ISSN 2398-2950      

Diabetes mellitus: dietary management


Carmel Mooney

Dietary considerations


  • Insulin therapy provides the mainstay of treatment for most diabetic cats Diabetes mellitus but management of other factors such as diet can influence glycemic control and increase the likelihood of achieving diabetic remission.
  • Most cats develop a form of diabetes mellitus similar to type 2 diabetes mellitus in humans:
    • Advanced age and obesity are significant risk factors.
    • Despite the similarities most cats require insulin therapy to adequately control blood glucose concentrations.
    • Remission of the diabetic state occurs in between 17 and 100% of cats depending on the treatment received.
  • There is limited evidence as of yet that the type of diet fed has any association with the development of diabetes mellitus unless complicated by obesity.

Print off the owner factsheet on Diabetes mellitus Diabetes mellitus and give to your client.

Dietary control

  • Dietary changes should be designed to improve glycemic regulation and optimize the possibility of remission:
    • There is growing evidence that decreasing the carbohydrate and increasing the protein content of the diet has a major influence on both glycemic control and rate of remission achieved.
    • High protein and low carbohydrate diets that more closely resemble cats' natural carnivorous diet are preferred.
  • Dietary management should also aim to:
    • Achieve and maintain optimal body weight and condition.
    • Provide a complete balanced ration that is palatable, readily accepted and predictably consumed on a daily basis.
    • Maintain consistency in type of food including calorific content, formulation and volume.
    • Avoid sharp post-prandial increases in blood glucose concentration.
  • The nutritional requirements of any concurrent illness for which there is a known dietary therapy should take precedence in diabetic cases.
  • Dry or canned foods are appropriate but semi-moist diets should be avoided as they contain large amounts of simple sugars that can result in large increases in post-prandial blood glucose concentrations.
  • There are a number of diets that have been specially formulated for the management of diabetic cats:
    • Many can also be used to provide caloric restriction for weight loss.
    • They should be continued in diabetic cats that achieve remission to prevent recurrence.
  • Adequate day-to-day consistency in caloric content, formulation and volume can be more difficult to achieve with home-made rations. 

Diet composition

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Other dietary considerations

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Sparkes A H, Cannon M, Church D et al (2015) ISFM consensus guidelines on the practical management of diabetes mellitus in cats. J Feline Med Surg 17 (3), 235-250 PubMed.
  • Zoran D L & Rand J S (2013) The role of diet in the prevention and management of feline diabetes. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 43 (2), 233-243 PubMed.
  • Hall T D, Mahoney O, Rozanski E A et al (2009) Effects of diet on glucose control in cats with diabetes mellitus treated with twice daily insulin glargine. J Feline Med Surg 11 (2), 125-130 PubMed.
  • Roomp K & Rand J (2009) Intensive blood glucose control is safe and effective in diabetic cats using home monitoring and treatment with glargine. J Feline Med Surg 11 (8), 668-682 PubMed.
  • Bennett N, Greco D S, Peterson M E et al (2006) Comparison of a low carbohydrate-low fiber diet and a moderate carbohydrate-high fiber diet in the management of feline diabetes mellitus. J Feline Med Surg (2), 73-84 PubMed.
  • Laflamme D P & Hannah S S (2005) Increased dietary protein promotes fat loss and reduces loss of lean body mass during weight loss in cats. J Feline Med Surg (2), 62-68 VetMedResource.
  • Thiess S, Becskei C, Tomsa K et al (2004) Effects of high carbohydrate and high fat diet on plasma metabolite levels and on i.v. glucose tolerance test in intact and neutered male cats. J Feline Med Surg (4), 207-218 PubMed.
  • Frank G, Anderson W, Pazak H et al (2001) Use of a high-protein diet in the management of feline diabetes mellitus. Vet Ther (3), 238-246 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Zoran D L (2014) Diet and diabetes. In: Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy XV. Eds J D Bonagura & D C Twedt, Elsevier, Saunders ST Louis, Missouri, pp 199-204.

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