DIET FOR THE DIABETIC CAT
As most of us know, proper dietary support of diabetes mellitus is very important in overall diabetes management. In cats, diabetes mellitus can actually be reversed if there has not been too much permanent pancreatic damage and if blood sugar can be regulated quickly, the cat can become normal. For cats, a low carbohydrate/high protein approach is the best route to accomplishing this goal.
Cats become diabetic when they experience sustained high blood sugar levels for too long. Genetics and diet aside, any cat can be made into a diabetic cat by subjecting the cat to repeated intravenous glucose infusions for a long enough time. Too much glucose in the bloodstream over time depletes the pancreas of insulin and eventually creates an insulin deficiency (which is basically what diabetes mellitus is).
In a more natural setting where repeated intravenous glucose infusions do not occur, the problem is a high carbohydrate diet. When we eat carbohydrates and they enter our bodies, there is a rise in blood sugar level that persists for several hours. In the cat, it is more like 8-12 hours, even longer if the cat is obese. All this circulating blood sugar stimulates insulin secretion so that all that sugar can be stored in the body. If the cat is snacking on dry food throughout the day, he or she may be secreting insulin throughout the day as well. This makes for a fat cat and a depleted pancreas.
We have mentioned that a diabetic cat can become normal if blood sugar levels are returned to normal and kept normal for a long enough time. This cannot usually be done without insulin injections but diet is important as well. We need to minimize the post-meal glucose tide that contributed to the cat's diabetes and this is best done with a low-carbohydrate, high protein diet. If the cat is overweight, the amount should be tailored to induce weight loss. Kibbled diets require a minimum amount of carbohydrate to produce their shape and consistency but canned foods are not hampered by this carbohydrate limitation. This means that canned food more often fits the bill but there are several therapeutic dry diets made for diabetic cats should dry food be strongly desired by either cat or human caregiver. The following guidelines have been suggested for diabetic cats:
There are several therapeutic diets designed specifically to meet these guidelines. Ask your veterinarian which one is best for your cat. In general, canned diets are felt to be superior in protein:carbohydrate ratios; however, there are dry foods available for diabetic cats. If it is not possible to change to a diet designed for diabetic cat health, it may be possible to feed another commercial canned food. Alternatively, a professional nutritionist can devise a home made diet if one feels more comfortable with this route.
Page posted: 1/20/2010