It’s the time of year when human diets fall by the wayside. Celery is pushed aside in favor of turkey, gravy, stuffing and sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallows. But what about our pets, especially the ones with diabetes? They’re part of the family, too. Can they share in the cornucopia of yummy food?
It’s perhaps no coincidence that Pet Diabetes Month falls during the time of year when it’s very tempting to slip the occasional table scrap to our furry pals. It’s a great opportunity to emphasize the importance of sticking to a pet’s regular diet, especially if he or she is diabetic.
Pet Diabetes Basics
By some estimates, one in 230 cats and one in 300 dogs in the United States have diabetes, a disorder in how the body metabolizes glucose, or blood sugar. Normally, the pancreas makes insulin, a hormone that acts as a gatekeeper to allow glucose to enter the cells of the body. The cells need glucose for energy.
In pets diagnosed with diabetes, either the pancreas no longer makes enough insulin or the body can’t use insulin effectively. As a result, the animal breaks down body tissue to provide the cells with an alternate source of energy. That’s why diabetic pets often lose weight despite having voracious appetites. For most diabetic pets, daily insulin injections help the body channel glucose to the cells effectively.
The Importance of Regular Diet
It’s inherently risky to give any pet on insulin anything but his or her regular diet, because insulin requirements are specifically dictated by that diet. Additionally, feeding foods that differ from the pet’s normal diet can cause vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Any of these symptoms can be a cause for alarm, especially for a pet on insulin. When a pet goes off food, their need for insulin is altered and it can be dangerous to give an insulin injection to an anorexic pet. So if your pet’s not eating, it’s easy for their diabetes to spin out of control.
Long story short; stick to the cat or dog’s regular diet, even during this festive time of year. If you ever consider changing your diabetic pet’s diet, consult your veterinarian.
Don’t Skip the Exercise
As with humans, regular exercise is extra important to a diabetic pet (especially dogs, because trying to convince a cat to do anything is like … herding cats). The emphasis here is on regular, because in a diabetic dog, insulin and blood glucose levels can be drastically altered by things like time of day of activity, type of activity, duration of the exercise session, etc. Cold weather, holiday parties or vacation days can easily and accidentally cause you to change the schedule, so it’s important to stay focused.
Celebrate, but Moderate
It’s the season for fun and family. And that family includes our pets. As long as you treat a diabetic cat or dog like you would any other diabetic family member when it comes to diet and exercise at this time of year, everyone will have cause to celebrate.
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.