Diabetes in pets has become an epidemic in the U.S. What is diabetes and why does it happen? Technically, it occurs when a body (human, dog, cat or other) make insulin. Insulin is necessary to maintain balanced blood sugar, and blood sugar balance is critical for life. So the logical question would be “Why isn’t the body managing insulin production properly?”Current research shows that, in the vast majority of cases, blood sugar issues are a process that began long before any noticeable health issue. It has everything to do with food choices repeated over time. A sedentary lifestyle magnifies the problems. Ultimately, most diabetic conditions are merely the endpoint of toxic eating habits along with lack of exercise. Thankfully, these days doctors are understanding this and are suggesting lifestyle changes for prevention and management of blood sugar issues, in both humans and pets. However, once the condition of diabetes has manifested, it may be necessary to manage the disease with medication, in addition to nutritional improvement and movement.Let’s explore how we can prevent diabetes in our beloved companions. For the more mature animal, we want to recognize the early warning signs of blood sugar issues. In some cases, you can even reverse the condition once diagnosed.
Steps for prevention and management of diabetes in pets
Step 1 – Understand the Food You Are ProvidingSince diabetes is mostly diet related, it’s critical to understand what type of foods stimulate this condition. Very simply – carbohydrates. Too many overwhelm your dog or cat’s digestive capabilities. Their bodies are not designed for a high-carb diet. Carbohydrates turn to sugar and inflammation is the result. Inflammation is at the heart of all chronic disease processes. Unbalanced blood sugar over time creates this disease and contributes to many others. Often kidney and liver issues go hand in hand with diabetes in pets.Since commercial pet foods are extremely high in carbohydrates, it is of vital importance for the responsible guardian to learn to read labels on pet food. It’s also critical to understand what human foods are healthiest for your pets.Interesting point – listing the percentage of carbohydrates in the food is not a requirement on pet food labels. Keep in mind that the reason pet foods contain so many carbs is a financial one. Corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, oats, and others are much less expensive to add to a product than meat. However, meat is what your dog and cat were designed to eat to flourish!Choosing pet food can seem confusing, overwhelming, and expensive. Of course, it would be wonderful if we could all provide perfect nutrition for our pets. Practically, that’s not going to happen. I hope the information provided in this chart will help you to make a better-informed meal choice.In my book, Natural Pet Care for Dogs, I also discuss how to understand labels on dry dog food. This information can be used for dry cat food as well. Here’s one helpful tip.
Determining the % of carbohydrates in your commercial dry pet food:Look at your label on your package of kibble that says Guaranteed Analysis.
- Begin with 100%.
- Subtract the % of crude protein.
- Subtract the % of crude fat
- Subtract the % of moisture
- Disregard the % of crude fiber
- Subtract the % of ash. Often ash won’t be mentioned, so use 6% as the average figure.
Step 2 – Feed Your Pet at Specific TimesWhile “free-feeding,” leaving pet food out all day, may be more convenient for the pet parent, it can be very harmful to your pet. Each time your dog or cat eats, their blood sugar rises, then falls. This constant blood sugar roller coaster is very stressful on their organs. Spiking blood sugar is a precursor to chronic sugar problems. After all, in the wild, an animal doesn’t have constant access to food all day. Eating less frequently is very supportive of your pet’s wellbeing.
Step 3 – Abundant, Filtered Water is a Necessity Throughout the DayAnother downside of commercial pet food is that it is deficient in moisture. While prey in the wild may be up to 60% water, kibble is only 10-12%. Since chronic kidney disease is the #1 issue in our pets, it just makes sense to be sure that a clean source of water is continuously available at all times.
Step 4 – When Feeding Processed Foods, Supplement with Enzymes and Probiotics to Bring Processed Food Back to Life!Commercially prepared canned and dry pet foods don’t contain digestive enzymes and probiotics. They are killed off in the heating process.Enzymes are essential for your dog or cat to break down the food they eat so the body can use it.Probiotics help to restore balance to your pet’s gut, allowing for efficient digestion and decreasing inflammation. When you add dog probiotics or cat probiotics to your pet’s food, many of these issues may lessen:
- digestive – gas, diarrhea, constipation
- immune – respiratory infections and allergies
- emotional – anxiety and nervousness