Diabetes: Prevent and Manage for Pet Health

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Diabetes mellitus is a common condition in dogs and cats, as well as in humans. As with many conditions in this modern world, genetics, diet and exercise play a significant role in the prevention and control of this life-altering condition.


Regular exercise goes a long way in helping to prevent diabetes. Indoor cats and sedentary dogs are far more likely to develop diabetes. Animals that are overweight and eating diets with an increased amount of simple sugars (grain fractions and flours) are far more likely to develop diabetes; heart problems, several digestive disorders and arthritis.

Your Veterinarian

It’s crucial to have a good working relationship with your Veterinarian. Your Vet is the only qualified person who can confirm the diagnosis of diabetes and provide you with an understanding of the condition and how to deal with it.

Dealing with Diabetes

Diet Only

Cats in some cases can be controlled with diet alone. Low carbohydrate, high protein foods such as canned feline diets (only 2-3% carbs) are ideal. In many, but not all cases, eliminating simple sugars and providing a low carbohydrate food eliminates the need for insulin injections.

Dogs are less likely to be controlled with diet and exercise alone. If symptoms aren’t severe, many dogs can improve when their diet is changed to a highly nutritious, low carbohydrate food and exercise is increased.

Oral medications and diet

Cats seem to respond to oral hypoglycemic drugs better than dogs. There are several oral medications available, with varying responses. Your Veterinarian can advise you based on their experience. Low carbohydrate, high protein foods are recommended.

Insulin and diet

The vast majority of dogs and most cats require injectable insulin and a low carbohydrate, high protein, nutritionally adequate diet.

Specific, simple carbohydrates should be avoided such as flours, fractionated grains and simple sugars. Complex carbohydrates are more desirable. Whole grains, such as corn, rice and oatmeal all have a medium glycemic index and are ideal for the diabetic. It’s equally important to be consistent when feeding an animal receiving any injections of insulin. Food must be given the same time and amount each day, in relation to when the insulin is given.

Other Factors to Consider

Weight Management

Cats that are overweight should be fed enough to return back to their normal size. For cats that are underweight, they should be fed an amount sufficient enough to increase their weight back to normal.

Total Diet Considerations

Good quality protein: Feed the most digestible meat meals and fresh meats as protein sources.

Ideal levels of fat: Create a diet suitable for maintaining an ideal weight.

Some carbohydrates are necessary: Avoid simple sugars and flours. Focus on whole grains that are rated as having a medium glycemic index.

When formulating a diet specifically for a diabetic animal, one should never lose sight of the value of the total diet. Focusing on protein, fiber, magnesium and simple sugars are all very important. However, the goal is also to consider the over-all diet and its total contribution to the well being of the animal.

Published in the Winter 2010 Cutter’s Mill Cutter’s Mail Newsletter.

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One Comment for “Diabetes: Prevent and Manage for Pet Health”

  • It was rather interesting for me to read this article. Thank author for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more on this site soon.

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