Should I Put My Diabetic Pet On a Diet?
In short, yes: diabetic pets should be put on a diet. The diabetic diet, however, isn't simply for weight loss but also to regulate blood glucose levels. Diabetic diets can also vary between pets; cats often benefit most from a high protein/low fat diet while dogs do best on a diet with complex carbohydrates and fiber.
The Basis of Diabetes
Diabetes, whether in a pet or a person, occurs either when there isn't enough insulin being produced by the pancreas or the insulin that is produced is ineffective. Insulin is needed to help cells take up glucose, their main source of energy. When cells can't absorb glucose, they start burning other sources of energy, such as fat and protein. While this may not sound like a bad thing, the problem arises from the unabsorbed glucose, which circulates throughout the body, binding with other proteins and wreaking havoc.
What Diabetes Has To Do With Diet
After your pet eats a meal, the sugars, carbohydrates, and protein in their food get broken down into smaller components, a major portion of which is glucose. This glucose then enters the bloodstream as it passes through the intestines. The speed with which foods are broken down and absorbed can be affected by how processed the food ingredients are. Foods that are high in sugar and simple carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed very quickly, causing a sharp rise in blood glucose levels. This sharp rise in blood glucose levels causes the pancreas to go into overdrive producing insulin. Excess insulin can gradually cause cells to become desensitized to it. This is called insulin resistance, and is a common sign of impending diabetes. Foods containing more fiber and complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, causing food breakdown and glucose absorption to occur more slowly. The pancreas is better equipped to deal with modest increases in blood glucose, releasing just enough insulin to get the job done.
Excess Fat Increases Chances of Insulin Resistance
It has also been shown that pets and people with excess fat tend to use insulin less efficiently (muscle and liver cells are particularly prone). Fortunately, these cells can regain their insulin sensitivity once this excess fat is lost. It is therefore important to first help your pet to lose weight and then focus more on regulating blood glucose.
Diabetes Diets for Dogs
Diabetic dogs do best when fed a diet low in sugar, high in complex carbohydrates and high in fiber. Moist or softened foods tend to be high in sugar, so be sure to stay away from them. Also consider the treats you feed your pet. Chances are, they're considered a treat because they are either high in fat or sugar, both of which aren't good for managing diabetes. Be sure to feed your dog twice a day to best regulate blood sugar levels.
Diabetes Diets for Cats
Although a diet with moderate amounts of fat are acceptable for diabetic dogs, cats with diabetes should avoid fatty diets. Most cats develop diabetes from being overweight and high fat diets make weight loss difficult. It is best if diabetic cats are fed a high protein diet more so than dogs. As cats lose weight from eating less fat, they require lots of protein to maintain muscle mass.
Keep your diabetic pet happy and healthy by catering to its unique dietary needs.
Photo Credit: robertto79