Diet plays a surprisingly large role in the health of your feline. Genetics play a role in disease, but what your cat eats, or doesn't eat, can influence overall health in major ways. Over the past seventy years or so, highly processed and carb-laden foods have become the norm for feeding cats. During this time, the incidence of many feline diseases such as diabetes, irritable bowel disease, kidney and urinary tract disease and dental disease have increased dramatically. We don't think this is a coincidence.
A bio-appropriate raw meat diet can have a profound effect on the health of cats with these diseases. A proper diet can also influence whether a cat gets sick in the first place. In diabetes, low or no-carbohydrate raw diets can dramatically reduce or eliminate the need for insulin injections. Many cats with IBD that are put on raw diets show relief from symptoms, as do cats with urinary tract problems. Chewing on whole raw meats and raw meaty bones keeps teeth clean and gums healthy, reducing the chances of periodontal disease.
Think of a tiger. People naturally think of big cats eating raw meat. It's an image that comes easily to mind. Too often though, when people think of a housecat's meal, they think dry kibble. Cats are cats. We are doing our feline family members a disservice when we forget that they are highly evolved predators, especially adapted to a diet of raw flesh. Forgetting that simple truth has allowed us to stray very far from what our companion cats should be eating, with significant health consequences for our feline family members.
Nutrition is Vital for FeLV Cats
The feline leukemia virus, generally referred to as FeLV, is classified by virologists as a retrovirus. A retrovirus uses an enzyme called reverse transcriptase to insert copies of its own genetic material into the cells it has infected in order to produce a new copy of a whole virus. Infected cats can be found everywhere, but the prevalence varies depending on many factors: age, health, reproductive status, concurrent disease, environment, lifestyle, etc. The worldwide prevalence is about 5% of free-roaming cats. In the United States, approximately 2 to 3% of all cats are infected with FeLV. Rates rise significantly, above 10%, in sick cats, youngsters, or cats otherwise at high risk of infection.¹
Cats with persistent FeLV infection serve as sources for the spread of the...
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Constipation: Real Help for Your Cat
One of the immediate results when feeding a raw meat diet is less cat poop, and cat poop that smells less. While some cat owners welcome this change, some are concerned that their cats might be constipated.
Feeding a raw diet can closely resemble nutritionally what cats would eat if living wild in their native habitat, but, despite our best efforts, it is not a truly natural diet. The natural diet can only be replicated by feeding small whole prey. One of the biggest differences between feeding raw diets and the natural prey diet is: fur. Fur, ingested with prey, has no nutritional function, but serves two key mechanical functions which we lack when feeding a home-made raw diet. First, by action of the cat biting down on small prey, the fur of the...
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Feline Pancreatitis: Signs of Trouble
Pancreatitis can be a frustrating disease in cats. The cause often can't be definitively determined and the symptoms can be vague. Pancreatitis can range from low-grade with mild symptoms to severe, which can be fatal. Most often, treatment is supportive, alleviating symptoms and keeping the cat comfortable.
The pancreas is a lobulated gland located along a portion of the small intestine in mammals. The pancreas has two types of tissue, each one of them synthesizing a different type of secretion. The exocrine portion, or acinar cells, produce enzymes utilized in the digestion of food and the endocrine portion, or islets of Langerhans, produce vital hormones such as insulin. Insulin is involved in the absorption and metabolism of...
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Feline Diabetes: The Influence of Diet
Feline diabetes mellitus is similar to human type II diabetes, also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes. In these patients, the pancreas is able to produce insulin, though it is not enough to adequately control blood sugar. This may be due to damage from inflammation of the pancreas, overwork/exhaustion of the pancreas due to chronically elevated blood sugar and/or if the cells of the body have become somewhat resistant to insulin. Whatever the cause or causes, the end result is the insulin produced by the pancreas is no longer enough to control blood sugar.¹
Glucose is a sugar, so the terms blood glucose and blood sugar are used interchangeably.
Certain disease states can contribute to or cause diabetes if they...
