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Diabetes Mellitus and Insulin Resistance in Dogs and Cats

One of the tasks of the hormone insulin is to store reserves for bad times. Of all organs, the liver is the most suitable for this, it has the most insulin receptors (glycogen for the brain and erythrocytes). The muscles (glycogen and fat reserves for fight and flight) and fat cells (triglycerides as general energy reserve) are also important reserve sources. Insulin ensures that the glucose concentration in the blood is regulated downwards. Glucose is taken up from the blood by the beta cells and converted into ATP. The function of this ATP is to block the ATP sensitive potassium channels so that calcium can enter the cell. When calcium enters the cell, insulin is produced.

Insulin is also responsible for the inhibition of gluconeogenesis, the regulation of the fat metabolism in the liver, the cell division, the re-absorption of sodium by the kidneys, the strength of the heartbeat, the prevention of acidification of the cells (Na + / H + exchange) , stimulating the sodium, potassium and magnesium pumps and the return transport of potassium and magnesium to the cell.

The development of diabetes Type I and II Diabetes Mellitus is a condition that many dogs and especially cats have to deal with. Two types of diabetes can be distinguished:

Type I: too little insulin is produced by the pancreas. This type of diabetes often manifests itself at a young age, is acute and can be recognized quickly.

Type II: the insulin receptors responsible for the transport of glucose into the cell are less sensitive to insulin. The glucose then remains in the bloodstream despite an increased concentration of insulin in the blood. This disrupts the energy balance. This phenomenon is also called insulin resistance. This type of diabetes often manifests itself later in life and develops gradually. Often the early symptoms are not recognized until it is too late.

Although we observe type I diabetes more often in dogs, type II is also increasingly common. Bitches in particular can have type II diabetes. This is because they have an increased progesterone level each time during the pseudo pregnancy. This mobilizes more sugar and requires more insulin. Over time, this exhausts the pancreas. Type II is commonly seen in cats. This form of diabetes most closely resembles human type II. The main causes are too many carbohydrates (sugars) in the diet and obesity. Medication such as heat inhibitors and the ‘cat pill’ or the use of corticosteroids can also promote diabetes.

The causes of insulin resistance in dogs and cats


Over the years, the diet of dogs and cats has changed significantly. While dogs and cats are naturally prey eaters, most now eat dry, carbohydrate-rich kibble. However, the genes of the dog and cat do not change as fast as the food, they are still tuned to the raw diet. Due to the changed quality and quantity of the food, the ratio between macro and micronutrients becomes unbalanced. There is an excess of sugars in the chunk. Moreover, the current diet often contains too little magnesium. This leads to cells becoming less sensitive to insulin and can thus be a major contributor to insulin resistance.

When there is a long-term carbohydrate surplus in the diet, almost all tissues become less sensitive to insulin. There is a reduced uptake of glucose in the cell. As a result, less ATP is released. Fat cells, on the other hand, become more sensitive to insulin and will therefore absorb and store more and more glucose as triglycerides: a vicious circle arises. This vicious circle creates an ATP shortage; an energy deficit at the brain level. This energy shortage requires a supplement of energy: nutrition! Animals want to eat more and more often and seem to get fat from the air.

Not enough exercise

Many dogs go for a walk three times a day and are served a ready meal when they return home. They lie asleep for the rest of the day. Most cats also spend most of the day purring on the windowsill, until the daily meal is served. Most house cats do not exercise intensively.
The percentage of pro-inflammatory cytokines (such as TNF-alpha and IL-6) secreted by macrophages in adipose tissue increases with obesity. These cytokines cause insulin resistance because the emergence of insulin resistance during infection and inflammation is essential to maintain glucose levels for the benefit of the immune system. The visceral adipose tissue in overweight dogs and cats can thus be seen as a type of inflammatory tissue that causes a chronic state of low-degree inflammation. The adipokines are secreted by the adipocytes, which increase the insulin sensitivity but are less excreted in the case of overweight.


The house dog is a social animal that generally thrives in the environment of its owner or congeners. Many dogs are kept solitary and are often alone. The needs of the dog are also not always met (hunting, herding, guarding, running, etc.). Cats are often kept in pairs on relatively small spaces, or in (too) busy households. The current living environment of many dogs and cats often no longer corresponds to natural needs. This can lead to boredom and stress. Cortisol is the stress hormone. Cortisol decreases the sensitivity of insulin receptors and prevents glucose from being stored as glycogen (in liver and muscles).

