Your cat bellies up to their empty food bowl, gives you a reproachful look, and meows for more. While they once only needed a sip or two of water from their water dish for hydration, they're now lapping it up for minutes on end. Excessive hunger and thirst can be signs that your cat has feline diabetes and will need special care, including a special diet.
About 0.5 to 2 percent of cats have been diagnosed with diabetes, but the number may be higher because the condition often goes undiagnosed. Most cases in cats are similar to type 2 diabetes in humans. A cat's cells no longer respond to insulin, which helps sugar enter cells, and the cat ends up with high blood sugar.
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Older, neutered male cats are at the highest risk for diabetes. As the rate of obesity in cats grows, so does the incidence of diabetes, as fat cells are more resistant to insulin. Most cats will need daily injections of insulin to ensure their blood sugar levels stay in check.
Diabetic cat diet
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that meat is their protein source. Low-carbohydrate, high-protein foods can help lower the number of blood sugar spikes. About half the calories in the food should come from animal protein and 40 percent from fat, with just 10 percent carbohydrates. This kind of low-carb cat food usually means cat owners must choose canned food because dry cat food has a high carbohydrate content.
Some cats who switch to a special diet for feline diabetes may no longer need insulin injections. Because diabetic cats are often very hungry, finding a food for even finicky eaters can be an easy transition. Another issue is ensuring that they are eating enough to keep their muscle mass, but also maintaining a healthy weight. If pet owners are supplementing with treats or food additives to entice eating, it can lead to increased body weight. Overweight cats have problems that can impact their overall health.
Some food for a diabetic cat diet requires a prescription from your veterinarian, while others can be purchased online, at pet stores, and even in your local grocery store.
Prescription canned food for cats
One pet food often found on a best diabetic cat food list is Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Dietetic Management formula, which is a high-protein, low-carb prescription wet cat food. The minced food is high in antioxidants.
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Glycobalance Thin Slices in Gravy is another prescription diet food. It was created specifically to help maintain healthy blood glucose levels in adult cats who have been diagnosed with diabetes, but it can also be fed to help manage bladder and urinary health.
Hill's Prescription Diet m/d Glucose/Weight Management has a high level of taurine to help maintain normal levels of insulin.
Nonprescription foods for diabetic cats
Ziwi Peak Venison is a high-quality nonprescription food with a high protein content, composed of 93 percent venison. It has no chemical preservatives, artificial ingredients, or animal byproducts.
Tiki Cat Succulent Chicken canned food's first four ingredients are chicken broth, tuna, chicken, and sunflower seed oil. It has almost no carbohydrates.
Hound & Gatos Salmon Grain-Free Canned Cat Food delivers just what its name denotes: nearly all salmon in broth with no chemical preservatives, artificial ingredients, or animal byproducts.
Food for diabetic cats at grocery stores
Sometimes, you may need to buy food for your cat wherever you can get it. If you can't get to a veterinarian or a specialty pet store, there are some foods for diabetic cats that you can get at most grocery stores. Fancy Feast Flaked Fish & Shrimp Feast is one of the lower-cost foods that is good for diabetic cats who need a low-carbohydrate diet. Its low-carb formula is primarily composed of ocean fish, fish broth, shrimp, and vegetable oil.
There are several kinds of Friskies for diabetic cats. Some include Friskies Tasty Treasures Pate Liver & Beef Wet Cat Food and Friskies Classic Pate Turkey & Giblets Dinner.
Diabetic cat treats
Most cat treats have a high carbohydrate content, which makes them appealing and tasty for your cat but won't help their diabetes management or high-protein diet. You might consider feeding your cat a few bites of chicken or salmon as a treat. A few brands of low-carbohydrate wet treats can also fit the bill.
PureBites Mixers come in several fish flavors with just fish or chicken and water as ingredients. PureBites also makes freeze-dried bits of shrimp and fish that come in pouches.
The bottom line
Diabetes in cats is a manageable condition when treated with enough insulin or even just the right diet. Your veterinarian will provide a proper diagnosis and let you know whether or not your cat needs insulin injections. If insulin is prescribed, your veterinarian will show you how to properly administer it. If a change in diet is all that's needed, your DVM can guide you as to which foods and treats will be the best option for your particular cat's health and wellness.