The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is calling for vets and cat owners to take part in its latest study investigating the effects of supervised caloric restriction in diabetic cats who might benefit from weight loss.
The research aims to provide a new and effective form of treatment for diabetic cats, using dietary change to promote diabetic remission. Identifying treatments that can achieve diabetic remission will encourage many owners to pursue treatment and greatly improve the quality of life for diabetic cats.
As part of the trial, which started in March 2021, the research team at the RVC Diabetic Remission Clinic will assess the ability of a new feline prescription diabetic food to promote weight loss – and hopefully diabetic remission – in diabetic cats who are mildly to markedly overweight.
Dr Ruth Gostelow, lecturer in small animal internal medicine at the RVC said: “The study has already proved incredibly successful; since it began, recruited cats have recorded a diabetic remission rate of approximately 75 per cent; an outstanding result compared to what is typically reported for diabetic cats.
"The early success of the trial means we want to expand it, and now we need more vets and their cat owners to sign up.
"Although some cats will remain diabetic for the duration of their life, a proportion can achieve diabetic remission and stop insulin treatment. Achieving diabetic remission significantly increases their life expectancy, and owner and pet wellbeing."
The study will take place over 12 months, and cats joining the trial will attend between five and seven outpatient appointments at the RVC Queen Mother Hospital for Animals, near Potters Bar in Hertfordshire. Additional monitoring will also be conducted by owners at home.
Eligibility criteria include cats who have been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus in the last two years, are overweight to some extent (body condition score of 6 out of 9 or above) and treated with insulin twice daily. As part of the study, cats will be fed the test diet for the first 12 weeks, and the remaining time period will assess and monitor cats’ longer-term outcomes.
Cats and owners joining the trial will receive free underlying disease screening, free cat food for the 12-month period, free home blood glucose monitoring supplies, newly developed glucose monitoring cat litter for use at home and dedicated diabetic care from the RVC clinic team.
This research is particularly important as diabetes mellitus is one of the most common feline hormonal diseases - with an estimated 54,500 cats suffering from this condition in the UK alone. Obesity is a strong contributing factor to diabetes and with approximately 45 per cent of the UK cat population already diagnosed as obese, the number of cats affected is likely to increase further.
Diabetes mellitus can in fact increase mortality in cats, with many sadly being euthanised at the time of diagnosis. The condition requires daily injections and frequent veterinary examinations for affected cats, often resulting in huge financial and social costs for owners, as well as the emotional pressures of having a sick pet.
Lester Fortescue, a Burmese cat from Frating in Essex, joined the RVC’s feline diabetes trial in November 2021. As a kitten until the age of three, he took part in the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy shows, winning the titles of Grand Champion and Premier and was awarded ‘Best of Variety’ on several occasions. Following this success, Lester presented to his primary-care veterinary practice in October 2021 with increased thirst and urination, and hindlimb weakness.
He was diagnosed with diabetes, started twice-daily insulin, and was promptly referred to the RVC’s trial. Lester was able to stop insulin treatment only one week after joining the trial and has been in diabetic remission since. Despite the breed being predisposed to diabetes, Lester is the first Burmese to take part since the team started prospective feline diabetes trials approximately 10 years ago.
Rachel Fortescue, owner of Lester, said: “As soon as Lester was diagnosed with diabetes, I knew I had to do everything for him. Enrolling him on the RVC diabetic remission trial was the best thing I could have possibly done! The team have been so supportive and caring, truly understanding my anxieties and worries in how best to manage this condition.
“Having the RVC holding my hand through this journey has been absolutely invaluable and I have no doubt that Lester's early remission would not have happened if he had not been on the trial. I have watched Lester turn back into a happy, affectionate, playful cat again as the symptoms of his diabetes have disappeared and for that I am eternally grateful."
Dr Amrita Mohanty, the trial’s PhD student at the RVC, said: “As a veterinarian, I am very grateful to be part of a trial that has such an effective dietary therapy and have truly enjoyed working with our trial patients, sharing in the success of the owners who achieve stability or remission. I am hopeful that I can help many more cats with this diet and look forward to the beneficial impact this newly developed dietary treatment will have on diabetic cat populations in the future.”
Both general practice vets and pet owners can apply for the trial by emailing email@example.com or calling 01707 666605. For cat owners wishing to apply directly, the RVC will communicate with respective practice vets to ensure trial suitability and to facilitate veterinary care throughout the trial.
For more information, visit: www.rvc.uk.com/feline-diabetes-diet-research