What to Feed Your Diabetic Cat

Cats become diabetic when their blood sugar levels are high for too long; in fact, a normal cat with a healthy pancreas will become diabetic if subjected to intravenous glucose infusions over time. In a more natural setting, the problem is a high-carbohydrate diet rather than an intravenous glucose infusion. When we eat carbohydrates and they enter our bodies, there is a rise in blood sugar level that persists for several hours. In cats, it is more like 8 to 12 hours, even longer if the cat is obese. All this circulating blood sugar stimulates insulin secretion so that all that sugar can be stored in the body. If the cat is snacking on dry food throughout the day, he may be secreting insulin throughout the day as well. This makes for a fat cat and a depleted pancreas.

Obesity makes body tissues more resistant to the effects of insulin so that the pancreas must secrete even more insulin to put away the same amount of circulating sugar if the cat is overweight. While weight loss is reported in 70 percent of diabetic cats, 40% of diabetic cats are obese despite this.

A diabetic cat can become normal if blood sugar levels are returned to normal and kept normal for a long enough time. This cannot usually be done without insulin injections but diet is important as well.

A low-carbohydrate, high protein diet is best. If the cat is overweight, the amount should be tailored to induce weight loss. Kibbled diets require a minimum amount of carbohydrate to produce their shape and consistency but canned foods are not hampered by this carbohydrate limitation. This means that canned food more often fit the bill but there are several therapeutic dry diets made for diabetic cats that your cat may prefer.

Ask your veterinarian which therapeutic diet is best for your diabetic cat.

The following guidelines have been suggested for diabetic cats:

* Most canned foods for cats are made to be adequately high in protein/low in carbohydrate. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

* Compare foods on the list for high protein content and low carbohydrate content.

* Obese cats require weight loss to achieve regulation. High protein/low carbohydrate diets are excellent for this purpose. Once an appropriate food has been selected, equal amounts should be fed in approximately three to four small meals daily if possible. Feeding in meals discourages snacking and helps with weight loss. It is best not to leave a food bowl out for snacking.

* Obese cats should not lose more than two percent of their body weight per week. If they do, they are at high risk for developing hepatic lipidosis, a form of liver failure. This is a serious complication and should be avoided. If your cat is losing weight too quickly, notify your veterinarian.

* The diet in question should be relatively high in arginine. Arginine is an amino acid that is stimulatory to the pancreatic beta cells that secrete insulin. Most meat-based proteins are high in arginine.

* The diet in question should be relatively high in L-carnitine, a biochemical which assists in transporting fats into cells to facilitate metabolism.

There are several therapeutic diets designed specifically to meet these guidelines. Ask your veterinarian which one is best for your cat.

Air Travel With Your Pets

If you are planning air travel with your pet, here are some things you need to know.

Travelling With Your Pet

  • Remember that in most cases you will need a USDA health certificate to travel by air with your pet. Check with the airline as to how many days before travel the certificate must be issued. The USDA considers a health certificate to be valid for 30 days, but many airlines and states have their own ideas about how long a health certificate should be valid and 10 days is typical for domestic travel.
  • A USDA health certificate is issued by a veterinarian certified to issue these certificates. Not all veterinarians can issue USDA certificates, so be sure to plan early to ask your veterinarian for a referral if he or she does not issue the certificates.
  • For international destinations, each country has its own requirements for animal travel. To learn more about travelling with your dog to different countries, visit the USDA website.  To see international requirements, check with the USDA database.
  • The USDA website also has domestic travel requirements.
  • Use a high-quality carrier, one that will be sturdy enough to not open or break.
  • Get your pet used to being inside the carrier prior to travel to minimize anxiety. Keep in mind that brachycephalic (short-faced) dog breeds may have difficulty breathing when agitated. Proper planning makes for a fun excursion for every member of the family, even the furry ones.
  • Consider implanting a microchip ID for any pet that travels.

Flying your Pet in the Cabin with you

  • Most airlines require pets to be 15 pounds or less to fly in the cabin with their owners (this weight includes both the pet and the carrier). This also means the carrier must fit under the seat in front of you.
  • Check with the airline about the carrier size and dimensions. Most airlines sell carriers or you can buy one from a pet supply store.
  • Be sure to confirm with the airline the day before travel that your pet is coming with you.
  • Some states require specific vaccinations. Travel to foreign countries now requires notarization of the certificate beyond the veterinarian’s signature. Always be sure to check with the country’s consulate regarding what you need.
  • Some animals may be stressed or frightened by travel. Consider tranquilizers. If your pet is traveling in the cabin with you, you may just want to have some on hand in case of unexpected anxiety.

