Diabetes is not uncommon in mice and other pets. Usually the first indication is the amount of water the animal consumes and the amount it pees. I discovered that one of my mice, Athena, was drinking a lot of water and her cage smelled strongly of urine. Previously she had been one of my most active and athletic mice, but now she was acting lethargic and clumsy. I knew I had to do something for her but I was at a loss, it's difficult monitor blood glucose levels and give insulin to mice, especially a very fast deer mouse with sharp teeth, so I had to find another way. After consulting with my vet, my personal doctor and a number of message boards, I started to come up with a plan.
I had been feeding them mostly low fat dog food. A breeder friend, Melissa Bueckert, pointed out that complex carbohydrates were better than simple ones because they convert to sugar much slower, and corn (a filler in many dog foods) was not a good source. She suggested that unprocessed foods (raw) were better than processed foods. She also pointed out that even though mice are omnivores, they are primarily grain eaters, but suggests adding up to 25% veggies and cooked beans for protein. She doesn't like animal protein, at least for diabetes.
I located an interview with Ron Rosedale, M.D. on Insulin and It's Metabolic Effects that I found very helpful. There is another interview with Dr. John McNeill on Vanadium and Diabetes. These interviews were published by the Designs for Health Institute, which has a number of articles and interviews that you may be interested in, see Robert Crayhon Articles And Interviews with Experts. * Unfortunately the Designs for Health Institute site is no longer available. I've located another site for Dr. Ron Rosedale's article (see link above). You may try searching the internet for information on Dr. John McNeills article.
I had picked up a book called The Nature of Animal Healing by Martin Goldstein, DVM (no relation to Bucky Goldstein). This book is about holistic veterinary care, mostly for dogs and cats. Dr. Goldstein talks about curing or controlling diabetes through diet. He also uses insulin, but tries to get animals off if possible. For a diabetic dog or cat, he suggests a diet of 50% complex carbohydrates (grains), 25% chopped and steamed veggies, and 25% protein (egg or meat). This is for animals that are carnivores. Mice are omnivores and their diet should reflect this even more. Dr. Goldstein also points out that commercial pet food just isn't that good, he talks a lot about what they put on the label and what it means. He says:
"Imagine waking up in the morning and coming down to the kitchen to make yourself breakfast. You take some soybean grits, mix them with some tainted cattle-meat meal, throw in a few beaks and feathers, smother your concoction with preservatives and dyes. Pressure-cook the hell out of it, let it cool - and dig in?"
"You can boost your pet's health profoundly by making one simple decision. All you have to do is to change his diet from unhealthy, commercial-brand fare to something you may never have imagined giving him: real food!"
I also received advice from my vet and my own doctor about Athena, and came to some conclusions. The only way I was going to be able to treat Athena was through diet. There was no way I could test every combination of diet, I'm not running a lab, these are my pets. I also couldn't be preparing lots of special diets for different mice. I figured that a diet that was healthy for Athena would be healthy for all the mice. I could adjust the diet for different mice by adding supplements. I thought about what mice eat in the wild (my guys are more wild than most), which is most anything editable, plants, seeds, grain, meat, fruit, etc. I finally came up with a basic diet consisting of whole and rolled wheat, oats, barley and rye; buckwheat and flax seed. I supplement this with different types of raw veggies, yogurt and cooked beans. I also provide fruit and seeds (hemp, red and white millet, pumpkin and sunflower etc.) as treats. Sometimes I give them a little salmon or other fish. Fish and flax seed are also a source of essential fatty acids (omega-3 oil) a good anti-oxidant. Athena doesn't get very much fruit or fish because of the sugar and fat, when I give her seeds I give pumpkin seeds and hand out 1 or 2 individually to all the mice with her (that's Athena, CC and Ghost).
I also supplement their water with alpha lipoic acid, chromium, vanadium and vitamin C on the advice from my own doctor and my vet. Chromium and vanadium are helpful in the metabolizing of sugar; the alpha lipoic acid and vitamin C are good anti-oxidants. The mixture I use is as follows: To a half gallon of water I mix 500 mg vitamin C, 100 mg alpha lipoic acid, 500 mcg (micro grams) chromium and 10 mg Vanadium. This is a condensed mixture for easy storage in the refrigerator. I then dilute this mixture at 2 ounces to a quart of water before use, that's about 1 part of the condensed mixture to 16 parts water.
The results? Athena, CC and Ghost all lost a lot of weight and are very sleek mice (well Ghost became a bit thinner). These were the fattest of all my mice. They are all much more active and most importantly, Athena's water consumption went down from about 4 ounces per day for the all three of them, to about 2 ounces per day for the group. Athena was drinking most of that 4 ounces a day. In round numbers, that's a 50% improvement in water consumption (an indicator of diabetes). I was making headway, but still not enough.
I then asked Jake Fratkin, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, about her and he gave me some Chinese herbs for diabetes. He prescribed Yu Quan Wan pills that were ground into powder. He instructed me to mix a teaspoon of the herb with about a half-cup boiling water, let cool and strain out the residue. I than added this mixture to her water at about 1 eyedropper full (1 squirt) per 4 ounces of water. After a month of this treatment, her water consumption dropped to between 1/2 an ounce and 1 ounce per day for the three mice. She became much more active and would run strongly on her wheel. She seemed much happier and was always the first one in line when I handed out their daily pumpkin seed treat.
You can mail order Yu Quan Wan directly from Dr. Fratkin. It's very inexpensive; a year's supply cost me $8.00. See these sites for some more information about Dr. Jake Fratkin:
JAKE PAUL FRATKIN, OMD. L.Ac.
Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist
7764 Jade Ct.
Boulder, CO 80303