Posts Tagged ‘cat nutrition’

This post has actually been a work-in-progress for some time, but a phone call today pushed me to try and finish it. That phone call took place with the internal medicine specialist treating Studley. The specialist has diagnosed Studley with pancreatitis and IBD, based on an ultrasound performed Tuesday. Today he got back the results of Studley’s GI lab, and expressed some confusion that while he KNOWS Studley has IBD (based on the ultrasound results), his GI lab results (cobalamin and folate) were normal.

I do NOT generally openly disagree with most vets (to their face). I’ll express my opinions to my regular vet, who acts very open to my ideas and thoughts – but I’ve learned not to waste my time and breath on many vets who really don’t care what I think about anything. They just want me to do what I’m told. However, today for whatever reason I felt the need to tell this specialist my suspicions on why Studley’s results were normal. I told him I had worked with many cats with IBD, adopted and fostered, and I fed all my cats an “IBD friendly” diet. This diet had eliminated symptoms and normalized GI lab results for the other cats I’d worked with – and my thinking was, if Studley was fed this “IBD diet”, and it’s treated these other cats with IBD, it made sense to me that it’d also treated Studley, without my knowing he even had IBD.


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Latifah, aka Tifah, aka Teefie, aka Teefah da Teethless… a sweet sad little princess who wishes she had a home she didn’t have to share with other cats, and who’s life-long ambition is to hold the world record for most diseases/ailments in a single cat.


Latifah was found wandering the streets and admitted to the shelter in June of 2005 by a kind person who realized she needed help.  She was in bad shape, down on her hocks (neuropathy), matted, and thin – and was quickly diagnosed with diabetes mellitus.  She had obviously been someone’s cat as she was declawed, and most likely was thrown out when she became ill.  Maybe the former owner didn’t know she was ill, only knew she was urinating excessively (and perhaps out of the litter box), or maybe they just didn’t care.

I originally agreed to foster Latifah for a cat shelter, in an effort to better regulate her diabetes with a diet change to all all canned food (from canned and dry).  She wasn’t on a large dose of insulin at the shelter, 2 to 3 units twice daily, but she’d had episodes of hypoglycemia (insulin shock) a few times.  In looking back at her records, the cause became rather apparent to me.  Latifah loves canned food.  She’ll eat dry if canned isn’t available.  During the day, caretakers provided her canned food three to five times daily.  During the night, there was only dry food.  Her “hypo” episodes occurred during the day.  She was eating significantly lower-carbohydrate food (canned) during the day, but getting the same insulin dose.  This dose was too much on the lower-carbohydrate diet.  This was compounded by the fact the dry food she ate at night effectively put the liver “to sleep” so it wasn’t prepared to release glycogen to save her from these “hypos”. 

I fostered Latifah from March 17, 2006 to October 20, 2006.  Her blood sugar levels quickly decreased and grew more steady on the canned diet.  She went off insulin completely for weeks at a time.  Unfortunately, when her other medical conditions (stomatitis, arthritis, gastro-intestinal issues, pancreatitis, etc.) flared up, so would her blood glucose levels and she’s need some insulin to bring them down.

Latifah in tent

I grew so enamoured with her, I adopted her on October 21, 2006.  Besides the diabetes, Latifah has pancreatitis, stomatitis, a heart murmur, and an intestinal disorder. However, she does very well on a proper diet – primarily homemade raw food based on the recipes at CatInfo.org and CatNutrition.org. She does well on Dr. Hodgkins’ treatment protocol for feline diabetes.

Latifah showed symptoms of hyper-thyroidism (ravenous hunger, thin, poor coat), so in early 2007 I took her to a specialty center for a technitium (or scintigraphic) scan. The scan confirmed the hyper-thyroidism, although her T4 blood levels were normal. She had radioactive iodine treatment and the hyper-thyroidism resolved quickly.

Her stomatitis (mouth inflammation) was a huge source of pain for her.  The shelter veterinarian extracted all her teeth in September of 2006.  Still, sometimes the inflammation was so bad she struggled to eat.  We finally found a protocol that keeps her comfortable, using Metacam (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) and cyclosporine, as well as the supplements lactoferrin and agaricus blazei.  The drugs have risks, but I feel they are with it as they improve her quality of life significantly.

