Diabetes is becoming increasingly widespread in dogs. An estimated one out of every 500 dogs has diabetes, and it can be debilitating to their health. Untreated diabetes can lead to organ failure and death, so it's not a condition you can ignore.
While there are many ways to treat diabetes, more and more dog owners are looking for alternatives to insulin. Insulin therapy can be beneficial, but there are many risks. It's been shown to cause weight gain, skin problems, and even organ failure.
For those reasons and more, many vets recommend dietary changes as the first line of defense. A strategic diet and food-based treatments can decrease your dog's need for insulin, helping them live a healthy life despite the condition.
What is Canine Diabetes?
Canine diabetes is similar to diabetes in humans. There are two main forms: Insulin-deficiency diabetes and insulin-resistance diabetes. Both revolve around insulin, a hormone that helps the body use glucose (blood sugar) as fuel.
In insulin-deficiency diabetes, a dog's body can't produce enough insulin to convert food to fuel. Typically, it occurs when the pancreas doesn't function properly because of damage or genetic issues.
It's the most common form of diabetes, and insulin therapy is usually the go-to treatment. With this form of diabetes, there's insufficient insulin to utilize glucose. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood instead of getting absorbed. That results in serious health complications.
With insulin-resistance diabetes, the pancreas is still producing insulin. However, the cells that rely on insulin to know when to absorb glucose don't respond to it. As a result, the cells don't use glucose for fuel.
Like insulin-deficiency diabetes, glucose levels in the blood can skyrocket to cause health issues. This form of diabetes is most common in elderly and obese dogs.
Why Treating Dog Diabetes Without Insulin is Becoming More Popular
Insulin therapy can be effective in managing diabetes. But the problem is that it treats the symptoms and doesn't address the underlying problem. It replaces the insulin that your dog doesn't have or can't use.
However, it doesn't do much to improve the situation. It can effectively lower blood sugar levels and reduce complications, but most vets see it as a temporary fix.
It's more of a tool for managing the issues that diabetes causes. Like any other medication, it does have side effects and risks. Many dogs experience weight gain and long-term complications. Plus, it's stressful having to deal with regular injections.
Vets often see food-based treatments as a better solution. By managing your dog's diet, you can reduce blood sugar naturally. That may help reduce insulin resistance and lower your dog's need for insulin. It can control diabetes and manage its symptoms.
Treating Dog Diabetes Without Insulin
Diabetes is a serious condition that puts your dog's health at risk, but you can take steps to manage it without relying on insulin therapy. Vets often recommend sweeping dietary changes. Education is important here.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Vets are ready to help you understand how your dog's diet affects their health.
Prescription Dog Foods
The easiest way to see improvements is to switch to prescription dog food. These products are specifically made to help dogs with diabetes and are only available with vet approval.
So what makes these foods different? Typically, they have higher fiber content and ingredients with a low glycemic index.
Fiber can help control diabetes by preventing blood sugar spikes. Fiber is important in any dog's diet but can make a big difference for pups with diabetes. Dogs don't digest fiber in the same way they digest other foods.
They can't break it down or absorb it. As a result, it passes through the digestive tract without getting broken down and turned into blood sugar. The body can process the other nutrients in the food. But because it has higher fiber content, your dog won't experience that dreaded glucose spike that risks their health.
Low-glycemic ingredients have similar effects. Many prescription diets contain complex carbohydrates like lentils, beans, and oats. They're much different than the simple carbs in standard foods. With low-glycemic foods, your dog's body breaks things down much slower.
Simple carbs and foods with a higher glycemic index break down quickly. The result is a rapid blood sugar spike. In healthy dogs, it causes a burst of energy followed by an energy crash. In diabetic dogs, it can lead to health complications.
Prescription foods use ingredients with a low glycemic index to strategically control blood sugar levels. They can reduce insulin resistance and boost the production of the crucial hormone. These foods can even promote weight loss, leading to better overall health for your canine companion.
Vets may also recommend you try herbal remedies. Many prescription dog foods contain herbs. What's the purpose? Herbal remedies help reduce inflammation.
Cellular inflammation is a big problem for dogs with diabetes because it causes the cells to become more resistant to insulin. The result in chronically high blood sugar levels.
Many herbs can reduce the inflammation that causes diabetes-related symptoms. Some of the best include fenugreek, bitter melon, gymnema, and cornsilk.
Fenugreek is known to decrease the rate glucose gets into the bloodstream. Bitter melon can help improve insulin production in the pancreas. Gymnema prevents glucose levels from spiking due to its sugar-destroying acids. Cornsilk can also reduce blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes-related kidney damage.
If you're interested in trying herbal remedies, consider visiting a veterinarian specializing in traditional Chinese medicine. You can also explore prescription dog foods that utilize herbs like the ones mentioned above.
How Effective is Food-Based Diabetes Management?
Providing your dog with a healthy diet catered to its condition can make a big difference. Of course, dogs can react to their diet in many ways. The only way to tell if a dietary change is working is to continually monitor blood sugar levels.
Here's where working with your vet matters. They can guide you in the right direction and recommend adjustments to maximize results. Generally, the right diet will help to keep blood sugar levels under 250 mg/dl.
It can take some trial and error, but finding the right diet can help your dog live a comfortable and healthy life.
Beating Canine Diabetes
No dog owner wants to hear that their dog has a debilitating condition like diabetes. But it's not a death sentence if you take steps to treat your dog effectively. Explore all options and work alongside your vet to find the right solution.
Insulin therapy is a great way to lower your dog's blood sugar level when symptoms present a consistent problem. But if you want long-term results, providing a high-quality diet and exploring food-based treatment is the way to go.