How a wholesome diet and veterinary care can work together to help diabetic dogs
The purpose of this article is to help dogs who suffer from diabetes and discuss why diabetes in dogs can be prevented by using holistic healing methods.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes falls into the category of hormonal diseases where the body, more precisely the pancreas, loses its ability to produce insulin, or in more rare cases there is an overproduction of glucagon, a hormone that converts stored sugar - glycogen - into glucose.
Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas by the beta cells (also called the islets of Langerhans). Its primary function is to make carbohydrates (sugars) available to the cells as a source of energy.
Insulin can be seen as the key to unlocking the gateway for sugar to enter the cells. If the insulin level is insufficient or entirely absent, glucose accumulates in the bloodstream, while the cells paradoxically starve of energy because glucose molecules can’t enter them. This is the diabetic state.
Sometimes, when cell starvation reaches a certain level, the body reaches for energy locked in fat storage. When fats burn fast the body may become overwhelmed with ketones, this state is called diabetic ketoacidosis.
Ketoacidosis is a serious condition, which can be life-threatening. The sugar-starved cells give the body a signal to burn fat to produce more energy. Fat disintegration leads to the formation of ketones, toxic byproducts that can cause a state of intoxication that usually requires hospitalization and intensive care.
In more rare cases, diabetes may also be caused by an overproduction of the hormone glucagon, which is produced by the alpha cells of the pancreas and has the opposite function of insulin. Under normal circumstances, glucagon release corrects hypoglycemia during exercise or in other situations where blood glucose levels drop.
Is diabetes simply due to the bad luck of genetics?
There are still some people who believe that diabetes is purely bad luck and genetics. While genetics plays an important role in diabetes, most scientists agree that genes are greatly affected by so-called epigenetic factors.
What are they?
Diabetes is very rare, or virtually absent, in dogs who eat a non-processed, grain-free diet of cooked or raw meat, raw bones, organs, and vegetables. This means that diet is one of the external epigenetic factors playing a role in diabetes.
Unfortunately, it appears that processed food companies have not done their "homework," as they continue to claim that kibble is better than wholesome species-appropriate food, contrary to my clinical experience. When it comes to dogs, a wholesome diet and essential natural supplements eliminate the chances of diabetes almost entirely.
What is the role of pancreas?
In dogs, the pancreas is designed to digest mainly meat and other protein, along with a small amount of plant material.
The canine species has evolved eating minimal or no starchy grain-based foods. Such foods put a high degree of stress on the pancreas, which leads to chronic smouldering inflammation, the destruction of insulin producing beta cells, and finally, diabetes.
Symptoms of Diabetes
The symptoms of diabetes are usually not very specific. Increased thirst, urination, and appetite, weight loss, inappetence, vomiting, cataracts, and weakness are all signs that can also be common in other conditions such as kidney or liver disease, or adrenal disorders.
Diagnosis is usually obtained by detecting abnormal fasting glucose levels in blood and urine.
It is important to repeat the blood glucose test several times, as dogs often respond to the stress from the experience of blood collection with increased sugar levels. I have seen a dog misdiagnosed after an epileptic attack, when high energy output resulted in a surge of glucagon, and a temporary increase in glucose levels that had nothing to do with diabetes. It would be wrong to put such dog on insulin.
Fructosamine levels can be used as a differential test in determining whether a dog suffers from temporary stress-induced hyperglycemia (high glucose levels) or real diabetes.
Diabetes treatment 101
1. Choose the right veterinarian
The most important part of helping your diabetic dog is to find an experienced veterinarian, ideally one that is also open to a natural approach to nutrition and will not try to sell you a bag of kibble.
Here is an example of the ingredients in a typical processed diabetic diet:
Whole Grain Corn, Powdered Cellulose, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Liver Flavour, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Mill Run, Chicken, Dried Beet Pulp, Soybean Oil, Lactic Acid, Caramel Colour, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Flaxseed.
One does not need to have a degree in nutrition in order to see that this recipe is far from the natural diet of canines.
I really do not understand why such food is marketed as a special therapeutic diet for diabetic dogs.
The goal should be to reduce periods of abnormal (too high) insulin levels by giving sufficient amounts of insulin that last just the right amount of time without causing life threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels).
It is absolutely essential that you work with your veterinarian and also understand how to recognize hypoglycemic shock.
In most situations, NPH or Lente is the initial insulin provided, at a dose of 0.5 U/kg every 12 hours. It is also important to feed two equal meals at the time of insulin administration.
If your dog does not eat his or her meal, it is better to reduce or skip the insulin injection to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) which can be life threatening. Ensure that you discuss this possibility with your veterinarian, who will recommend administering sugar syrup or honey in such an emergency.
What are the symptoms of hypoglycemic shock?
- Fast heartbeat
Note: When you start your dog on better wholesome food, the need for insulin will likely be lower, or in some cases, your dog may be able to revert back to normal. Your veterinarian will likely do a 12 to 24-hour glucose curve test, a series of glucose measurements, and fructosamine level to adjust your dog's insulin requirements.
How to achieve perfect blood sugar regulation
The challenge is that insulin requirements will not be constant. They will fluctuate based on the amount of food consumed, exercise, stress levels, and mental exertion.
As time progresses, you will eventually learn to recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), and learn to measure your dog’s insulin using a glucometer.
In recent years, skin glucose monitors can be temporarily attached to your dog’s or cat’s skin to evaluate the insulin dosage without the need for stressful blood collection and hospitalization.
