What’s the Best Diet for My Dog with Diabetes?


Dogs suffer from many of the same health conditions as we do, diabetes included.

If your dog is suffering from diabetes, it simply means that his pancreas is not producing insulin, or it’s not producing enough insulin.

Insulin is a vital hormone that allows your pooch to absorb sugar (in the form of glucose) into his bloodstream once he has eaten. The insulin then transports the glucose around the cells in your dog’s body, deploying it for growth and energy.

When a dog has diabetes, his body is unable to properly regulate levels of blood sugar. If these blood sugar levels rise too much, it triggers hyperglycemia. Initially, dogs can handle this, but it often leads to them being seriously sick if they pick up another illness, too, a urinary tract infection, for example. Beyond this, diabetic dogs also suffer from a laundry list of other health problems.

I. Types of Canine Diabetes

The vast bulk of diabetic dogs have type I diabetes. With this form of diabetes, just like type I diabetes in humans, your furball won’t be able to produce insulin at all. This means he’ll need lifelong insulin treatment.

Type II diabetes in dogs is much rarer. This form of diabetes is typically triggered by obesity. Your pet’s pancreas will produce some insulin, but the amount will be insufficient. In some cases, the dog’s body won’t respond as it should and insulin builds up in the body.

How, then, can you tell if your dog has diabetes?

II. The Signs and Symptoms of Canine Diabetes

Keep your eyes peeled for any of the following possible markers of diabetes in your dog:

  • Excessive urination triggered by glucose sucking water into the dog’s urinary tract
  • Extreme thirst as your dog’s body struggles under the burden of fluid loss
  • Weight loss due to the sugars not broken down by the dog’s body and being lost in his urine. Resultantly, the dog will not be getting enough calories, and his body will then start breaking down far reserves to compensate
  • Hunger as your dog’s body believes it is starving

III. How Can You Get Canine Diabetes Diagnosed?

First, a blood test will indicate the status of insulin levels in your dog’s blood and urine. If these levels are elevated, especially if you notice any of the above symptoms, your dog probably has diabetes.

Sometimes, though, heightened levels of glucose are stress-related. A test monitoring fructosamine levels can confirm this or rule it out. This is sometimes conducted over a period of weeks to establish whether you’re dealing with an isolated problem or an ongoing condition.

What can you do about diabetes in dogs, then?

IV. How Changing Your Dog’s Diet Can Help Control Diabetes

Whether or not your dog has diabetes, you should aim to provide him with a balanced diet. This is doubly important for a diabetic dog.

You should avoid the temptation to feed Fido table scraps. These might whet his whistle, but they’ll also potentially impact glucose levels.

Broadly, you should shoot for a high-fiber diet. A fiber-rich diet can help to boost blood sugar levels.

Get some guidance from your vet if necessary and calculate your dog’s precise daily caloric requirement. You’ll factor in his weight, breed, and activity level when working this out. You’ll not only need to keep an eye on what your dog is eating, but also on how much he is eating.

Research into the best diet for dogs with diabetes is vigorous and ongoing. While opinions still vary, there are nevertheless some general guidelines most vets will recommend. This advice distills to a diet that’s high in fiber, low in fat, low in carbs, and with decent levels of protein.

By loading your furball up with enough fiber, you’ll slow down the rate at which glucose enters his bloodstream. He’ll also feel fuller for longer if he eats fiber-rich food.

With low-fat foods, you’ll also get fewer calories, ideal for weight management purposes in diabetic dogs.

Proper hydration is just as critical as the right foods. Fiber saps water from your dog’s body, and this can lead to constipation if not countered with adequate water intake.

You should find that most dogs cope well with store-bought food. Sometimes, your vet may recommend a prescription diet for your dog. More rarely, he may suggest a homemade diet, but one that’s made by a veterinary nutritionist.

V. What Are The Best Dog Foods for Dogs with Diabetes?

According to AAHA guidelines, the overall consistency of your dog’s diet is more important that the type of food. This assumes, of course, that the diet is balanced and complete.

Avoid all foods containing simple sugars. These will spike your dog’s blood sugar level.

High-glycemic foods like bread or white rice will also rapidly boost blood sugar, so give these a swerve, too.

In overweight dogs, incorporating more fiber – both soluble and insoluble – can powerfully streamline weight management.

In underweight dogs, by contrast, you’ll need to focus on providing a top-notch maintenance diet. Diabetic dogs requiring insulin injections need these administered on a full stomach, so if your dog is not eating, you need to address this.

Occasionally, dog with diabetes also suffer from pancreatitis. This is a condition that doesn’t respond well to high-fat foods. Scale back the fat content while simultaneously increasing the carb content of your dog’s food to fight back.

VI. Some Advice in Closing

You should strive to keep your diabetic dog lean. Tailor his daily caloric intake to maintain a lean body weight if your dog is already in good condition. If, on the other hand, your pooch is overweight or obese, try to return him to a healthy bodyweight. Although type I diabetes is not directly caused by obesity, overweight dogs are less healthy in general.

When your dog has eaten, his blood glucose levels will naturally increase. Insulin will get these levels back down to normal.

If your dog has twice-daily insulin injections, the best way to achieve this is by feeding him two meals of equal size spaced twelve hours apart. Each meal should be given at the time of the injection or directly before.

In the event of a single daily insulin injection, make Rover’s first meal two-thirds of his daily rations. Feed him before his insulin injection. Give your dog his second dose of insulin with his remaining food anywhere about eight hours later.

You should avoid self-feeders with diabetic dogs, and you should not allow them to free-feed either. Structure meals coinciding with insulin administration are proven effective for managing canine diabetes.

By feeding Fido the same amount of food at the same time each day without variation will give his blood sugar levels the best chance of staying in balance.

You should work closely with your dog’s vet when implementing any changes to his diet. If you’re planning to change his food, your vet will have plenty of salient advice. You may need to undertake some extra blood glucose monitoring if you’re changing up Rover’s food. Again, consult with your vet to avoid making any damaging changes.

For the most part, dogs suffering from diabetes are insulin-dependent. This allows you to adjust the amount of insulin administered to properly control his blood sugar levels. By providing your dog with a consistent diet, you’ll minimize the number of tweaks to insulin management you’ll need to make. Stick with the plan and soon enough you’ll fall into a happy and easy routine with daily shots becoming routine.

To get things started, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your dog’s vet. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to arrange the right medication, and to flesh out your understanding of diets impact on diabetes in dogs.

VII. Do Dogs Need Medication to Control Diabetes?

Once diagnosed, your vet will determine a type and dose of insulin appropriate for your furball. This may take some time to dial in.

Typically, you’ll give your pet a shot twice daily, spaced twelve hours apart. Administer injections after your dog has eaten.

Beyond this, you may need to check your dog’s glucose levels through taking a swab of blood with a pin prick.

Follow your vet’s instructions precisely and stick to a rigid schedule with injections. Although there’s a slight learning curve involved, you’ll soon be treating him with ease.

VIII. Conclusion

We hope today’s glimpse at the best diet for your diabetic dog has cleared up why your dog needs help, as well as the nature of the help you need to give him.

Stick with our advice concerning canine diets for diabetes and your furball can go on to enjoy a long and happy life.

Bookmark BarkVA before you head off today and be sure to pop back soon!

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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