Latifah thinks of the kitchen as “her” room, but most days she’ll let the other cats come in for their meals. 

Latifah on cat tree

 Update:  Sadly, I lost Latifah on February 16, 2008 to something neurological.  Fly free, my sweet princess.

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In my spare time, I often research feline nutrition – yes, I’m THAT much of a super geeky crazy cat lady.

Every so often, I run into an item of information that doesn’t make sense to me.  What I love about what I understand about feline nutrition is it makes sense – it’s logical!  An obligate (true) carnivore, evolved from a desert species, needs meat and moisture.  Even my simplistic mind can get a grip on that!  As my nutritional heroes say – this isn’t rocket science!

So, it bugged me when I discovered taurine requirements were lower for dry food than wet food.  Why?  WHY?

For those that don’t read articles on pet food in their spare time – taurine is an amino acid.  (An amino acid is a component of protein.)  Most species (including humans and dogs) can manufacture enough taurine on their own, so it’s not an essential amino acid for them.  Not cats, one of the facts distinguishing them as true obligate (strict) carnivores rather than an opportunistic carnivore (meaning they’ll eat meat if they can get it – but they can also survive, even thrive, on plant proteins.)

Interesting little sidenote – when cat food was first created, it was basically dog food – made into smaller cans or smaller kibble pieces.  In the 1980’s a researcher was studying heart disease in cats when he found that nearly all his patients were deficient in taurine levels.  When he supplemented taurine, they improved.  Thus, pet food manufacturers began supplementing cat foods with taurine.  Turns out taurine, which naturally occurs in raw meat, is easily destroyed by cooking.  It also oxidizes quickly once meat is ground – and may be degraded by freezing.

So, back to my ponderable.  Why is less taurine needed if cats are on a dry diet?  WHY?

Well, in doing some other research – I found a great recent study on carbohydrate malabsorption.  The study found that carbohydrate malabsorption was a common feature in IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) in felines.  That didn’t surprise me in the least.  In my experience (with five cats with IBD so far – either adopted or fostered), foods containing high levels of carbohydrate (such as dry food) were not tolerated well at all.  Again, cats are obligate carnivores – they’re not designed to eat carbohydrates, they’re designed to eat protein and fat.  They have absolutely no nutritional requirement for ANY carbohydrate. 

Then, reading another study, one of the items they noted was that cats on antibiotics required less taurine than cats that weren’t on antibiotics.  Through some research, they concluded that taurine was in some way utilized by the healthy gastro-intestinal (GI) bacteria.  Antibiotics, as we know, kill off not only unhealthy bacteria, but healthy ones as well.  So, by having less GI bacteria, the cats needed less taurine.

LIGHT BULB MOMENT:  So… if carbohydrates may affect GI bacteria (as indicated by malabsorption), and dry foods are naturally higher in carbohydrates (as a starch is required to process those little kibbles), and GI bacteria utilize more taurine – then it makes sense that less taurine is needed in dry foods because dry foods are probably damaging the healthy GI bacteria that would otherwise utilize the taurine!

YAY!  I think I get it!  Or, at least I have a theory – and I’m always happier having a theory, even if it may ultimately be proved incorrect – than I am just being clueless.

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Since I spent some time over my lunch hour talking to a lady about feline nutrition, I thought I’d post an easy one:

Six reasons not to feed dry cat food:

  • Diabetes:  High carbohydrate diets can lead to diabetes mellitus.  Dry food, even “low-carb” dry food, is naturally higher in carbohydrates than most canned foods, as it requires a starch to create “kibble”.  Dry food is also more processed by heat, and thus more glycemic than wet food – raising blood sugar levels.
  • Kidney disease (CRF):  Lack of moisture in dry foods leaves cats subclinically chronically dehydrated, compromising kidney health.
  • Obesity:  As noted above, dry food is high in carbohydrates.  Low-carbohydrate diets have been shown more effective at weight loss while maintaining lean muscle mass than high-fiber foods.  “Low-carbohydrate” dry foods have been shown ineffective at weight loss, as they are very high in calories.
  • Urinary tract disease (FLUTD):  Lack of moisture in dry foods increases urine’s specific gravity, leading to cystitis (urinary tract inflammation).  Regular non-prescription canned food has been shown more effective at preventing recurrence of urinary tract stones/crystals than prescription dry foods.
  • Gastro-intestinal disorders (IBD):  Grains are not tolerated by many cats, causing diarrhea and vomiting.  Excessive fiber may stretch and inflame the GI tract, leading to constipation and megacolon.  Carbohydrate malabsorption has been linked to gastro-intestinal problems.
  • Cancer:  Heat processing of grains and potatoes creates acrylamide, which has been shown to cause cancer in animals.  Many dry foods also contain preservatives such as BHA and BHT, shown to cause cancer.  A low-carbohydrate food has been shown beneficial in slowing cancer growth as cancer cells seem to “feed” more easily on simple carbohydrates (and again, wet foods are lower in carbohydrates and less glycemic than dry foods).

