How to Reduce Your Cat’s Chances of Developing Diabetes

Feline diabetes is out of control. As a veterinary technician, I see more and more cats being diagnosed with this terrible disease everyday. I am also the owner of one such unfortunate feline. It is my hope that, by reading this article, you will be forewarned and forearmed in the battle against feline diabetes.

Six months ago, I noticed my cat, Banichi, was drinking an excessive amount of water as well as leaving large pools of urine in the litter box. He also appeared to have lost a little weight. Most pet owners might not even notice these small changes but to me, as a veterinary professional, they were big clues to a bigger problem. Other indicators one might see are dry, flaky skin, dull hair that mats easily, weakness in the hind end, and lethargy.

My fears were confirmed when I brought him to the clinic where I work and his lab work showed a blood glucose level of over 380. The normal range for feline blood glucose levels is 70 – 120. It was decided that I should change his food to a diet specially formulated for diabetic cats. I opted for Purina DM which comes in dry and wet formulas. When a cats blood sugar levels are under 400 it is sometimes possible to control the diabetes just by changing the diet. In most cases, it is the diet that causes the onset of diabetes in the first place.

According to Lisa A. Pierson, DVM all cat foods contain levels of carbohydrates too high for cats. Being carnivorous by nature, feline anatomy is geared more toward high protein, moderate fat, and low carb foods. A 3 – 6% carb content is more than sufficient but, unfortunately, most dry cat foods contain 30 – 50% or more carbohydrates. Canned foods, on the whole, are better for cats as they contain, on average, a much lower carb content but even then one must take into account the cheaper the food the worse it is nutritionally.

After a trial run on Purina DM, Banichi’s test results came back just as high. The change in food and lower carbs wasn’t enough to reverse his diabetes. He was immediately started on insulin at the standard starting place of 3 units twice daily. After a few days of insulin, I noticed he didn’t seem to be responding so I increased the dosage to 5 units twice daily. With still no response, I continued to increase the dosage giving him several days to adjust between changes. I was disheartened to learn that Banichi was insulin resistant when a dosage of 14 units twice daily is what it took to control his diabetes. Most cats’ diabetes is easily controlled with 2 – 5 units two times per day.

After reading Dr. Lisa A. Pierson’s article, I switched Banichi to canned DM only which has a carb level of 8%. Not the lowest on the market, but much preferrable even to the 15% contained in the Purina DM dry. He has been on the canned food now for two weeks and I’ve tentatively lowered his insulin to 12 units. I plan to have his glucose levels checked again to see if the new diet is having an effect.

Being over 10 and overweight, I’m really not surprised that Banichi has been diagnosed with diabetes. If I had read Dr. Pierson’s article 5 years ago, I might have been able to prevent this terrible thing from happening to my precious kitty. He’s a member of our family and I do what I can to care for him as if he were one of my children. Ignorance has led us to this pass and I hope others will hear and take action.

It’s unfortunate that most vets are unaware of this high carb food culprit. Sure, it’s widely known that overweight cats are at high risk but most people tend to think it is overfeeding that causes the problem not the food itself. Of course, there are other medical conditions that can precipitate diabetes such as pancreatic cancer, benign tumors of the pancreas, and other factors.

It is my hope that eventually Banichi will be down to a much lower level of insulin if not in remission altogether. There is hope for beating feline diabetes!

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