Diabetes Isn’t Fun For Felines Either
Toby, our large, cuddly, purring, yellow tabby that has been with our family since my daughters were in grade school was diagnosed with diabetes this week. We knew the diagnosis was coming. All of the symptoms were there: unquenchable thirst, frequent urination, loss of appetite.
As much as we knew that we were going to be given the news of that particular disease, we were still hoping that maybe it was something else. Something easier to manage. Something that wouldn’t mean daily injections, a change in diet, and the worry as to how his body will handle the illness.
My husband said – the day before he was to go to the vet – that he thought Toby seemed better. Maybe he didn’t need to go. In a word, we were in denial. As Toby’s parents, we had not done anything to prevent him from developing diabetes. It’s rather common in older cats that have been fed commercial cat food their entire lives.
Veterinarian Elizabeth Hodgkins has done extensive research on feline diabetes and says that the “massive amounts of cereal” in dry cat foods puts too many carbohydrates in the diet. It is the abundance of carbs in the food that causes the ailment. She believes that a change in diet alone will not only prevent, but also treat feline diabetes. Cat owners that put their pets on a reduced carbohydrate diet can even rid them of their insulin dependency.
In Cats and Humans, Diabetes Is On The Rise
We’ve all heard about the increase in the number of cases of Type 2 Diabetes in the American population, particularly in children. It seems cats and children in the United States are on the same path. But why is that?
Let’s look at some of the risk factors that are known to lead to Type 2 Diabetes in people . The first three are factors that we have no control over:
- Genetics is believed to be the strongest link. You may be predispositioned to the disease if your mother or father was diabetic.
- Aging – The risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes begins to rise at age 45. The risk rises considerably after the age of 65.
- Ethnicity – African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans and Japanese Americans have a great risk of developing the disease than non-Hispanic whites.
Some Things We Can Change
This is a list of risks that we can control for the most part:
- High blood pressure
- High blood triglyceride (fat) levels
- Gestational diabetes (giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds)
- High-fat diet
- High alcohol intake
- Sedentary lifestyle
Being diagnosed, or having a loved one diagnosed, with diabetes no longer sounds the alarm the way it once did. Because the disease is so prevalent in our society and we have easy-to-administer medications to treat it, when we hear about someone being newly diagnosed, our response is usually a yawn.
But it shouldn’t be. We should be raising our children with an awareness of how important it is to eat nutritious foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar, and emphasize the value of physical activity. As adults we have a responsibility to keep our blood pressure in check, watch our consumption of alcohol and fat intake.
We may not realize that our behaviors today may lead to Type 2 Diabetes down the road. Having a doctor deliver that news, however, is a life-changing experience. Once a person is diagnosed with diabetes their life involves continuous monitoring of blood sugars, often times daily injections of insulin, along with watching for symptoms of hyperglycemia (high) and hypoglycemia (low) blood sugars and controlling the highs and lows so that serious health problems don’t develop such as heart disease and damage to the nerves and kidneys.
No Big Surprise
Last week the world-wide-web was aflutter with the news of Paula Deen’s announcement that she has Type 2 Diabetes. There were plenty of nasty attacks directed at the Southern Belle. Some, I think, were overly harsh and unwarranted. My reaction, and that of a member of the wellness team where I work, was a yawn. Surely no one is really surprised.
Some of the negative media attention came from her waiting over two years to disclose to the public that she had been diagnosed as she worked through a partnership with a drug company that makes – you guessed it – diabetes medications.
We know the impact that a diet that has an abundance of salt, sugar, calories and fat will have on our waistline and our health. I think that when the news broke about Paula, although people weren’t shocked, they were disappointed with her reluctance to admit that many of her own actions led to her disease. She seemed unwilling to connect the dots for her audience. People wanted to hear a clear-cut “I’m going to clean up my act and I want you to too,” statement from Paula. None came.
Cleaning Up Toby’s Act
Over the years we’ve been guilty of putting food in the bowl for Toby even when we knew he was gaining weight, becoming less active, and eating out of boredom. But he was so persistent and annoying with his begging and pestering that we succumbed to it. We are a family of individuals that cannot even stand up to a cat.
Now, unfortunately, because of us – the people he depends on for everything – he has an illness that can shorten his life, or at the very least diminish the quality of it. I’m going to apologize to him for that as soon as he returns home from his stay at the animal hospital. I’m also going to make sure he abides by his newly prescribed diet and gets his medicine. I may even see if I can get him to take a walk with me on the dreadmill.