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Feline Hyperthyroidism: What You Need to Know
Hyperthyroidism, or thyrotoxicosis, is the most common endocrine disease in cats. When an animal or a person has hyperthyroidism it means that there is a high concentration of thyroid hormones in the blood. The opposite, low thyroid hormone levels, is called hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism occurs mostly in older cats, generally around 12 years old, although reports have shown a wide range between 4 and 23 years.¹
There is no predisposition related to sex or breed.
The thyroid gland is a thin structure located in the neck, and consists of two lobes lying on each side of the trachea. In humans, it is connected by a narrow band of tissue called the isthmus. In cats, the isthmus is vestigial, resulting in two separate lobes. The thyroid glands regulate the speed at which your cat's metabolism...
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Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Nature and Treatment
The inflammatory bowel diseases are the most common cause of chronic vomiting and diarrhoea in cats, and refer to a group of diseases. The term Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, is applied to a group of poorly understood gut pathologies that are considered to be a consequence of uncontrolled intestinal inflammation in response to a combination of elusive factors that may involve the diet, the environment, the gut microflora and dysregulation of the immune system in susceptible cats.
The main hypothesis for the cause and development of human IBD is that there is a dysregulation of the mucosal immune responses to intestinal microflora and/or dietary antigens.¹This same abnormal immune response to dietary antigens is...
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Food Allergies and Intolerances Explained
My cat almost always vomits after I feed her anything with beef in it. When I mentioned to a friend that I thought he was allergic to beef, she corrected me and said that vomiting was a sign of food intolerance, not a food allergy. Now I'm confused. What's the difference between the two? If they are two different things, what are the signs to look for in each case?
Food allergy is a specific type of reaction by the body to an allergen, usually a protein in the food. It is defined as "an adverse reaction to a food or food additive with a proven immunologic basis."¹This means that it must involve the immune system. In most cases, allergies involve a certain type of antibody called Immunoglobulin E. Food intolerance is "a non-immunologic adverse physiologic...
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Avoiding Hepatic Lipidosis in Your Cat
I'm transitioning my reluctant kitties to a raw diet and a few times they have refused to eat the new food. I always end up giving them something else since I have read all of the warnings about cats going without food for too long and getting hepatic lipidosis. How dangerous is it for a cat to go without eating? I have also read that overweight cats are more prone to getting it. What should I look out for?
Hepatic lipidosis, also called fatty liver disease, may be the most common disease of the liver of the cat. It occurs when there is an excessive accumulation of fat inside the cells and tissues of the liver. If not stopped, this disease will progress and lead to liver and biliary tract dysfunction, and eventual death. But how does...
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Chunks and Bones For Your Cat's Teeth
Knowing that chewing on meat chunks and small pieces with bones, such as chicken wings, are "nature's toothbrush" for cats, I want my cat to eat these to help clean her teeth. But, she refuses to eat meat chunks no matter what I try. Someone told me this could be because her teeth hurt. I have noticed some tartar on her teeth. Could this be why she won't eat chunks?
Domestic cats are strict carnivores. They evolved to hunt, ingest and efficiently digest small prey. They have developed very specific taste and scent capabilities that prevent them from consuming anything that is not fresh. In the wild, they would eat many small-volume meals during a 24 hour day, around 10 to 20 on average, many just a bite or two. Let's grab a tiny mouse in our hands and...
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Get Kitty Exercising to Trim Down
Do cats need to exercise? My cat is overweight and I wondered if exercising would really help him lose weight, like it would for a person? If it would, what should I get him to do and for how long? I never think of cats doing anything for an extended period of time, just short bursts of activity, like chasing or climbing. Is it known, for example, how many calories a cat burns chasing a toy for ten minutes?
The short answer to the question is yes, cats do need exercise. We can conclude this because, while their digestive physiology may be unique, the cardiovascular physiology of cats appears to be similar to other mammals, such as humans. Since there are no published studies specific to cats regarding physical activity, we must extrapolate from other...
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Feeding for Urinary and Kidney Health
There is a connection between what cats are fed and what diseases they might get. This is an idea that is becoming much more widely accepted. Diet plays a role in disease syndromes such as kidney disease, urinary problems such as stones and crystals, Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease and gastrointestinal problems such as IBD.
