Diabetes is one of the most common cat diseases diagnosed by veterinarians in the USA. It is due to the loss or dysfunction of insulin secretion, or reduced insulin sensitivity, or both. The result is high levels of blood glucose and subsequently, glucose in the urine. As the disease progresses, the affected cat can develop a build-up of acids in the blood, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, elevated respiratory rate, and weakness. The disease requires careful management, including twice-daily insulin injections, and costs of veterinary care and lifestyle changes can significantly impact owners. Little is known about the genetics underlying feline DM. However, two recent studies identified genomic regions associated with risk in Australian Burmese, and a genetic change in the gene MC4R increases risk in obese domestic shorthair cats. We have recently identified a significant association with DM, using genetic information from 340,000 locations across the cat genome. We now have the unique opportunity to obtain information from 2 million locations by performing the largest search for DM genetic risk in the cat. Our study aims to identify regions of the cat genome that are associated with this disease, with the goal of developing a genetic screening test. Those cats with an increased genetic predisposition for DM can be offered prevention opportunities such as specific diets, exercise, and early screening. This will allow earlier diagnosis, and permit intervention before irreversible disease occurs. Further, cat breeders can use a genetic test to reduce the frequency of the disease in the population.
EveryCat Health Foundation has combined funding from the Miller Trust and the ECHF Diabetes Fund to fund this grant.