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Doctoral thesis, 2017

Feline diabetes mellitus

Öhlund, Malin


Feline diabetes mellitus (DM) is strikingly similar to human type 2 diabetes. Cats and humans share many risk factors for the disease, including an association with insulin resistance coupled to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. There are also pathophysiological resemblances, with β-cell loss and amyloid deposition in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. In people, ethnicity has been associated with an increased risk of DM, and in cats, a breed predisposition has been identified, with the Burmese breed at increased risk. The aims of this thesis were to identify risk factors for DM in cats and to increase understanding of disease pathogenesis. We used insurance data from Agria Pet Insurance to determine the general incidence of DM in Swedish cats, and the incidence in relation to age, sex and breed. We found that incidence rates peaked when cats were 13 years old. Male cats developed DM twice as often as female cats. The Burmese breed, along with the Russian Blue, Abyssinian, and Norwegian Forest cat breeds, showed an increased risk of DM, while several breeds showed a lower risk. Owners of diabetic and non-diabetic cats from the same cohort were invited to participate in a web survey, with questions on e.g. type of diet, feeding regime, and activity levels. We found associations between overweight and an increased risk of DM. Access to the outdoors was protective. There was an increased risk of DM in cats eating predominantly dry food, compared to wet food, in the group of cats considered normal-weight by their owners. Since overweight was shown to be a strong risk factor for DM, we studied if factors associated with DM were also associated with risk of overweight. Several shared risk factors for DM and overweight were found, such as eating predominantly dry food, being male, and considered being a greedy eater. Cats from Birman and Persian breeds, with a decreased risk of DM, were less often overweight. Finally, we studied the metabolism in the Burmese, Birman, and Maine coon breeds, using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and hormone immunoassays. There were differences in the metabolic profiles between breeds, with patterns of metabolites in the Burmese cats resembling patterns seen with insulin resistance in people. In conclusion, both new and previously reported factors associated with DM and overweight in cats were identified in this thesis. Knowledge of predisposing factors can help owners and veterinarians to identify cats at risk, and enables prevention of disease.


Burmese, cat, dry food, epidemiology, Felis catus, lifestyle, metabolomics, overweight, obesity, type 2 diabetes

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2017, number: 2017:88
ISBN: 978-91-7760-066-4, eISBN: 978-91-7760-067-1
Publisher: Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Clinical Science

    Permanent link to this page (URI)