Best Cat Food for Diabetic Cats (Incl. Non-Prescription Options)
Roughly 0.2 to 1% of the general population of cats have feline diabetes. In humans, diabetes mellitus occurs when there is an improper or incomplete response of the body to insulin, which is a hormone that prevents blood sugar elevation. Diabetes in humans is the same as feline diabetes. Cats with diabetes cannot properly absorb glucose from the blood, leading to numerous health problems and risks.
Cat food plays a major role in controlling diabetes in cats. In this article, we will go through what the best cat food for diabetic cats is, as well as some tips on how to control your beloved pet’s condition.
In cats, there are also two types of diabetes just like in humans-- Type 1 diabetes which is also known as the insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and Type 2 diabetes which is the non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.
Type 1 Diabetes
Cats who have Type 1 DM are dependent on insulin shots because they cannot produce insulin on their own. Insulin is the hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas, whereas in Type 1 DM, the cells cannot produce insulin properly. This can be due to an immunologic response that destroys the beta cells or the cat’s predisposition to diabetes due to genetics.
Type 2 Diabetes
On the other hand, feline Type 2 DM is characterized by insulin resistance. The cells refuse to absorb the glucose in the blood because they are not responding to insulin properly. This can be caused by several factors such as genetics, obesity, improper nutrition, and low mobility. Type 2 DM is more common than Type 1, and cats who have this type of diabetes may not rely on exogenous insulin.
How can you tell if your cat has diabetes?
The symptoms of feline diabetes are not that different from humans. The most common noticeable sign of diabetes is frequent urination (polyuria) and excessive thirst (polydipsia). Another common sign is weight loss even if your cat is eating a lot. Because the cells cannot take up glucose from the blood, the body has no energy to use and thus uses its stores, causing weight loss.
Neuropathy is a common comorbidity in diabetes, and it can present itself as a symptom. A cat who walks with his back legs flat on the ground may have developed diabetic neuropathy due to the loss of nerve function in their hind legs.
Diabetes may affect cats from all life stages, but there is definitely more risk to indoor cats who are overweight and are fed inappropriately. If your cat develops diabetes, it is imperative that you, as their owner, learn how to manage their disease in order to avoid diabetes-related comorbidities.
How to Feed a Cat With Diabetes
Before feeding your cat diabetic cat food or going on a new feeding plan, have your vet confirm a diagnosis for diabetes first. The vet may use blood glucose and urine tests to confirm diabetes. Once they do, you can talk about a good management plan for your cat.
Oftentimes, feline diabetes is treated with exogenous insulin shots. Nevertheless, proper nutrition for a cat with diabetes is just as important as insulin. Dietary management will help control your cat’s blood sugar as well as normalize their appetite, so they don’t eat too much. Moreover, a cat that gets diabetes will still need abundant vitamins and minerals for good immune and digestive systems.
Aside from learning how to administer insulin injections (if needed) to your feline companion, it's important to learn how to feed them an appropriate diabetic diet. Still, remember to always ask for a vet’s advice when using a dietary management plan in conjunction with insulin shots.
Is Low Carb Better?
A low-carb diet will help your cat to have normal blood glucose levels. Glucose is the product of carbohydrates when it is broken down in the body. With diabetes, a cat’s cells cannot take up glucose properly. Thus, lessening the amount of glucose in the body will prevent blood sugars from spiking up, decreasing the appearance of symptoms such as thirst and excessive eating. You may speak with your vet about low carb cat food that you can feed your cat.
Cats who lose weight due to diabetes may have become underweight. If so, put your cat on a controlled weight gain program with cat food that is low in carbohydrates. On the other hand, if your cat is overweight or obese, they need to be put on a weight loss program which will also help control their blood sugar (and decrease insulin resistance).
Feline diabetes may also cause changes in appetite, so you need to adjust their feeding accordingly. Diabetes may cause a hungrier cat because their cells refuse to take up energy from the blood. It is recommended that you feed them just the right amount of food and keep food sources secured, so they don’t get into it. Otherwise, they can gain weight and become obese. On the other hand, if your cat loses its appetite as a side effect, try feeding them different kinds of cat food or switch from dry to wet food.
What About Cranberries?
Furthermore, it is recommended that you give your cat a cranberry-based urinary supplement. Common comorbidities of diabetes include urinary infections. Due to the increased sugar in the blood and urine, the urinary tract may become infected, which can then spread up to the cat’s bladder. Watch out for signs of a UTI when your cat is diagnosed with diabetes.
To sum it up, you can feed your cat specialized diabetic food or non-prescription food for diabetic cats. However, if your cat is taking insulin shots as well, it is important that you consult with a vet on feeding times. This is to avoid a sudden drop or a sudden spike in blood sugar levels if you misuse insulin on your cat.
Recommended: The 4 Best Cat Foods for Diabetic Cats
If you wish to feed your cat special cat food that is formulated for diabetes, here are some of the best options available:
Purina has produced a special dietary formulation that is specifically meant for cats with diabetes. With the Purina Pro Plan cat food, your cat will get its high protein requirements while getting a low amount of carbohydrates. It has been adjusted for weight management as well in order to help cats maintain weight even with diabetes.
It is important that your cat’s blood sugar does not get too high nor too low. The Royal Canin Feline Glycobalance dry cat food can ensure that your cat’s blood sugar levels remain balanced all throughout the day. It contains natural cereals that help reduce a spike in blood pressure while aiding in a slower release of energy.
If your cat does not have the appetite for dry cat food, which can be a common side effect of diabetes, you can try giving them the Purina Veterinary Diets DM cat wet cat food instead. This cat food supports optimal nutrition for diabetic cats with high protein and low carbohydrate content.
For overweight cats who need to manage their weight in order to control diabetes, the Blue Buffalo Wilderness formulation may be the right choice. This recipe contains high-quality protein but has a specifically balanced amount of calories in order to manage body weight. Moreover, it does not contain any grains which may cause an increase in blood sugars.
Diabetes in cats is just as serious as that in humans. If you have a cat with diabetes, you can help manage their blood sugar levels with a proper diet and exogenous insulin (if necessary). Dietary management can be done by feeding them the best cat food for diabetic cats or a homemade diet low in carbohydrates. In this way, your cat can still live a healthy and normal life despite the disease.