Your Pet as Checked Luggage or Manifest Cargo

  • Some airlines have maximum weight requirements. Be sure to check, particularly if you have a big dog.
  • Most states will not accept animals younger than 8 weeks of age. Such youngsters will not be allowed to travel by air.

Federal regulations require that each kennel be properly marked as follows:

  • Display a “Live Animals” label with letters at least one inch high, on top and on at least one side of the kennel.
  • Indicate the top with arrows or “This End Up” markings on at least two sides.
  • Feeding instructions label: If food is necessary, it must be attached to the outside of the kennel.
  • Feeding certification attached: Certification must be attached to the kennel stating that the animal has been offered food and water within four hours prior to drop off at the airline. IMPORTANT: Do not feed your animal in the two (2) hours prior to departure, as a full stomach can cause discomfort for a traveling pet.
  • Contact information label: Label it with your name, address, and cell phone number, or phone number at origin and destination cities. It is also a good idea to include your pet’s name on the label (in case of escape, it may help to call the animal by name).
  • Include two empty dishes: One for food and one for water, securely attached to the container and accessible from the outside.
  • Absorbent material: The kennel must contain absorbent material or litter. (Black and white printed newspaper is a good choice). Please note that the use of straw, hay or wood shavings is prohibited for international shipments.
  • According to the Animal Welfare Act, there are specific temperature guidelines to which airlines must adhere. Ambient temperatures in holding areas for cats and dogs must not fall below 45⁰F for more than 45 minutes when being moved to or from a holding area.
  • Animals transported in a carry-on are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act, so it is up to the person carrying them to see that they do not become too cold or overheated.

A Guide to Feline Dental Care

Feline dental care is important for the health of your cat. Cats are affected by many of the same dental problems that affect dogs, such as periodontal diseases, fractured teeth, and oral growths. Cats are also plagued with tooth resorption and oropharyngeal inflammation.

Tooth Resorption

More than half of cats over three years old will be affected by tooth resorption (TR). These tooth defects have also been called cavities, neck lesions, external or internal root resorptions, and cervical line erosions. Affected teeth often erode and disappear when they are replaced by bone. The root structure breaks down; then the enamel and most of the tooth become ruined, and bone replaces the tooth. This most commonly happens where the gum meets the tooth surface. Molars are most commonly affected; however, tooth resorptions can be found on any tooth. The reason for the resorption is unknown, but theories supporting an autoimmune response have been proposed.

Cats affected with tooth resorption may show excessive salivation, bleeding in the mouth, or have difficulty eating. Tooth resorptions can be quite painful. A majority of affected cats do not show obvious clinical signs. Many times your veterinarian will diagnose tooth resorption during your cat’s wellness exam. Radiographs are helpful in making definitive diagnosis and treatment planning.

Oropharyngeal Inflammation

Cats can also be affected by oropharyngeal inflammation, an inflammatory condition. The cause of this disease has not been determined but an immune-related cause is suspected. Signs in an affected cat include difficulty swallowing, weight loss, and excessive saliva. An oral examination will show many abnormalities. X-rays often reveal moderate to severe periodontal disease with bone loss. Managing a case of oropharyngeal inflammation can be challenging. Oftentimes attempts at conservative therapy are not affective, nor is medical care. Extracting specific teeth resolves the syndrome in 60 percent of the cases. Twenty percent require medication, typically prednisone, while the other 20 percent respond poorly. A carbon dioxide laser has also been used with some success.

Cancer of the Mouth

Cats are also affected by cancer in their mouths. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of oral cancer. Less common feline oral malignancies include melanoma, fibrosarcoma, lymphosarcoma, and undifferentiated carcinomas. Not all feline oral swellings are malignant. Cats are frequently affected by reactions to foreign bodies, problems from dental disease, tumor-like masses, infections, and growths in the nose or throat. Biopsies are essential for diagnosis. Cats can be affected by many oral and dental conditions. Once diagnosed and treated, your cat will be pain free-and much happier.