THE IMPORTANCE OF READING LABELS, OR…… THE IMPORTANCE OF INGREDIENTS!
There can be a bewildering array of choices when it comes to cat food. Knowing how to make the best choice – even once you have understood the importance of low carb wet food – is not always easy.
Before looking at the carb content in order to find a food with appropriately low carbs (10% maximum, the closer to a cat’s normal diet of 3-5% carbs, the better) there are a number of other points to take into account.
Learning what to look for will help you help your cat to better health…..
Always look at the labels!
The first and most important place to start is with the list of ingredients on the can of cat food.
Check to see if the food contains ingredients that simply are not appropriate for any cat (diabetic or not).
Avoid foods that contain any of the following:
• Grains in any form: Corn (corn, corn meal, cornflour, cornstarch, corn gluten, etc.), wheat (wheat, wheat gluten, etc.), rice (rice, rice powder, etc.), barley, oats, etc. Grains are high in carbohydrates and difficult for cats to digest; there should be NO grains in the food that you choose.
• Soy: Soy can affect the thyroid and lead to HyperThyroidism (HT).
• Vegetables: Cats simply aren’t made to eat vegetables; it is not part of their natural diets. Some to avoid in particular are:
– Potatoes: high in carbs
– Carrots: high in sugar
– Tomatoes: high in sugar
– Beets: high in sugar
• Fruit: As is the case for vegetables, a cat’s digestive system had not evolved to eat fruit – which, in addition, is high in sugar (fructose).
• “Gravy”: Catfood “in gravy” is usually higher carb due to the thickeners in gravies (often corn starch, for example).
• Sugar: Yes, sugar is increasingly added to catfood. It is used as a gelling agent. In the past bone marrow was used – with the advent of Mad Cow disease, sources of bones dried up.
Note: If sugar is added, it is usually amongst the last ingredients listed (meaning there is very little). If you live in a country with limited food choices, if all other ingredients are appropriate (e.g. NO grains are listed), if the carbs do calculate at acceptable levels, if sugar is at the end of the list of ingredients and if you cannot find a food without sugar… don’t panic: your cat will probably be OK on the food. If you do have a choice, obviously choosing the food without sugar is best.
Type of Protein (meat, chicken, fish…)
Some types of protein are best given rarely or simply avoided if possible. You may find that certain proteins cause your cat’s blood glucose to rise (even though another cat may do fine on the same). The blood glucose tests you do will show you if a specific protein does seem to affect your cat’s BG.
Do note that most cat foods contain a mix of protein: a cat food labelled “beef” will be predominantly beef, but will usually contain chicken also, perhaps pork or even fish, for example.
Some “single source” foods do exist, which can help for cats suffering from food allergies.
Despite the image of cats loving fish, it is not a normal food for them.
It also is not very good for them as fish:
• Has high levels of toxins/mercury levels
• Has a high potential to cause allergies
• Has high PBDE levels (fire-retardant chemicals which can disrupt thyroid activity
• Can cause addiction problems – cats will get addicted to fish and refuse to eat anything else
Fish should be given one or two times a week at the most. Unless you have to buy food in multi-packs that contain fish flavours, there is no reason to give fish based cat food at all.
Despite the problems with fish, there are nonetheless times when fish can be useful: e.g. some water-packed tuna flakes or tuna water can help transition a cat from dry to wet food, or they can help a cat take its medication or supplement.
Tuna in particular can be very addictive for some cats, though, so it should be used sparingly.
For more information on the dangers of feeding fish see these links:
Liver contains Vitamin A which can be toxic to cats in high quantities. It is also quite addictive. Liver-based foods should not therefore be the base of your cat’s diet.
Beef and poultry
In general, beef is considered to cause more allergies than poultry in cats. It can also raise the BG levels for some.
However, ECID (every cat is different). For some, the opposite is true: Chicken will raise their BG levels and they do better with beef.
Pork is quite high in fat and like beef is not a “natural” food for cats.
Meat or fish by-products are the parts of the animal that humans do not consume: lungs, spleen, etc.
While it is good for the food you give to have a good proportion of “Meat”, “by-products” are perfectly acceptable for cats.
Complete vs. Supplementary Foods?
One of the latest marketing gimmicks of some pet food companies is the arrival of “supplementary” foods: a sort of snack for your cat.
Unfortunately, the mention that they are supplementary and not complete foods is often written in very small text and not very visible.
Supplementary foods are supposed to be given in addition to complete foods. They lack certain essential nutritional elements, such as essential vitamins and minerals, taurine or the essential amino acids that are vital for your cat.
If they are low carb, they are not “bad” for your cat – they simply do not provide the balanced diet necessary. As they don’t, there is no point in buying them or feeding them to your cat!
Some examples are:
• In the US: Fancy Feast Appetizers
• In Europe and elsewhere: Applaws
Make sure that the food you buy does state that it is a “Complete” food.
Vet “special diabetic” food
The ONLY canned vet food outside of Europe that is appropriate for FD cats is Purina DM “regular”. All other canned foods (e.g. Hill’s MD or WD) are far too high in carbs.
Purina DM “regular” is an acceptable choice in terms of carbs (5%); however, it does contain oat fibre and it is expensive. There are better choices to be found in your local supermarket aisle.
To note: Purina DM Savory Selects is too high in carbs (12%) and contains wheat gluten, corn starch and soy. It is not an appropriate food for an FD cat.
In Europe, in addition to Purina DM “regular”, Animonda Integra Protect Diabetes is also acceptable, with 7.2% carbs.
Once you have taken into account the points above, it is time to calculate the carbs on a dry matter basis. Please see the Calculating Carbs – Carb Calculator under Useful TR Tools & Tips in the Knowledge Centre for information on how to do that.
Important: If your cat is currently on high carb food you MUST follow the detox steps that are explained in Detoxing Your Cat From High Carb Food under Starting TR in the Knowledge Centre to ensure that your cat is kept safe.
More information on reading Pet Food Labels
For more information on reading Pet Food labels please see: How to Read Cat Food Labels.
For European members, the following link will take you to the European Pet Food Industry Federation site and their page with a link to their “Code of Good Labelling Practices”, which has been registered with the European Commission. The Code is very detailed, but there is some interesting information to be found. FEDIAF Pet Food Labeling
…. And Finally
Finding the right low carb food for your cat does take some time and some research… but once you have found the right food for your cat and you see he is doing well on it, move on! Cats do not need constant variety or food changes – if something is working well, don’t change it. Do not let food become your primary focus – it is only one element towards helping your diabetic cat to better health.
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