People ask Dr Google: ‘does dry cat food cause diabetes?’. For me the answer can be found from two sources (1) a study published on 1st December 2016 ‘Environmental Risk Factors for Diabetes Mellitus in Cats‘ and (2) a book written by a veterinarian entitled ‘Your Cat’ by Elizabeth M Hodgkins DVM. There was a time when vets and experts were unsure about the effect dry cat food had on feline health. There is still a lack of clarity probably because dry cat food manufacturers promote their products so effectively and the average cat owner is not very concerned. Understandably they are more interested in convenience.
In answer to the question, the study found that there is an association between dry cat food and an increased risk of diabetes for cats of normal weight. In other words the average cat fed dry cat food is more likely to get type 2 diabetes.
The study found that cats living under the following conditions were at an increased risk of diabetes:
- greedy eaters
- full-time indoor
- eating predominantly dry cat food
In the book referred to at chapter 21 (page 143) Hodgkins states: Feline Diabetes – A Man Made Killer.
There has been an increase in feline diabetes as seen by veterinarians in the USA so reports Hodgkins. As at 2007, she reports that there could be 1.5 million diabetic domestic cats in the USA.
She puts it down to the high carbohydrate content of dry cat food. A lack of exercise is a compounding factor as it is likely to lead to an overweight cat but indoor cats on wet cat food don’t become overweight she says. Cats on low carb diets are much less likely to become overweight and remain active even when living indoors full-time.
Dry cat food – a high carb food – causes ‘wide swings in blood sugar levels’ which in turn can cause a ‘sluggish feeling and reluctance to play with humans and other animals’ which decreases exercise which in turn can lead to obesity and then diabetes.
Hodgkins refers to one of her own cats, Punkin who developed diabetes. He was on a high carb diet at the time. She changed his diet to ‘one of the canned kitten foods on the market’ which was low on carbohydrates. Punkin showed an immediate improvement. His blood sugar levels fell after one day on the canned food. She stopped administering insulin.
She says that many domestic cats experience ‘episodes of hypoglycaemia when their blood sugar plummets’. The high levels of carbs and sugars stress the pancreas (the gland producing insulin) causing some cats to become diabetic.
To recap: dry cat food can cause some cats to develop type 2 diabetes and is certainly an aggravating factor. I think you’ll find that most cat behaviourists and experts and many vets agree this. Not all vets will because many work with dry cat food manufacturers such as Royal Canine and Hills and therefore promote their products.