11 Best Cat Food Without Iodine in 2020

Your cat’s healthy is your number-one priority but it can be difficult to advocate for it if you don’t know when something’s wrong. Cats have a natural instinct to hide their pain, so you may not notice an issue until it becomes advanced. The key to identifying problems early is to keep an eye on your cat’s behavior. Changes in behavior can be an indication of an underlying problem.

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Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey

  • Rich in real animal protein
  • Blend of omega-3

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NomNomNow Cat Food

  • Natural sources of taurine
  • High in protein

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American Journey Minced Chicken

  • Chelated minerals
  • Probiotic supplements

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If you notice your cat eating more than usual but failing to gain weight or worse, losing weight, you would be right to be concerned. These are the two primary symptoms of hyperthyroidism, a condition which can become very serious in cats. Though research on the subject has evolved over the years, many veterinarians believe that a low iodine diet plays a role in treating this condition.

In this article, we’ll talk about iodine in cat food and what role it plays in the prevention and treatment of feline hyperthyroidism. You’ll also learn what you need to look for in a healthy cat food in general and see our top picks for the best iodine free cat food.

What is the Significance of Iodine in Cat Food?


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Your cat requires a balance of certain nutrients in his diet for optimal health. Iodine is a trace mineral that plays a role in thyroid health. While humans only have one thyroid gland, cats have two and they are both located in the neck. This gland plays a role in regulating your cat’s metabolism by producing certain hormones – thyroid hormone (called thyroxine), to be specific.

Maintaining balanced hormone levels is important in the body – too much or too little of any given hormone can cause issues.

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, in most cases related to benign tumor growth. Abnormal cell growth in the thyroid causes it to excrete excess thyroid hormone which in turn causes the metabolism to speed up. This results in increased appetite paired with weight loss as well as anxious behavior and increased thirst and urination.

But what does hyperthyroidism have to do with iodine in cat food?

Your cat’s body requires a supply of iodine in order to produce thyroxine. Higher levels of iodine in the body have been associated with increased thyroid hormone production. There are several scientific studies that show an iodine-restricted diet being beneficial in reducing thyroxine production.

Treatment Options for Feline Hyperthyroidism

When it comes to treating hyperthyroidism in cats, there are two primary options: an iodine-restricted diet and radioactive iodine therapy.

As you can imagine, feeding your cat an iodine-restricted diet requires you to find low iodine cat food recipes and that isn’t always easy. Many of the formulas marketed for thyroid issues are veterinary diets from major brands like Purina, Royal Canin, and Hill’s. Unfortunately, these low iodine cat food brands make heavy use of hydrolyzed proteins, fillers, and high-carb ingredients which won’t do much to benefit your cat’s nutrition and could actually worsen certain aspects of hyperthyroidism in cats.

We’ll talk about what is the best food to feed a cat with hyperthyroidism in a moment, but first let’s take a quick look at the other treatment option for hyperthyroidism: radioactive iodine therapy.

The thyroid gland uses iodine to produce thyroid hormone and it tends to accumulate iodine in large amounts. A single injection of radioactive iodine will target the abnormal thyroid cells, killing them and theoretically curing the disease permanently. The upfront cost for this treatment is significant and your cat may take a few days to recover, but it saves you from having to administer daily supplements and you may not need to make significant changes to your cat’s diet.

What Should You Look for in a Low Iodine Cat Food?

The thyroid gland is the only part of the body that concentrates iodine and some iodine is required for healthy thyroid function. The problem happens when iodine becomes too concentrated. Commercial cat foods made with fish, dairy products, and grains tend to be high in iodine which can exacerbate the issue. When shopping for low iodine cat food brands, you don’t necessarily need to buy a therapeutic diet formulated specifically for hyperthyroidism in cats, but there are some things to look for.

