Feeding a diabetic pet

So, your pet has been diagnosed with Diabetes, what now? 

Since 2011 the diagnosis of diabetes in pets has increased by 32% in dogs and 16% in cats[1], and just like humans, cats can be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 

Though it may feel like the end of the world, many pets live long and happy lives with diabetes. Just as important as knowing the symptoms is understanding how to care for a diabetic pet at home. And that care doesn’t have to exclude treats!  

Here are some tips when it come to feeding a diabetic pet: 

  1. Find the right food:  
    Consult your vet about the best healthy, low fat food to feed your newly diagnosed pet. 
  2. Skip the table scraps:  
    We wouldn’t advise giving human food to any pet as additives like salt and sugar aren’t good for them, but with a diabetic pet, this is especially important. Make sure the whole family, and anyone visiting, knows the rule about no treats being snuck under the table. Kids especially love to give scraps to their pets so make sure they know what is ok to give (green beans) and what isn’t ok to give (cupcakes).  
  3. Get plenty of exercise:  
    Pets (yes even cats!) need exercise just like us humans do. It’s good for their bodies and good for their mood state. Try swopping food treats for other fun things like a game of fetch or a walk down the road with your dog. If your cat is a couch potato, try using a catnip or wand toy  to get her moving. With a diabetic pet try your best to keep the daily exercise consistent as it does affect their blood sugar levels.  
  4. Cut down on treats:  
    Because you will have to cut down on the amount of treats you can give your pet, use mealtimes as training time.  
  5. Avoid overfeeding:  
    Follow the guidelines on the food package to know how much to feed your pet, especially if they are on a diet and are looking at you with “hungry eyes”. Consult with your vet if you really feel like your pet isn’t getting enough food.  
  6. Meal consistency:  
    You want to prevent your pet from having dips in his blood sugar. By feeding him at the same time each day (and giving healthy treats between meals), you’re stabilizing his blood sugar levels, which keeps his insulin dosage consistent (if he’s on insulin). 
  7. Bring on the broccoli:  
    There are lots of store bought treat options for diabetic animals, but many great healthy treats can be found right in your fridge. Fresh vegetables make great dog treats. Try gently steaming a bit of broccoli, give a half a cooked gem squash (with the shell), raw carrots or green beans for the great crunch, or even some cucumber. A lot of the veterinary diabetic diets have a canned option, you can either slice the roll of canned food or spread the canned food on a baking tray and cook in a low oven until hard enough to break. This makes a good treat for dogs and cats, whilst ensuring they are sticking to the diet. 

[1] Verdon D. Banfield releases major veterinary study showing spike in diabetes, dental disease and otitis externa. DVM 360 2001; April 21. http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/banfieldreleasesmajorveterinarystudyshowingspikediabetesdentaldiseaseandotitisexterna?rel=canonical.

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