By Shawn Messonnier
Unlike people and dogs, cats are true carnivores. They do not have a specific requirement for carbohydrates in their diets. They must, however, have large amounts of animal protein in the diet or they can suffer a number of fatal problems such as heart disease and liver failure. Carbohydrates are included in pet foods as an inexpensive source of energy. Digested carbs are used to provide fuel (blood glucose) for people and pets; if the energy is not needed immediately, then the carbs are stored as glycogen in the muscle or liver to be used later. While dogs and people can use protein for energy, this is less efficient. Cats, however, have developed to be able to use protein as their main source of energy. Dry food must contain more carbohydrates than canned food in order to be formed into pellets.
Even though cats need a lot of meat in order to obtain the large amount of protein that they require, feeding only meat is a bad idea. Meat as the sole food is too low in calcium and other vitamins and minerals. However, the ideal food for cats is based upon animal protein as long as it contains adequate amounts of fats, vitamins, and minerals. Even though cats donâ€™t really need carbohydrates in their diet, I donâ€™t think feeding dry food is harmful to most cats as long as itâ€™s a natural diet. Some of my holistic colleagues might disagree, and some do in fact only recommend wet or canned food. In my practice, Iâ€™m not quite that stringent. However, there are some cats that I believe should probably not eat dry food as their sole diets. Cats with kidney disease, chronic bladder disease, diabetes, cancer, and heart and liver disease do better in my opinion when eating a wet or can diet.
While a few carbs in the diet wonâ€™t hurt most cats, I think the best approach is to find out what is best for your cat. Every pet is different, and each has specific nutritional needs. Work with your veterinarian to determine what food is best for your pet at this stage of his life.
Dr. Shawn Messonnier is the author of 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog, The Allergy Solution for Dogs, and the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats. Dr. Shawn is the medical consultant for Pet Togethers, a pet supplement company.
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