The kidneys regulate the water and salt balance in the body, maintaining hydration, electrolyte levels and regulating blood pressure. As proteins are metabolized by the body for energy, by-products are produced and circulated in the blood. It's the kidney's job to remove these toxic substances. Waste products such as urea nitrogen, creatinine and phosphorus, as well as certain drug...
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Water, Water and Water Battles Crystals
My 4 year old kitty, Roxy, is a recovering bladder stone survivor. She had 5-6 crystallite stones in her bladder that were removed in January of this year. She has been on a raw diet ever since, exclusively. She eats the quail recipe from Primal Foods. I have noticed, though, that her water intake has gone to zero since starting the raw diet. I have been adding 6-8 teaspoons of water to her raw food every serving to make up for it. I also tried a Cat-It water fountain and she will have nothing to do with it.
Is supplementing her daily raw food with 12-16 teaspoons of water enough? She has been tested four times since her surgery, x-rays and urine draw from the bladder with no crystals showing...
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Choosing the Right Insulin for Diabetes
My cat was diagnosed with steroid induced-diabetes. For the past three years, he's been on Depo-Medrol® injections every three months or so for IBD. Could his diabetes be reversed? He always ate mostly raw and Katz-N-Flocken® dry. I am now weaning him to Wysong Epigen® with no carbs. He was just diagnosed and started on NPH insulin, which my vet has had good luck with. Should I insist on PZI? My vet says it's hard to get sometimes.
These are actually a whole lot of related questions in one paragraph.
First, I'd like to address the issue of treating inflammatory bowel disease with Depo-Medrol® ...
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Another Furball? It Might Be Feline Asthma
Has your cat been coughing? Watch the video below and you may recognize that sound. Many people assume that the cat is trying to cough up a hairball and don't realize that their cat could have asthma. Untreated, asthma can progress and even be fatal. But, like human asthmatics, cats can be treated and the disease can be managed.
It is estimated that about 1% of cats suffer from asthma.¹ Siamese, Burmese and other Oriental breeds show a greater incidence, but any breed can have asthma.² It usually first occurs in young to middle-aged cats between the ages of two and eight.³ It is widely recognized that asthma attacks can be triggered by allergens in the environment such as pollens, dust, smoke, fumes, mold, fragrances and...
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Salmonella: The Chicken or the Egg
Are raw eggs safe to feed to your cat? You may be wondering after hearing about eggs being contaminated with salmonella. Eggs are a great food source for cats. Raw egg yolks are a good source of protein, folate, vitamin B12, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Eggs are also a good source of the antioxidant lutein. Egg whites are an excellent source of phosphorus-free protein for those cats that need a phosphorus reduced diet. Egg whites should be served cooked, as raw egg white can interfere with biotin absorption.¹
Freshly laid eggs from a healthy chicken are remarkably free of bacteria. The shells and whites of eggs normally do an excellent job of fending off pathogens, and eggs are naturally resistant to bacteria such as salmonella.²Eggs have chemical...
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Safe Handling Practices for Raw Meat
One of the major concerns of people feeding a raw diet is safe food handling to protect the human family and our companion animals. Knowing the difference between spoilage and pathogenic bacteria as well as following temperature and time guidelines makes our decision to feed a raw diet easier. Much of the information provided in this article is directed at human safety — a standard also used by many people when feeding their companion animals. This information is from the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA and other sites that rely on USDA and FDA guidelines.
Sources of food contamination are almost as numerous and varied as the contaminants themselves. Bacteria and other infectious organisms are pervasive...
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If You're Feeling Stressed, So Is Your Cat
We live in challenging times and external stressors abound. The economy, the news and often just getting through the day all present a source of stress for people. It's known that owning a pet has beneficial effects on our health.¹
Pets help us slow down. We get so caught up in the business of our daily lives that we rarely take enough time to stop and take a break. Studies have shown that even a few minutes of petting your cat or dog can lower your blood pressure and release endorphins that put you in a better mood.²
Pets are a great source of stress relief and masters at showing us not only how to relax, but also how to live in the moment without worrying about the future.
So we know that our cats help us be less stressed. But did you know that your...
