Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Dietetic diet: for diabetes mellitus

Contributor(s): Marge Chandler


  • The immune mediated cause of diabetes mellitus which causes Type 1 diabetes mellitus in dogs is very rare in cats.
  • Cats usually have Type 2 diabetes mellitus   Diabetes mellitus  , characterized by insulin resistance and beta cell dysfunction.
  • Obesity   Obesity   is a leading cause of insulin resistance in cats (although some lean cats may develop low insulin sensitivity).
  • Other contributing causes include impaired insulin secretion, islet amyloid deposition and environmental factors.
  • Genetic predisposition also has a role, with some breeds (eg British and Australian Burmese   Burmese  ) having an increased risk.
  • Concurrent disorders which may contribute to insulin resistance include chronic pancreatitis   Pancreatitis  , infection, hyperthyroidism   Hyperthyroidism  , hyperadrenocorticism   Hyperadrenocorticism   (uncommon in cats), and acromegaly   Acromegaly  .
  • Indoor confinement and physical inactivity are risk factors for feline diabetes mellitus.
  • While it is sometimes thought that dry diets contribute to the risk, the proportion of dry food fed has not been shown to be a risk a factor in studies.
  • It has also been shown that neutering and high dietary fat but not high dietary carbohydrate content resulted in weight and fat gain in young normal cats.
  • High fat diets may also contribute to insulin resistance.
  • The effect of the amount, type and processing of carbohydrates in the diet on the risk of diabetes. mellitus in cats has not yet been conclusively proven.
  • Fat cats and thin cats also have different metabolic responses to carbohydrates, reinforcing the concept that obesity may be the most important risk factor
  • Most cats do require insulin to control blood glucose at the time of diagnosis of diabetes mellitus.
  • 50 to 70% of cats may have "transient" diabetes mellitus and not require insulin (the percentage of these which become insulin dependent in the future is not clear at this time.)

Dietary requirements

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Special considerations

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Backus R C, Cave N J, Ganjam V K et al (2010) Age and body weight effects on glucose and insulin tolerance in colony cats maintained since weaning on high dietary carbohydrate. J Amin Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl) 94 (6), e318-328 PubMed.
  • Zini E, Osto M, Franchini M et al (2009) Hyperglycaemia but not hyperlipidaemia causes beta cell dysfunction and beta cell loss in the domestic cat. Diabetologia 52 (2), 336-346 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.
  • Thiess S, Becskei C, Tomsa K et al (2004) Effects of high carbohydrate and high fat diet on plasma metabolite levels and on IV glucose tolerance test in intact and neutered male cats. J Feline Med Surg (4), 207-218 PubMed.
  • Bennett N (2002) Monitoring techniques for diabetes mellitus in the dog and the cat. Clin Tech Small Anim Pract 17 (2), 65-69 PubMed.
  • Zoran D L (2002) The carnivore connection to nutrition in cats. JAVMA 221 (11), 1559-1567 PubMed.
  • Nelson R W, Scott-Moncrieff J C, Feldman E C et al (2000) Effect of dietary insoluble fiber on control of glycemia in cats with naturally acquired diabetes mellitus. J Am Vet Med Assoc 216 (7), 1082-1088 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Fascetti A & Delaney S J (2012) Nutritional management of endocrine disease. In: Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition. Editors Fascetti A J and Delaney S J. Wiley Blackwell, West Sussex, UK. pp 289-300.
  • Feldman E D and Nelson R W (2004) Feline diabetes mellitus. In: Canine and Feline Endocrinology and Reproduction. 3rd ed. Saunders Co. St Louis, Missouri. pp 539-579.