The Latest on Feline Diabetes

New Insulin & Better Diets


Please write about feline diabetes and its management. Every owner I meet has been told something different by his/her vet. Food is a biggy, but what brands? Wet? Dry? Carbs vs. protein? What types of insulin are best?


Dr. Nichol:

There are good reasons for the differing information. Some diabetics require a change in treatment because they stop responding. To further muddy the waters some reliable forms of insulin are recently no longer available. We still have good choices.


Many newly diagnosed cats with uncomplicated diabetes do very well on glargine insulin. For those with chronic disease Vetsulin is usually better, although Humulin N works well for some cats. Vetsulin will be approved for cats soon; the others may never be. But there is a wealth of data supporting their safety and efficacy. Most cats are more stable when their insulin dose is split and given twice daily.


There is no question that diabetic kitties do better on a high protein, low carbohydrate food. Hills m/d and Purina DM (both are prescription diets) are recommended. They work so well that some fat diabetic cats are “cured’ after their weights return to normal.


As we Americans get busier many stay-at-home cats vent their predatory urges on their ever present bowl of high carbohydrate, relatively low protein dry food. The result is porky, arthritic, diabetic cats with fatty liver disease. You can prevent this misery by feeding any healthy adult cat canned kitten food (low carb, high protein) and visit my website ( for some fun feline “environmental enrichments”. The future belongs to the fit.





Alternatives to Expensive Insulin and Rx Diets


Max, our 15 year old cat was diagnosed with diabetes 4 years ago. It was suggested that we put him to sleep, but after my husband’s stroke and 5 years of post stroke depression, Max was his only friend. He helped us through a very difficult period and even though we are on a limited retirement income we could never turn our back on him.


A veterinarian prescribed a treatment plan that has worked very well for the past 4 years: PZI insulin every 12 hours and DM dry food. We have been fortunate to find vets who worked with us in keeping costs down, even teaching me how to do glucose tests. Now PZI is being discontinued. Is there a commercial dry food alternative?  Is there an alternative to insulin?


Dr. Nichol:

There are always alternatives for an important cat like yours. The best insulin for your kitty may be Vetsulin, an intermediate acting insulin that was developed specifically for cats and dogs. It has an 8 to 12 hour duration of activity, thus we usually give it twice daily. It is costly but you could ask your veterinarian to price match one of the online veterinary pharmacies. A different approach is an oral medication called glipizide but it only works in select cases of uncomplicated feline diabetes.


Diet and weight management will remain important. Purina DM or Hills Prescription m/d are good choices. A lower cost alternative would be canned kitten food because of its high protein, low carbohydrate composition. It may or may not work as well.


Diabetes isn’t a cheap disease; checking blood glucoses at home could save you a lot. Continue following instructions and remember that the simplest and most cost-effective path to success is weight control. A proper diet can actually cure some feline diabetics.