by Dr. Denise Kessler,
The best advice I can give to my neighbors after 22 years of veterinary practice, 20 of those years spent caring exclusively for cats, is to feed a cat as close to what they would eat in the wild as possible. It has only been in the last six years that I have made this recommendation, but I suppose it took the first16 years to see the impact that poor nutrition can have on the health of our domesticated cats.
It all started when a client brought her kitty in for his annual check-up, only to find that he had become diabetic. I’m always looking for new methods of treatment for the diseases I see, and in researching feline diabetes, I came across some veterinarians in Australia who no longer had diabetic kitties in their practice because of a new treatment. I certainly thought they were quacks. Nevertheless, I tried their proposed treatment, since it primarily involved a simple switch to a high protein, low carbohydrate, canned food diet. It worked for my client’s kitty and changed how I approached the entire practice of feline medicine.
The next veterinary education meeting I attended presented a list, compiled by veterinary insurance company data, of the top 10 reasons that cats visit a veterinary office. As I read over those top 10 problems, my heart rate went up. The top eight are often food-related:
1. Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD),
3. Chronic kidney failure,
5. Atopic (allergy) Dermatitis,
6. Diabetes Mellitus,
7. Colitis/Constipation, and
8. Otitis Externa.
Veterinarians know that FLUTD is diet-related, or rather water-related. We learned years ago that 90 percent of cats that have had urinary issues will not have a recurrence if they are simply put on a canned food diet. There are numerous studies that support this claim. Canned food is 75 percent water, and the result is that the urinary tract receives a volume of water similar to what it would receive in the wild, since the rodents and birds that wild felines eat are also approximately 75 percent water. Consequently, the bladder is flushed of any debris that might be irritating or causing blockage.
So, the number one reason why cats are brought into my office turns out to be diet-related and avoidable. Changing to a canned food diet saves pet owners an immense amount of stress, financial strain, and pain for their pet.
All of my diabetic patients are now in remission (unless there is other concurrent disease), thanks to a very high protein and very low carbohydrate canned food diet, and careful monitoring of the blood glucose and insulin between the owners and my medical team.
I began to wonder about the rest of the list of most common diseases. Now, five years later, the presence of all of these top diseases has decreased considerably in our practice. I am seeing more healthy patients and am less busy, although my patient numbers are growing. I thought I was dreaming about this phenomenon until January of this year when I did a small retrospective study of the diseases diagnosed in my own practice. FLUTD has decreased by 49.5 percent and the others have decreased significantly as well.