in allowing glucose to get access to cells; once within cells, glucose is transformed into energy. When insufficient amounts of insulin are created within the pancreas or when the insulin does not travel properly into a pet’s cells, pets develop high blood sugar levels, leading to a wide swath of symptoms. Without treatment, diabetes can affect all of your pet’s organs, and become life-threatening. Diabetes is one of the most common endocrine diseases for cats and dogs.

Why Do Some Pets Get Diabetes?

It’s unclear why some pets develop diabetes and others do not. After all, not all obese cats get diabetes. And while incidence is more common in golden retrievers, for one example, than in other breeds, again, not all golden retrievers will inevitably have diabetes. So neither genetics nor general health can entirely explain why one pet will get diabetes where another will not. What is known is that there are some risk factors -- including genes and weight -- that are known contributing factors to pets getting diabetes. Other factors that may increase the likelihood of a pet having diabetes are pancreatitis, some medications that are prescribed to pets, and some hormonal diseases. Breeds that have a genetic predisposition toward diabetes include Burmese cats, and for dogs, golden retrievers, poodles, schnauzers, German shepherds, and dachshunds.

Types of Diabetes

There are three main types of diabetes. While cats can get any one of the three types, dogs only get Type I diabetes.

  • Type I Diabetes: In Type I diabetes, the cat or dog’s pancreas does not create enough insulin. This is an insulin-dependent variety of diabetes.
  • Type II Diabetes: In this type of diabetes, cats produce the insulin, but the body doesn’t process it properly. Untreated, Type II diabetes will usually transform into Type I diabetes.
  • Type III Diabetes: In this less common type, another disease or use of certain medications leads to the onset of the diabetes. Typically, this occurs with Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism. Corticosteroids are one class of medications known to lead to diabetes for some pets.
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