The best way to feed a diabetic dog is to offer a species-appropriate raw or cooked diet. You will find the details on how to feed your dog a raw or cooked diet in the link here or by clicking on the image below.
The general premise of a canine diabetic diet is to stop feeding processed kibble or even grain-free processed food as it is unsuitable for a diabetic dog. After all, do you know of any doctor that recommends processed food for treating disease in humans.
Raw, dehydrated diets may be somewhat better, but they put increased demand on the kidneys and digestion. Without a doubt a raw or cooked food diet is the best choice and there doesn't appear to be much difference between the two.
Once again click here to access the Recipe Maker.
Frequency of feeding
I usually feed a meat and veggie mix five days per week, and either chicken carcasses or lamb bones two days a week. You do not need to give anything else on the bone days. Bone and meat are similar in calorie density.
The amount of food to feed is approximately one pound per 50 pounds of body weight. Small and active dogs will need up to twice this amount and large dogs may eat as little as half. Ideally, you should be able to count your dog's ribs, but you should not see them if his or her hair is short, wet, or shaved.
Healthy, non-diabetic dogs should ideally eat once a day in order to rest their digestive tract and glands. Research has also shown that intermittent (short periods of fasting) may increase longevity.
However, diabetic dogs should eat twice daily, and insulin should be administered right after your dog's meal. I do not suggest feeding your diabetic dog more than twice per day, or less than twice a day, and diabetic dogs should not fast.
Besides kibble, nutrient deficiencies may be one of the leading causes of diabetes, and is also one of the most common reasons for poorly regulated diabetes.
There are several thousand enzymes participating in several hundred biochemical-reactions, and these can't happen without the presence of vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, and other nutrients. Unfortunately, intensive agriculture has led to severe soil depletion and dietary deficiencies that ultimately lead to poor health.
Note: Diabetic patients also excrete nutrients and minerals at a higher rate, which leads to additional nutrient loss.
Here is what you need to do in 3 STEPS:
STEP 1 - Test for minerals and toxins before starting your supplement protocol
The HairQ Test will give you an understanding of your dog’s initial status before you start giving supplements. It will help you finely tune your dog’s supplement plan, and it may also answer some questions about why your dog ended up with diabetes.
Recheck your dog’s HairQ Test twice per year to be able to adjust supplements accordingly and achieve the best results.
STEP 2 - Avoid artificial supplements and vitamins
Most people do not realize that the vast majority of supplements on the market are synthetic, and that they are made chemically from coal or crude oil.There is an enormous difference between naturally cultured supplements and those made artificially. Natural nutrients are bound in complex bio-proteins and the body knows how to manage these.
While artificial vitamins can resemble the natural ones, they are not unlike plastic apples in a fake fruit bowl.
STEP 3 - Give your dog the Fab4 essential nutrients to prevent or treat diabetes:
1. Plant-based minerals and amino acids (GreenMin)
2. Naturally cultured vitamins (SoulFood)
3. Probiotics to support digestion and immunity (GutSense)
4. Essential fatty acids FeelGood Omega
I also recommend that you do a liver cleanse and detox once every six months to ensure that your dog’s body is functioning at an optimal level.
I never use fish oils as they are generally unsustainable, and frequently contain mercury and countless chemicals. Here is a video you may want to watch if in doubt.
5. Energy flow
I have mentioned in many other articles that good spinal energy flow in the body is crucial in preventing and treating disease. Each organ gets its energy supply from a different spinal segment, and if a particular section is tight, injured, and congested, the organ will suffer and potentially become diseased.
The pancreas gets its energy supply from the thoracic lumbar junction, the space between the last thoracic and first lumbar vertebrae. This is why every diabetic dog, and every healthy dog, should see an experienced animal chiropractor, physiotherapist, or osteopath to ensure proper spinal alignment.
As a veterinarian trained in animal homeopathy, I have seen significant improvement in dogs with a variety of conditions. However, homeopathy is a complex discipline, and in my experience, only a very experienced and skilled homeopath can achieve good results.
Each patient requires a thorough assessment and there is no single remedy or cookbook approach to homeopathy when it comes to diabetes. If you are interested in homeopathy, I suggest that you do not attempt to do it yourself, and instead work with an experienced animal homeopath.
Finally, keep it simple and be diligent.
I often see people frantically searching for answers regarding the treatment of diabetes and they frequently end up confused after finding conflicting information.
My approach to the treatment of any disease is to make it as simple and concise as possible. While I suggest that you seek the help of a local veterinarian to help you manage your dog’s condition, remaining grounded and organized and not jumping from protocol to protocol is the key to success.
While the ultimate treatment goal is reversing your dog’s diabetes to the point where no insulin is needed, such results are still relatively rare.
However, if you follow the above plan there is a very good chance that your dog will be healthier, their diabetes will be easier to control, and their insulin requirement will be lower.
Here is a simple treatment plan summary:
Remember that diabetes is a highly preventable disease, so focusing on prevention is the best option.
Avoid feeding processed food, excessive vaccination, and unnecessary pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, painkillers, and monthly flea, worm and tick medications whenever you can.
1. Switch your dog to a natural diet here
2. Introduce essential supplements here
3. Detox your dog once every 6 months with LiverTune
3. Exercise your dog regularly but avoid intense exercise such as ball or frisbee play
4. See a spinal alignment practitioner regularly
5. Ensure you learn how to regulate your dog’s insulin dose
6. Follow up regularly at least every 3-6 months to ensure proper regulation
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM