This is the second part of a two-part series about diabetes in dogs and cats. In the first part, I discussed diabetes as a disease and how it happens. In this part, I will discuss how it is treated and how it can be prevented.
The Big Picture
First. Genetics plays a very minor role in diabetes as suggested by research done over the last decade using families that were genetically-predisposed to diabetes. They found that these families who adopted children, the adopted children had the same high incidence of diabetes of those that were genetically related. We know now that the primary causes diabetes are external (environmental) and not internal (genetics).
If we look at the causes of diabetes then we can start to understand what is happening. For some reason, in conventional medicine, there has been little work done to understanding why this happens. Maybe its because a bottle of insulin now cost $120 when it use to cost $19.
Remember, type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas is not producing enough insulin, so it is obvious that it is a pancreatic imbalance. Type 2 diabetes is associated with an imbalanced immune system. What does this have in common? The pancreas is obviously a major organ in the GI system and the immune system function is directly associated with gut health. If we fix the GI system, we have a great opportunity to fix the diabetes. This means resolution, not treating.
Fixing the problem
From a conventional medicine perspective, we have no drugs that will fix either the pancreas or the gut, so we have to use a combination of natural supplements and alternative modalities. Diet modification is critical.
Back in the late 80s, a lady vet working at Animal Medical Center in New York did a study on diabetes in cats. She took 20 or 30 cats that were insulin-dependent diabetics and switched their diets to a canned kitten food that was high in protein and low in carbs. These cats had been basically fed a kibble diet that was high in carbs and starch. One hundred percent of these cats converted to non-insulin dependence just by altering the diet back to a species-appropriate diet. In spite of these remarkable findings, the pet food industry continued to influence vets to feed a prescription diet formulated for diabetics. This diet was Science Diet WD which was low in fat, but high in carbs/starch. The diet is actually contra-indicated for diabetes but is still sold by many vets in the US as well as Royal Canin reduced fat diets. Do NOT feed these diets.
Remember, feeding carnivores (dogs and cats) omnivore diets (protein and carbs) is the underlying major cause for diabetes and almost every chronic disease we find in cats and dogs. It is not only responsible for the non-functioning pancreas (diabetes, pancreatitis, etc) but the damaged gut (immune system) as well.
To resolve the problem we fix the diet and repair the damaged GI system. I like to use a good gut healing protocol with bone broth, coconut oil, grapefruit seed extract, probiotics and digestive enzymes.
I use Chinese medicine to restore balance that will help heal the pancreas and gut. Since the pancreas is involved, we know we have a spleen imbalance. Spleen imbalance causes dampness and in time, damp and heat. Most early diabetics have these two imbalances that need to be addressed.
In humans and some pets, the imbalances are usually a deficiency imbalance causing yin deficiency leading to dryness and heat. These pets are usually older pets, thin and dry. They have dry, thin tongues and usually show heat intolerance. The Chinese herbal formula that seems to work best is Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan. Acupuncture points would be: KID3,7 ST36 BL23, 20 SP6,9 GV14,20.
Most dogs and cats with diabetes have a tendency to be heavier, flakey and clumping hair coat, thick and moist tongues. The best herbs for these pets are Wei Ling Tang if the pet is chilly and prefers to stay warm or SI MIAO SAN if the pet likes to stay cool.
Points that would benefit this profile would be: ST36,40 SP6,9 LI11, BL20,21 CV12
Other supplements that are beneficial for diabetics: fish oil, antioxidants, gymnema, vanadium, chromium and glandular therapy (pancreatic enzymes). Gymnema, vanadium and chromium supplements work better in dogs because they reduce post-prandial glucose elevations that is not a major factor in cats with diabetes.
If you have a pet that is having difficulty getting regulated with insulin, it is often because there are other illnesses going on at the same time. A good example is a dog with diabetes that also has Cushing’s disease. The elevated cortisol reduces the effectiveness of the insulin.
Important cautions about giving insulin injections: Keep all insulin refrigerated. Remove the insulin from the fridge and warm it by placing the bottle in your armpit until warm. Gently rock the bottle back and forth to mix the insulin. Do not shake as it will damage the insulin. Draw up the prescribed amount of insulin units and check for air bubbles. Give the injection under the skin. Insulin is much easier to absorb if given on the ventral portion of the body. Giving it in the upper neck region is the worst place for absorption.
If you have any thoughts about whether to give the insulin, the answer is always “do not.” This thought might arise if the pet is sick, vomiting, not eating its food, etc. Insulin dosage is established when the pet is acting normal and eating normally. Skipping a dose or two of insulin will not cause a problem, but giving it when there is a problem, can. Pets can die from insulin overdosage but will not die if they don’t get the insulin injection. Always err on the side of caution and do NOT give the insulin if you are in doubt. Call the vet for instructions if your diabetic pet is sick.
Lots of pets die every year from insulin overdosage when the pet is boarded or a pet sitter is in charge. This is usually because the person in charge is not used to giving insulin and they give too much. I have seen this happen many time. Always make sure that a person in charge of taking care of a diabetic pet has lots of experience giving insulin injections.