How Properly Feeding Your Pet Can Help Prevent Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes more commonly is seen in dogs, while Type 2 diabetes is more commonly diagnosed in cats. However, both types can affect either species.
With Type 1, the body does not produce enough insulin, a hormone the body needs to absorb and utilize sugar.
With Type 2, the body produces insulin, but becomes resistant to it, thus it cannot utilize sugar properly. Type 2 can progress to Type 1 if the pancreas produces less and less insulin in response to prolonged insulin resistance.
HOW THE BODY UTILIZES SUGAR
The body gets energy from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, all of which are found in food. The quickest and most important way of ensuring there is enough available energy for the body to function properly at any time is to break down carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are then broken down by the body into the sugar molecule glucose. Glucose is needed by all cells of the body. Without glucose, our and our animal’s cells cannot function properly. Once the carbohydrates from the food are broken down into glucose molecules, these molecules circulate in the blood. That’s when insulin comes into play.
Insulin is a hormone produced by cells called “beta cells”, which are present in the pancreas. Insulin is secreted into the blood by those cells if the level of glucose in the blood is high, typically after a meal. The key is that cells only absorb the glucose if insulin is also in the blood (insulin lets the glucose enter into the cells).
There are other factors which play a role in regulating glucose levels, but this is the basic concept needed to understand diabetes.
Animals with diabetes commonly have polyuria, polydipsia, and polyphagia, or increased urination, thirst, and appetite, respectively. Other signs include unexplained weight loss (despite increased caloric intake), cataracts and/or blindness.
However, animals that are not yet ‘ketotic’ may not exhibit any overt signs at all. This term refers to animals who have reached the metabolic state whereby the body breaks down stored fats to supply the cells with the energy they need to function, a process that generates something called ‘ketone bodies’.
As with humans, obesity is one common cause of diabetes in pets. As discussed earlier, insulin is needed to utilize food, especially carbohydrates, and is released after a meal.
Consequently, the more an animal eats, the more insulin is released. If insulin is present in excess for a prolonged period of time, the cells’ receptors that normally sense the presence of insulin become overwhelmed and fail to respond. In other words, they become desensitized.
Chronic glucocorticoid excess due to either high cortisol levels produced by the animal itself, or prolonged exogenous administration of steroids to the animal can do both, lead to insulin receptor desensitization, and interfere with proper beta cell function.
Other influences, such as environmental factors, can also play a role in the onset of diabetes.
Another common cause of diabetes is lack of beta cells. There are several underlying causes for lack of beta cells, including destruction by the animal’s own immune system and genetics.
Diagnosis of diabetes in animals is made based on his/her history in conjunction with persistent elevated blood glucose levels and evidence of glucose +/- ketone bodies in the urine. Further diagnostic testing may be necessary to rule out other conditions with similar traits. An example of such a condition is hyperadrenocorticism.
Treatment varies and depends on the condition of the animal. Hospitalization and stabilization may (or may not) be necessary. The doctor assesses on a case-by-case basis if insulin administration is indicated, and, if necessary, teaches the pet owner how to do insulin injections and blood glucose monitoring at home.
In many patients, weight management is another aspect that has to be addressed. Because diet influences blood glucose levels, the right food is integral part of long-term, successful management of any diabetic patient. High fiber, low fat and carbohydrate diets, and strict feeding schedules help minimize fluctuations of blood glucose levels.
Humans and animals share many common diseases; among them diabetes. This highlights our similarity. For decades, metformin is used in human medicine to treat diabetes. Before that, traditional medicine used herbs to fight this disease. Metformin was discovered when scientists tried to understand how French lilac (Goat’s rue) helps reducing blood sugar. This herb, as well as some other holistic remedies are rather effective. The advantage of metformin tablets is that they allow for exact dosing of the active ingredient. The advantage of herbs is their smooth action due to the multi-component mixture of metformin-like metabolites inside the herbal tissues.
Vetvittles has developed a holistic formula which can reduce blood glucose levels in mild cases. Diet and supplements may be very helpful in prevention of diabetes and obesity.
THE DOCTOR’S COMMENTS
Advocating prevention is a personal goal of mine. In most cases, diabetes can be managed. However, it requires life-long owner commitment to strict schedules and veterinary visits. Unfortunately, many owners do not have the time and/or finances to give their pet the necessary treatment.
Maladies diabetic animals may suffer from include urinary tract infections, heart problems, diabetic coma and the progression of the disease resulting in blindness.
Unfortunately, in some cases, the poor condition of affected animals or the tremendous commitment their care demands eventually prompt owners to euthanize their pets .
Be advised that not every case of this devastating condition is preventable. However, many are.
As noted earlier, diabetes is linked to obesity, which is linked to food, and thus is preventable.
Therefore, investing in good, quality nutrition and dietary supplements can not only save a lot in future veterinary bills, but can also prolong your pet’s life.
High fiber, low fat and carbohydrate diets plus exercise can help prevent obesity. Herbal supplements and vitamins can help boosting your pet’s immune system.
I look forward to talk with about formulating a diet plan individually tailored to your pet’s specific needs.