Canine Diabetes And Its Causes

Bowl of kibble - potential cause of diabetes in dogs

Diabetes mellitus occurs when the pancreas doesn’t  produce enough insulin. Insulin is required for the body to efficiently use sugars, fats and proteins.

Diabetes most commonly occurs in middle age to older dogs and cats, but occasionally occurs in young animals. Certain conditions predispose a dog to developing diabetes. According to the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, “Animals that are overweight or those with inflammation of the pancreas are predisposed to developing diabetes. Some drugs can interfere with insulin, leading to diabetes. Glucocorticoids, which are cortisone-type drugs, and hormones used for heat control are drugs that are most likely to cause diabetes.  These are commonly used drugs and only a small percentage of animals receiving these drugs develop diabetes after long term use.”

The conventional treatment of choice for diabetes is insulin.  Most dogs are also prescribed a veterinary formula processed food.

“Your veterinarian will recommend a specific diet and feeding regimen that will enhance the effectiveness of insulin. If your pet is overweight, s(he) will be placed on a weight-reducing diet. As the pet loses weight, less insulin will be needed. Only feed the recommended diet..NO table scraps or treats that are not part of the recommended diet.”

These veterinary formulas for diabetes are low in protein and high in carbohydrates.  Here is the ingredient list for one of the more popular veterinary prescription foods for diabetes:

Whole Grain Corn, Powdered Cellulose, Chicken by-product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Liver Flavor, Soybean Mill Run, Soybean Oil, Dried Beet Pulp, Lactic Acid, Soybean Meal, Caramel Color, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, Flaxseed, L-Lysine, Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Taurine, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Iodized Salt, L-Tryptophan, L-Carnitine, L-Threonine, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols & Citric Acid, Phosphoric Acid, Beta-Carotene, Rosemary Extract.

Hills states “At Hill’s, nutritionists and veterinarians have developed clinical nutrition especially formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition to manage dogs prone to weight gain. Prescription Diet® w/d® also helps dogs maintain normal blood glucose levels and promotes healthy digestion..”

Now, we’re not vets, but the ingredient list begs the question, how do corn and powdered cellulose help promote healthy digestion, especially in the dog, who’s physiology dictates that he should eat meat, not grains?  There are a lot of holistic vets who would ask the same question.


Dr. Peter Dobias maintains that the best way to avoid diabetes is to avoid carbohydrate-laden foods like the above in the first place.

“The pancreas is a gland that produces insulin and also fat and protein digesting enzymes. In carnivores and people, this gland is much more developed because of the nature of their diet. In healthy dogs, cats and humans, pancreas has no difficulties to digest protein and it also takes part in the fat digestion.

The problem comes with starches and sugar. Complex carbohydrates digest into simple form of sugar, glucose. While glucose is needed in reasonable amounts for a proper function of the cell, nature has never intended for us an our dogs to eat massive doses of carbs. Most people understand that filling up our cars with the wrong fuel will result in the engine malfunction and the same applies to our pets.

Excessive amount of carbohydrates creates too severe workload for the pancreas which forced to produce more insulin to get sugars out of the blood stream and into the cells. Overloaded pancreas becomes inflamed and the inflammation is brought to the attention of the body’s “housekeeper”, the immune system. Antibodies against the inflamed pancreatic cells are created and this process leads to dysfunction and destruction β-cells of the islets of Langerhans where insulin is produced.

Lack of insulin causes an increase of the blood sugar levels while the cells starve due to lack of energy. Insulin also participates in the body fat regulation. Too much sugar and carbs in our diet leads to increased production of insulin and inhibition of fat burning in the body. The lack of insulin leads to excessive fat disintegration and a toxic state called diabetic ketoacidosis.

While I am not intending to go into a complex explanation of how to regulate diabetes, I will repeat that it is much more pain in the butt to treat than looking into prevention.”

The reality is that I have not seen one single dog and cat on raw diet diagnosed with diabetes speaks for itself. Switch to raw, stop feeding processed food and you will reduce the chances of diabetes dramatically.

Avoiding foods rich in carbohydrates is an important step in preventing diabetes in companion animals.  An important second step is to avoid vaccination whenever possible.


Dr. J. Barthelow Classen published study results in The Open Endocrinology Journal that link vaccines to diabetes in children.  His work shows a 50% reduction of type 2 diabetes occurred in Japanese children following the discontinuation of a single vaccine; a vaccine to prevent tuberculosis. This decline occurred at a time when there is a global epidemic of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which includes obesity, altered blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and increased blood glucose resulting from insulin resistance.

Classen proposes a new explanation for the epidemic of both insulin dependent diabetes (type 1 diabetes), which has previously been shown to be caused by vaccines and non insulin dependent diabetes (type 2 diabetes). Upon receipt of vaccines or other strong immune stimulants some individuals develop a hyperactive immune system leading to autoimmune destruction of insulin secreting cells. Other individuals produce increased cortisol, an immune suppressing hormone, to suppress the vaccine induced inflammation. The increased cortisol leads to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Japanese children have increased cortisol secretion following immunization compared to White children and this explains why Japanese have a relative high rate of type 2 diabetes but low rate of insulin dependent diabetes compared to Whites. The lower cortisol response attributed to type 1 diabetes and the higher cortisol response attributed to type 2 diabetes explains why type 1 diabetics are generally leaner than type 2 diabetics since elevated cortisol causes weight gain.

“The current data shows that vaccines are much more dangerous than the public is lead to believe and adequate testing has never been performed even in healthy subjects to indicate that there is an overall improvement in health from immunization. The current practice of vaccinating diabetics as well as their close family members is a very risky practice,” says Dr. J. Barthelow Classen.

Classen’s research has become widely accepted. To view the published papers and to find out the latest information on the effects of vaccines on autoimmune diseases including insulin dependent diabetes visit the Vaccine Safety Web site

The same results are certain to occur in dogs.

Once a dog has diabetes, it can be difficult to treat him without resorting to insulin injections. The best way to treat diabetes is through prevention and the best way to prevent it is by feeding a fresh, raw, species-appropriate diet and by avoiding any vaccine that isn’t necessary. Need more information to start your dog on the path to good health?

Read our Raw Feeding Primer and What Every Vet Should Know About Vaccines.

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