FelineOutreach.org, CatInfo.org and CatNutrition.org are all great sources of information.  Visit PetFoodCrusade.com for information on pet food safety.

To read more of my posts on feline nutrition and health, click on the “feline nutrition and health” category on the home page.  Of particular interest may be, “Canned food – which one?”

 Note:  I neglected to mention hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), asthma/allergic respiratory disease, dental disease, and heart disease… that would have made ten reasons – not that I personally needed more.

Complete and Balanced Nutrition

References include:

  • The Carnivore Connection to Nutrition in Cats, Dr. Debra Zoran
  • Antech Diagnostics News, December 2003
  • Understanding feline diabetes mellitus: pathogenesies and management, Dr. Jacquie Rand and Rhett Marshall
  • Update on Feline Diabetes Mellitus, Dr. Claudia Reusch (World Congress 2006)
  • Feline Diabetes Mellitus, by Dr. David Church (Word Congress 2006)
  • Canine and Feline Diabetes Mellitus: Nature or Nurture? Rand et al
  • Carbohydrate Malabsorption Is a Feature of Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease but Does Not Increase Clinical Gastrointestinal Signs
  • Feline Obesity: Causes, Consequences and Management, Dr. Rand (WSAVA 2004 Congress)
  • Increased Dietary Protein Promotes Fat Loss and Reduces Loss of Lean Body Mass During Weight Loss in Cats, Dr. Laflamme and Dr. Hannah
  • Evaluation of effects of dietary carbohydrate on formation of struvite crystals in urine and macromineral balance in clinically normal cats
  • Treatment of feline diabetes mellitus using an α-glucosidase inhibitor and a low-carbohydrate diet
  • Managing FLUTD – Clinician’s Brief
  • Final FDA Acrylamide Action Plan, Data
  • Role of Diet in the Health of the Feline Intestinal Tract and in Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Management of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease – Dr. Forrester
  • Nutrition and Cancer: New Keys for Cure and Control 2003!
  • Small Animal Oncology
  • For more information, visit Feline Outreach.

    To read more of my posts on feline nutrition and health, click on the “feline nutrition and health” category on the home page.  Of particular interest may be, “Canned food – which one?”

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    One of my five bazillion pet peeves…. a caregiver is convinced to change their cat’s diet (usually because the cat is now very ill with diabetes or gastro-intesinal disorders – or is severely obese)… and after a week or less they respond with “It’s a Miracle!  Fluffy’s diarrhea/diabetes/vomiting/whatever is GONE!”

    IT IS NOT A MIRACLE.  It’s simply good nutrition!

     If I was covered with big red itchy hives, and I finally decided to eliminate all peanuts from my diet – and the hives disappeared, would we conclude it was a miracle?  NO!  We’d conclude I must be allergic to peanuts!  Why is it to hard for people to accept their cats’ ailments were a product of poor nutrition?  Do they really have that much faith in the pet food industry?

    It makes me absolutely INSANE whenever someone comments on the “miracles” I work with the cats I adopt or foster.  They ARE NOT MIRACLES!  Though fellow posters on online forums joke about the “magic fairy dust” in my basement – there is none.  I am simply feeding cats the way nature intended – a diet that is meat-based, high-protein, low-carbohydrate, and high-moisture!

    But, for some people I guess it’s easier to believe I wave my hands over the cats and chant, or have magical fairy dust, than it is to believe the commercial pet food that fills store shelves could be anything but the best for our feline friends.

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