Can Pet Diabetes Be Controlled With Herbs?
Diabetes is a fairly common ailment in pets. It occurs in approximately 1 in 400 cats and 1 in 500 dogs. Despite the high incidence of this condition, its prognosis is very good. With proper diet and exercise, herbal supplementation can help control your pet's blood sugar, helping them to live as long as they would without diabetes.
The Basics of Diabetes
Pet diabetes is much like human diabetes, resulting from either a lack of insulin or ineffective insulin. This causes blood glucose levels to be chronically high, which can result in complications like cataracts, liver or kidney disease, susceptibility to infection, heart disease, coma or even death. Diabetes treatment is based on controlling blood glucose levels through diet, exercise, and possible medication. Conventional insulin treatment for diabetic pets can be expensive and may cause undesirable side effects. If your pet has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you might want to try a natural method for regulating blood glucose levels before making the decision of paying for expensive insulin treatments or euthanization.
Controlling Diabetes with Herbs
Most herbs used to control pet diabetes come in supplement form and take several weeks to start showing effects. Listed below are herbs (and a mineral) commonly used to treat pet diabetes in addition to how the herb works in the body.
Galega officinalis It has been suggested that this herb functions by increasing the size of the Islets of Langerhans, cells within the pancreas responsible for producing insulin. Larger Islets of Langerhans could potentially produce more insulin, helping to regulate high blood glucose levels.
Vaccinium myrtilus (Bilberry) Much like blueberries, the bilberry is rich in antioxidants due to its dark skin pigments. These particular antioxidants, called anthocyanocides, prevent cell damage caused by free radicals. Diabetes causes the number of harmful free radicals to increase, contributing to the destruction of tiny blood vessels like those of the eyes. Bilberry has also been shown to increase tissue healing.
Astragalus membranaceus Traditionally used in Chinese medicine to strengthen the immune system and treat diabetes, this herb can also be used in pet diabetes treatment. Diabetes can weaken the immune system and result in increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections. This herb also helps lower blood sugar and blood pressure, as well as regulates water retention.
Trigonella foenum-graecum (Fenugreek) Fenugreek seeds contain several compounds thought to increase insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar, and stimulate insulin secretion, all of which are beneficial for diabetics. It is thought that fenugreek causes the stomach to empty more slowly, resulting in slower carbohydrate absorption.
Chromium Chromium is a mineral (much like iron) and is often deficient in diabetic pets. It functions in the body by binding to insulin, thereby activating it. Increased chromium causes insulin to function more effectively, which lowers blood glucose levels.
Because much of diabetic treatment is based on insulin injections, there is very little clinical research surrounding herbal treatment of diabetes, especially pet diabetes. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian before treating your diabetic pet herbally.
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