Generally speaking, it’s best to choose a high-quality canned food instead of dry food. Canned food tends to be higher in protein and lower in carbohydrate than dry food, just be sure to choose a recipe made with meat or poultry rather than fish. Wet food pate is generally better than wet foods in gravy because they don’t contain as many carbohydrate-rich thickeners. Moist cat food is also beneficial because many older cats who develop hyperthyroidism also have kidney issues and a moisture-rich diet helps manage kidney problems in older cats.

Here are some general things to look for in low iodine cat food recipes:

  • High-quality canned food. (no gravy). Canned food is the best option for cats with hyperthyroidism because it’s less likely to contain iodine-rich carbohydrates. It also tends to be higher in protein and the additional moisture is beneficial for kidney health as well.
  • Real meat or poultry as the first ingredient. Fish is much higher in iodine than meat or poultry, so look for a recipe with real meat or poultry as the first ingredient. Ideally, you should find a recipe with two animal proteins within the first three ingredients.
  • Healthy animal-based fats. Healthy fats are part of a balanced diet for cats, so look for animal sources like chicken fat or beef fat. Fish oils contain omega-3s but these fats tend to oxidize quickly, so you’ll need to use the food within 2 weeks of opening.
  • Limited carbohydrate content (less than 10%). Whole grains and some fruits and vegetables can be high in iodine, so limit the carb content of your cat’s food as much as possible. A high-quality canned food should have no more than 10% carbohydrate content.
  • Natural sources for key nutrients. Natural sources for essential nutrients are better than synthetic supplements but you still need to be mindful of overuse of high-carb ingredients like whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables.

Now that you know what to look for in a high-quality cat food recipe, you’re ready to start shopping on your own! Before you do, however, we want to tell you how we make our cat food recommendations so you know whether you can trust the picks we’ve reviewed in depth below.

How Do We Make Cat Food Recommendations?

We would never recommend a product to you that we wouldn’t be happy to feed our own cats. For the most part, we prefer cat foods made with wholesome, natural ingredients that are formulated to require as few synthetic supplements as possible. We do our best to research the manufacturers and to compare different recipes to help you make the best choice possible.

Here are some general requirements for a cat food recipe to receive our stamp of approval:

  • A source of high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient
  • At least 30% crude protein for kittens and at least 26% for adults
  • A minimum of 9% crude fat for kittens and adults
  • A balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, primarily from animal sources
  • A rich blend of nutrients from natural sources and supplements, as needed
  • Limited carbohydrate content from digestible sources (like whole grains and veggies)
  • No low-quality fillers, by-products, or artificial additives (preservatives, dyes, or flavors)
Remember, every cat is unique and you need to shop according to your cat’s specific dietary requirements. Talk to your veterinarian for specific advice regarding your cat’s diet, particularly how it relates to any treatment he’s receiving for hyperthyroidism. If you’re opting for radioactive iodine treatment instead of medical management, an ongoing low-iodine recipe may not be necessary.

The 11 Best Cat Foods Without Iodine

You’re unlikely to find a cat food completely without iodine, but you can shop smart to find a recipe that doesn’t contain a significant concentration of high-iodine ingredients. Refer back to the recommendations made above so you know what you’re shopping for. To help you get started, here are some of our recommendations:

NomNomNow Fresh Food Delivery

Our Top Overall Pick: If your cat suffers from hyperthyroidism, you may be considering a homemade low iodine diet for cats. The trouble with homemade cat food is that it can be expensive and it’s difficult to achieve balanced nutrition without the use of synthetic supplements or significant amounts of vegetables. Fresh food is a better alternative in most cases and we like NomNomNow. All you need to do is provide the company with some basic information about your cat and you’ll start receiving regular shipments of fresh food customized to your cat’s unique calorie needs. They offer a chicken formula made with fresh, whole food ingredients that is likely low in iodine.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey Grain-Free Canned Food

Most Popular Low Iodine Cat Food: When you can’t decide which cat food to buy, you can always go with a popular brand like Blue Buffalo because they offer a wide variety of choices. This Wilderness Turkey recipe canned food is a good choice if you want low iodine because it features primarily poultry ingredients with very limited carbohydrate inclusions. It is high in protein and moisture but still contains the necessary supplements to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. You’ll also be glad to know that it is completely free from by-product meals, fillers, and grains.

