Diabetes mellitus is a common endocrine pancreatic disorder in pets. The incidence in cats and dogs is reported to be anywhere from 1 in 100 to 1 in 500. Diabetes is classified as type I or type II. Type I, is called insulin-dependent diabetes. In this disorder, there is destruction of the beta cells (insulin-producing cells) of the pancreas. Treatment involves replacing insulin through injections given one to two times per day.
Type II, called non-insulin-dependent diabetes, as insulin is usually not required with this disorder. Insulin resistance and dysfunctional beta cells, rather than permanent destruction of beta cells, are seen in pets with type II.
Diet therapy is useful in both dogs and cats. Most diabetic dogs require insulin as they have type I. Many cats may not require insulin, as they have type II. These cats are most likely to respond to therapies that may include diet, nutritional supplementation, and exercise.
While not proven, some holistic veterinarians believe years of feeding corn-based foods to cats may be contributing to the high incidence of diabetes in cats.
The homemade diet recommended for dogs with diabetes is composed of 50 to 55 percent high-quality complex carbohydrates (oats, vegetables, potato) with no simple sugars (such as sucrose, which may be included in commercial processed diets, especially soft-moist foods). Fat is restricted (no more than 20 percent), and moderate amounts of protein (15 to 30 percent) are included.
Dogs and Cats with diabetes who are thin should not be fed high-fiber diets initially as they may continue to lose weight.
Diet for Dogs with Diabetes
Note: Before you start to feed your dog or cat a home-prepared diet, it is strongly recommended that you discuss your decision with your vet or holistic vet. It is essential you follow any dietfs recommendations closely, including all ingredients and supplements. Failure to do so may result in serious health consequences for your pet.
- 1 1/4 cups oatmeal or rolled oats, cooked
- 3 1/2 ounces ( 1/4 cup) kidney beans
- 1 large hard-boiled egg
- 1 cup mixed vegetables, cooked and drained
This diet provided 452 kcal, 24.5 gm protein, 8.9 gm fat, and supports the daily caloric needs of a 12 to 13 pound dog.
Diet for Cats with Diabetes
Cats are true carnivores and require meat in their diets. Therefore, the diet that may prove most helpful for diabetic cats uses the maintenance diet with added fiber. However, keep in mind cats will usually not accept diets high in fiber.
- 1/3 to 1/2 pound ground meat (turkey, chicken, lamb, beef)
- 1/2 to 1 large hard-boiled egg
- 1/2 ounce chopped clams in juice
- 4 teaspoons chicken fat or canola oil
- 1/8 teaspoon potassium chloride (salt substitute)
- 100 mg taurine
If using 1/2 pound chicken and 1/2 egg, the diet will provide 471 kcal, 53.1 gm of protein, and 27.4 gm of fat. An adult indoor 10-pound cat requires approximately 360 kcal of energy per day, and a 5-pound kitten requires approximately 300 kcal of energy per day.
(There are variations for these diets found in my book Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats.)
Treating Diabetes in Cats and Dogs
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Shawn Messonnier, DVM
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Shawn Messonnier DVM Past Supporting Member, Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians Author, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, and Breast Choices for the Best Chances: Your Breasts, Your Life, and How YOU Can Win The Battle!
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