Raw Food Fights Diabetes

Raw Food Fights Diabetes


A raw food diet does play a significant role in both treatment, and prevention, of diabetes in dogs and cats.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that causes poor quality of life and significantly reduces life expectancy. Diabetes in dogs and cats used to be quite rare but has become a more common diagnosis in recent years. Diabetes in pets tends to be the insulin dependent type and is certainly more common in older pets. Diet plays a significant role in the development of diabetes in both pets and people.

Signs of diabetes can vary, but most pets will primarily show an increase in drinking (and urinating), a very aggressive appetite (always hungry) and some gradual and progressive weight loss despite the good appetite. As the disease progresses to become toxic, affected pets will then lose their appetite, and show signs of vomiting and lethargy, and often will have a characteristic ‘acetone’ smell on their breath. Dogs and cats that present like this are in a critical condition and are at a high risk of dying.

Diabetes is caused by a failure of the body to produce adequate insulin, which is required to allow cells in the body to absorb sugar from the bloodstream. Diabetic patients end up with very high blood sugar, but with body cells starving from lack of sugar – this results in a long-term breakdown of body tissues as a source of energy, and production of toxic metabolites called keto-acidosis. Stabilizing diabetic pets involves the use of frequent insulin injections, combined with very strict diets, exercise and feeding regimes. Well managed pets can remain stable for several years, but the long-term picture for diabetic pets is not good.

One of the main reasons we are seeing such an increase in diabetes in pets is due to the change in feeding practices. 50 years ago, pets were primarily fed raw meat, bones and table scraps. But nowadays, pets live mainly on processed tinned and dry foods, which are fundamentally quite different from raw meat diets. One very significant difference is the level of simple carbohydrates in modern pet foods. Dogs and cats do NOT have a high requirement for carbohydrates in their diet, with levels of 10-15% being more than adequate. Dogs and cats have evolved to get most of their energy requirements from eating animal proteins and fats, and a smaller portion from complex carbohydrates (often from the gut content of their prey animals).

But, in contrast to this, most modern pet foods are very high in carbohydrates like wheat and corn, primarily because they are cheap, whereas animal fats and proteins are expensive. Many processed pet foods can have more than 50% carbohydrates, which results in a significant level of obesity, and most are simple carbohydrates (not complex carbohydrates such as healthy whole grains) which are easily converted to sugars. With such a large amount of carbohydrate available (often up to 4-5 times the normal requirement) pets’ bodies must produce up to 4-5 times as much insulin to cope with this. Long term, the net result is failure of these insulin-producing cells, and the end result is Diabetes.

So how does a raw food diet alter this?

Primarily, animals fed on a raw meat diet, with 60-80% of the diet being meat, will simply not develop diabetes in the first place. But, for pets that have developed diabetes already, changing the diet to raw meat does several fundamental things.

  1. Reducing the total amount of carbohydrate in the diet and replacing with fresh meat immediately reduces the amount of insulin required. In cats, it is quite possible to have them totally (100%) revert back to normal and have NO requirement for insulin at all.
  2. Providing naturally occurring levels of micronutrients like chromium and vanadium. By providing these micro-nutrients which are found in a well-designed raw food diet, many dogs can start producing higher levels of their own insulin, which results in a much lower requirement for external insulin injections.


Many cases of diabetic dogs over the years have responded very favourably to a change to raw meat diets, but it is vital that the owners are familiar with doing regular urine tests and weekly blood sugar tests to monitor changes in insulin requirements. As a pet’s need for insulin reduces, the amount of insulin given by injection must correspondingly be reduced – or you can mistakenly give an overdose of insulin, which can cause hypoglycemia, a diabetic coma, or even be fatal. It is very important to discuss your decisions and dietary changes with your veterinarian so they can teach you how to monitor your pet at home.

One of my earliest cases was a small terrier cross that came to me with a daily dose of 18 units of Caninsulin. We changed the dog to a total raw food diet, and monitored the dog’s blood sugar levels closely. Over a period of 8-12 months, the dog’s insulin requirement progressively dropped. This dog went on to live until it was 18 years old, the last 7 years as a diabetic, even though the average life expectancy for diabetic dogs is usually only 2-3 years.

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