Diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions , not just in people, but also in cats. Most cases of feline diabetes are similar to what is called type 2 diabetes in people, which means that weight control and diet are important factors in the development and control of the disease.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about choosing the best food for a cat with diabetes.
What is feline diabetes?
Diabetes in cats is a disease caused by the body’s inability to make or use insulin , which is a hormone produced and released by specialized cells in the pancreas. Insulin allows the body’s cells to take sugar (glucose) from the blood and use it for metabolism and other functions. Feline diabetes develops when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body’s cells cannot use available insulin to extract glucose from the blood.
How does diet help in feline diabetes?
Understanding how diet plays a role in treating diabetes in cats requires basic information about the relationship between food, blood sugar levels, and the hormone insulin.
Insulin is made by special cells in the pancreas. It is secreted into the bloodstream when blood sugar levels rise, for example after a meal . Insulin allows sugar to enter cells where it is used to fuel biological processes or is converted into other substances and stored for later use.
When cats have type 2 diabetes , their cells no longer respond adequately to insulin, leading to chronically high blood sugar levels. The pancreas reacts by producing more insulin, but eventually the organ wears out, and the cat will need insulin injections to survive.
How does obesity affect cats with diabetes?
One of the most important factors that lead to diabetes in cats is obesity . Fat cells produce hormones that make the body less responsive to insulin. The more fat present, the more hormones are produced.
Many cases of feline diabetes could be prevented if cats did not eat too much and stay lean. It is quite useful in cases of obese cats with feline diabetes to use interactive feeders or puzzle feeders, so that the cats eat more slowly and not as much. Here are some examples to buy interactive feeders.
Weight loss can even lead to remission in a cat’s diabetes if treatment begins early in the course of the disease. In other words, diabetic cats that initially need insulin injections may not need insulin if they lose a sufficient amount of weight.What is the best food for diabetes in cats?
Neither type of food is the right choice for all diabetic cats, but there are some guidelines that are generally followed and they are as follows:
Low carbohydrate and high protein: Eating carbohydrate-rich meals causes sudden spikes in blood sugar levels, increasing a cat’s demand for insulin. This is the exact opposite of what a diabetic cat needs. Low carbohydrate foods limit this response. Cats should get most of their calories from animal protein sources. Fat is necessary to complete the diet, but high levels can be problematic if a cat needs to lose weight.
Wet food is best for a diabetic cat : Dry food simply cannot be made with the low concentrations of carbohydrates that most diabetic cats need. Some canned foods, on the other hand, contain no carbohydrates at all.
Prescription or Non-Prescription Diet: Many canned foods have a low carbohydrate profile and a high protein content that is appropriate for diabetic cats. If your cat is simply not eating canned food and you feel that it is necessary for her to diet, you can give her feed with lower than average carbohydrate levels, which are specifically designed to help control diabetes in cats, and are available through the veterinarians.
Watch portion sizes: The amount of food a diabetic cat eats is just as important as the type of food you offer. Obese cats should eat an amount that encourages a healthy rate of weight loss. A cat with diabetes can be made to lose weight by feeding a reduced amount of food suitable for diabetes in cats. Non-prescription weight loss diets tend to be too high in carbohydrates for diabetic cats.
Taste of food for diabetic cats: It is important that diabetic cats eat according to a set schedule although it is also important that these foods taste good and are eager to eat. Fortunately, many canned cat foods are tasty and appropriate for diabetic cats, so finding one that your cat likes shouldn’t be too difficult.
How to feed diabetic cats
Consistency is key when it comes to feeding diabetic cats , particularly if they have insulin. Cats should eat the same amount of food at the same time every day .
Most diabetic cats receive two daily injections of insulin that are given 12 hours apart. Ideally, food should be offered just before the next insulin dose arrives. In this way, if a cat does not eat a full meal, the amount of insulin can be reduced.
Your veterinarian will make a detailed plan for when and how to adjust insulin doses. If in doubt, do not give your cat insulin and call your vet for advice.
Feeding tips for feline diabetes
Treats should be limited to 10% of a diabetic cat’s diet and given at the same time each day. Good options for treats for cats with diabetes would be: chicken, beef, salmon, tuna, and liver. These foods contain a high level of protein and are low in carbohydrates, just like the foods recommended for diabetic cats.
You have to stop giving treats if they interfere with your cat’s appetite at regular meals.
Finally, never make any changes to your diabetic cat’s insulin dose or diet without first consulting with your veterinarian. Managing diabetes is a delicate balance between diet and insulin levels.
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