Your beloved diabetic cat, who cannot regulate her blood glucose levels, can live a lengthy, comfortable life with proper care and treatment. A therapeutic canned-food diet with appropriate nutrient levels and small frequent feedings, along with regular veterinary care, are essential for her health and longevity.
Recommended Protein and Carbohydrate Levels
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Diabetic cats need high levels of protein and very low levels of carbohydrates to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends diabetic cats eat a canned food diet that contains at least 45 percent of its metabolizable energy (ME) from protein and as little carbohydrate as possible, no more than 10 percent ME. ME is the estimated amount of energy available from food after digestion.
You cannot determine a food's ME levels by reading the label. Pet food labels list only minimum crude protein levels, which includes protein energy that is not available to the cat because it is either lost during the digestion process or is indigestible and cannot be broken down and absorbed. They do not list carbohydrate levels at all.
Finding Canned Foods With Proper Nutrient Levels
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Ensure that your diabetic cat gets the recommended high level of protein and few carbohydrates by purchasing canned food that contains mostly meat, no starches or fruits, and few or no vegetables. Starches and fruits can cause blood sugar spikes and should be avoided. Starches include grains (such as corn, rice and wheat), root and tuber vegetables (such as potatoes, beets and carrots) and food starch.
Ingredients are labeled based on their preponderance of weight. This means the first few ingredients, which should be meat and meat byproducts, make up most of the food. Vegetables should be lower on the list, just above the vitamins and other additives.
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Feed small, frequent meals to help stabilize your cat's blood sugar. Meal-feeding also helps you to control portions and monitor food intake. This is especially important if your cat is overweight or underweight. Both conditions can complicate diabetes.
Consult with your veterinarian to determine how much food your cat needs each day and split it into two to four meals. If you cat likes to eat smaller amounts more frequently, you can add water to the canned food to prevent it from drying out as your cat snacks on it throughout the day.
Supplementing With Meat
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Some veterinarians suggest supplementing your diabetic cat's diet with small amounts of raw or lightly cooked chicken, beef or organ meats. Supplemental meat boosts the overall protein content of your cat's diet without adding carbohydrates. Adding meat baby food to canned food increases palatability and encourages finicky cats to eat.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Kimm Hunt has been writing professionally since 1990. She has written for businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations, and previously served as the editor of a weekly suburban Chicago newspaper. Hunt holds a B.S. in agriculture from the University of Illinois. She is also a professional dog trainer.