Infection and inflammation

A chronic infection, such as chronic cystitis or cat flu, can contribute to the development or exacerbation of insulin resistance. The hormones involved in regulating the infection, such as cortisol, also play a role here.

False pregnancy

Bitches who regularly become pseudo pregnant have an increased risk of insulin resistance. This is because they have an increased progesterone level each time during the sham pregnancy. This mobilizes more sugar and requires more insulin. Over time, this exhausts the pancreas.

The development of insulin resistance

Metabolic syndrome:

Dietary factors in combination with a lack of physical activity are held responsible for the development of the ‘metabolic syndrome’. There are several definitions of this syndrome where insulin resistance is sometimes used as a synonym, but the metabolic syndrome consists of several symptoms of which insulin resistance is a part:


– Too high values of blood fats (dyslipidaemia)
– Raised blood pressure
– Microalbuminuria
– Increased blood sugars / insulin resistance

Increased blood sugars / insulin resistance

When an animal is offered more sugars than can be processed, the body will adapt to this:
1. The pancreas starts to produce insulin in stock, resulting in hyperinsulinaemia and hypoglycaemia. This can occur 6-9 months after very excessive carbohydrate intake and is reversible. In this case this is a regulation disorder.

2. The organs that rely solely on glucose as a fuel source and the red blood cells suffer from the hypoglycaemia that occurs. As a counter-regulation, the insulin receptors become less sensitive to insulin. This leads to normoglycaemia so that the blood cells again receive enough glucose for fuel. In this case, there is hyperinsulinaemia and insulin resistance while there is normoglycaemia. Less c-AMP is produced in the cells, so that GLUT-4 (glucose receptor and transporter) is no longer directed to the cell wall. This stage is also still completely reversible. However, it should be kept in mind that psycho-emotional stress can easily lead to a disruption of the system through the production of adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline and cortisol cause a shift from fat burning to carbohydrate burning. Cortisol decreases the sensitivity of insulin receptors and prevents glucose from being stored as glycogen in the muscle to hold more glucose in the bloodstream as a supply, which in turn leads to more insulin resistance.

An unfavorable relationship between food intake and exercise is the cause of central (visceral) obesity, a pro-inflammatory state and insulin resistance. Visceral adipose tissue is a source of adipokines, which are involved in lipid metabolism, blood pressure regulation, inflammation, immunity and acute phase response, angiogenesis, insulin sensitivity and glucose homeostasis, reproduction, appetite and energy balance, and hemostasis.

Symptoms of insulin resistance

The main symptoms of insulin resistance are:
– Belly fat
– Over or underweight
– Skin problems
– Muscle fatigue

Insulin resistance can also lead to endothelial dysfunction, plaque formation and macrovascular complications. Human problems with the lens of the eye, neurons and endothelial cells are most prominent. The Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs), which originate from protein and glucose, also play an important role. The resulting macro-angiopathy, together with huperosmolarity, can lead to renal insufficiency and thus to increased blood pressure. Hypertonia, along with microangiopathy, can alter the retina of the eyes (blindness). Loss of sensation and vegetative regulation can occur, as well as peripheral circulatory disorders.

The treatment

Diabetes Type I is almost exclusively possible with insulin are being treated. Insulin is also often used with Type II. In addition, the therapy usually consists of two measures:

1. Adjusting the diet. It is important to eat a low-carb diet. There are various dry diet foods that have been developed for this, but they are not always eaten equally well. Fresh meat or fish is also a good diet for a diabetic.

2. Reducing body weight. Animals that are overweight do well to lose their excess weight. This improves fitness and lowers blood pressure.

3. Dietary Supplements In the fight against insulin resistance and obesity is a third treatment method: Neem Contact our practice for supplemental support.

In diabetes mellitus, the immune system is disturbed, which often manifests itself in an increased susceptibility to infections and abnormal wound healing. Damage to blood vessels is also a complication of a disturbed glucose balance, because a too high glucose level greatly increases the number of reactive oxygen compounds in the blood.

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