American Journey Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Pate

Most Affordable Low Iodine Cat Food: You don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune to feed your cat well. American Journey is a highly affordable brand of cat food that offers good quality. This chicken pate recipe is packed with real animal protein and moisture, making it a great choice for cats with hyperthyroidism. Very limited in carbohydrate inclusions, this recipe does contain small amounts of cranberries and blueberries to provide natural sources for key nutrients. Overall, it is highly digestible and offers complete and balanced nutrition. Any cat would be lucky to enjoy this recipe.

Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Kitten Food

Best Low Iodine Kitten Food: Providing your kitten with a high-quality cat food is essential to give him the best possible start in life. Protein content is important to support his growth and development, and this Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Kitten Food is full of it. Featuring fresh chicken as the first ingredient, this recipe contains no added carbohydrates so it is likely low in iodine as well. As a wet food, it is rich in moisture but it is a pate so it doesn’t contain as many carbohydrates as a wet food in gravy might. This recipe provides complete and balanced nutrition according to your kitten’s needs and is full of natural flavor.

Blue Buffalo Carnivora Woodland Blend Mature Wet Food

Best Low Iodine Senior Cat Food: Made with 95% animal ingredients, this is an incredibly low-carb recipe from Blue Buffalo’s new Carnivora line. Featuring chicken, turkey, and duck, this formula is likely low in iodine, though it contains a small amount of mackerel. It does contain some fresh vegetables in small amounts to provide natural sources for key nutrients, but the estimated carb content is negligible. Formulated specifically for senior cats, this formula contains controlled fat and calories but still has plenty of protein to support your aging cat’s lean muscle mass.

Ziwi Peak Lamb Recipe Canned Cat Food

Best Low Iodine Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach: If your cat has a sensitive stomach, it is important to choose a recipe with limited ingredients that is highly digestible. This Ziwi Peak lamb recipe features fresh lamb as the first ingredient and single source of protein, making it a great choice for cats with food allergies. It contains chickpeas as the only carbohydrate ingredient, making the estimated carb content very low around 2%. With green mussels as an ingredient rich in glucosamine and chondroitin, this formula supports your cat’s joint health and nutrient-rich organ meats help ensure complete and balanced nutrition.

5 More Top-Rated Cat Foods With Low Iodine

Merrick Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Real Turkey Pate Canned Cat Food

If you’re looking for a premium canned food for your cat, check out this Merrick Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Real Turkey Pate Canned Cat Food. Made with fresh turkey as the primary ingredient, this recipe is packed with protein and limited in carbohydrates. It provides a rich blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat as well as chelated minerals to help support optimal nutrient absorption. The estimated carbohydrate content is less than 5% as well. Plus, because it is made with poultry and limited carbohydrates, it is likely low in iodine.

Holistic Select Chicken Pate Recipe Canned Cat & Kitten Food

Formulated for both adult cats and kittens, this Holistic Select Chicken Pate Recipe Canned Cat & Kitten Food could be a good choice for low-iodine cat food. It features fresh chicken and turkey as the primary ingredients with very limited carbohydrate content. In fact, the estimated carb content is under 2%. This formula contains some apple, cranberry, and pumpkin powder to provide natural sources for key nutrients but not in excessive amounts. It also contains ground flaxseed as a natural source of omega-3s to help support your cat’s healthy skin and coat.

Tiki Cat Velvet Mousse Chicken Grain-Free Wet Cat Food

If your cat simply doesn’t enjoy wet food or you just want something to supplement his dry food diet, this Tiki Cat Velvet Mousse Chicken Grain-Free Wet Cat Food could be a good option. It features fresh chicken as the main ingredient with no added carbohydrates. These two features combined suggest that the recipe is low in iodine. You’ll find the necessary supplements to ensure nutritional balance with chicken broth for added flavor and plenty of moisture.

Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Entrée Freeze-Dried Cat Food

Another option if your cat doesn’t enjoy traditional canned foods is this Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Entrée freeze-dried cat food. This recipe contains ground chicken with bone as the main ingredient, making it packed with protein. The bone also provides essential minerals to negate the need for a lot of synthetic supplementation. Chicken heart and chicken liver provide additional sources of key nutrients. The thing to keep in mind with this recipe is that you should rehydrate it instead of feeding it dry, especially if your cat has kidney problems and needs additional moisture in his diet.

Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

Another nutritious option in freeze-dried cat food is this Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Raw recipe. It features premium chicken with bone as the main ingredient as well as chicken liver and chicken gizzard. In addition to nutritional supplements, this recipe also contains probiotics to help support your cat’s digestion. Again, you should rehydrate it before feeding it to your cat but he may prefer the taste and texture to a traditional canned food.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How long does a cat live with hyperthyroidism? Hyperthyroidism is not an issue you want to ignore. Left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications that might significantly reduce your cat’s lifespan. Even with medical treatment, however, hyperthyroidism can contribute to heart failure and kidney failure which can be fatal. Many cats treated only with medical management only life 3 to 5 years. Cats treated with radioactive iodine therapy, on the other hand, can often be cured and may live out the rest of a normal life.
  2. What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats? In most cases, hyperthyroidism is the result of a benign thyroid tumor. The abnormal cells cause the thyroid to over-produce thyroid hormone (thyroxine) which contributes to symptoms including increased appetite, weight loss, increased heart rate, anxious behavior, increased thirst, frequent urination, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  3. What is the best food to feed a cat with hyperthyroidism? When it comes to low iodine cat food, you don’t necessarily need to purchase a veterinary diet. Many of the prescription diets on the market are made with low-quality ingredients which, even if they help with the hyperthyroidism, may contribute to other issues. You may be better off choosing a cat food that doesn’t contain high-iodine ingredients like fish, dairy products, and grains. Adding thyroid supplements to your cat’s routine can help as well but may cause side effects and won’t actually kill the tumor cells causing the problem or cure the disease.
  4. How much does it cost to treat a cat with hyperthyroidism? The cost to treat feline hyperthyroidism depends on the treatment you choose. Radioactive iodine therapy is generally the most effective long-term solution, but it can cost up to $1,500 to administer. Medications to manage hyperthyroidism can cost $1 to $2 per day, averaging over $500 a year. The cost is more spread out, but you’ll likely end up paying more in the long run. A veterinary diet for hyperthyroidism can cost $50 to $75 a month and won’t necessarily resolve the issue – it just helps manage it by reducing your cat’s dietary iodine intake.
  5. Is there a connection between hyperthyroidism and kidney disease in cats? Hyperthyroidism is most common in cats 9 to 10 years of age. Older cats have a higher risk for developing kidney disease, though symptoms may or may not be obvious. Hyperthyroidism increases your cat’s metabolic rate which can also increase blood flow as well as blood pressure. When hyperthyroidism is treated, thyroid levels normalize and so does blood pressure. This can sometimes unmask hidden kidney disease symptoms. The kidney disease may or may not have already been there.

Hyperthyroidism is a serious condition in cats that must be treated promptly if you hope to avoid complications. Though it can be managed medically with supplements and a therapeutic diet, radioactive iodine therapy is the only long-term treatment and possible cure. Even if you choose to treat your cat medically, however, you can still feed him a low-iodine diet to help prevent the hyperthyroidism from getting worse.

However you decide to treat your cat’s hyperthyroidism, your cat deserves a healthy and high quality diet. If you’re not sure where to start, consider one of the options above!

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