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Bio-Inappropriate: The Dangers of Dry Food
"I have never seen a single case of serious obesity, diabetes, urinary tract disease, or IBD in a cat fed meat instead of commercial dry foods. Many other people have seen the same results. Further, I do not see nutritional deficiencies in cats fed properly balanced raw-meat diets."
"I want to emphasize a point here. The incidence of these problems has not just declined on a raw-meat diet, they have entirely disappeared. These results are too dramatic to ignore."
Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM, from Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life...
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Diabetes and Obesity: Preventable Epidemics
Today, the cat is the favorite house pet in the United States, at least if your definition of "favorite" is "most numerous." The cat has outnumbered the dog, the previously "most numerous" pet species, for a decade or more and this trend shows no signs of reversing itself anytime soon. Those of us involved in any of the pet care industries or professions know very well that we are seeing more and more well-cared-for felines, belonging to people and families that are intensely bonded to their kitty family members.
Men, as well as women, in all socioeconomic strata, are attached to their pet cats in a way that I could never have anticipated in 1977 when I graduated from veterinary school. In short, the cat has become not only legitimate as a pet...
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Feline Cystitis and Bladder/Kidney Stones
Cystitis and stones are extremely common in the cat and can be very painful and life-threatening. Cystitis can lead to inappropriate urination — urinating outside of the litter box — and stones can cause a fatal rupture of the bladder by blocking the outflow of urine.
Any cat that is repeatedly entering the litter box but not voiding any urine is in need of immediatemedical attention. It is important to note, however, that "crystals" are not the same thing as stones. Crystals are often a normal finding in a cat's urine and it is not appropriate to put the cat on a "special urinary tract" formula when these are found in the urine. I often see too much clinical significance placed on the identification of crystals in the urine without regard to...
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A Veterinarian's View: Andrea Tasi, VMD
My name is Andrea Tasi, and my whole life revolves around cats and cat care. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1988 and was determined to go out into the world and help sick cats get better, and keep well cats well.
I have been in feline exclusive practice since 1991, first in Philadelphia and now in the Washington DC metropolitan area. I have watched cats become the most popular pet in our country, and been part of the evolution of feline specific veterinary medicine. Where cats were once "second class" citizens in the veterinary community, there is now an explosion of interest in feline medical care and increasing research into feline disease. Despite my intentions to try to help cats...
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Fluoride: A Serious Health Risk for Cats and Dogs?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released a study
of 10 brands of manufactured dog foods analyzed for fluoride content. Eight had levels that could put dogs at risk from developing bone cancer, thyroid disease and other health problems.
The EWG advises dog owners to avoid dog foods containing chicken by-product meal, poultry by-product meal, chicken meal, beef and bone meal, turkey meal and lamb meal. These "meal" contain ground bone that is the source of fluoride that farmed animals accumulate. The pet food industry should work with government regulators to establish fluoride safety-level limits in pet foods. Cats may also be at risk from chronic fluoride poisoning when similar cheap ingredients are included...
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An Appropriate Diet for a Diabetic Cat
"Feline diabetes is not the natural fate of hundreds of thousands of pet cats world-wide. It is, rather, a human-created disease that is reaching epidemic proportions because of the highly artificial foods that we have been feeding our feline companions for the past few decades. Without the constant feeding of highly processed, high carbohydrate dry foods, better suited to cattle than cats, adult-onset feline diabetes would be a rare disease, if it occurred at all."
Elizabeth Hodgkins DVM, JD
One of the questions that diabetic cat owners ask most frequently is "what should I feed my cat?" It is an excellent question, because diet is the cornerstone of...
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Case Examples of Tight Regulation of Diabetes
Real life examples show the crucial role diet plays in treating feline diabetes, and the devastating effect dry food carbohydrates can have on cats.
"Maggie" is a 10-year-old female white long-haired cat. Like almost all of my patients, she had eaten dry food since she was a kitten. Occasionally her owners would feed her some canned food as a special treat, but during the day she ate many small meals of a "premium quality" dry cat food. She had been healthy for 10 years and was not overweight at 8 pounds. One day, Maggie's owners noticed that she seemed to be losing weight. Her backbone seemed...
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