What Should You Feed Diabetic Dogs?


Diabetes mellitus is a manageable condition but it can be life-threatening when left untreated. Like us, dogs can also suffer from diabetes and it usually hits them during the middle age.

Treating diabetes involves the administration of insulin and changing the dog’s diet. In today’s post, we’ll put more emphasis on the adjustments needed for diabetic dogs.

Why Do Dogs Get Diabetes

Before we get into the details, it is important to understand how dogs get diabetes and the symptoms to watch out for. This condition occurs when their cells do not respond properly to insulin.

The pancreatic beta cells of a diabetic dog are not working efficiently in terms of taking in glucose from the bloodstream. The consequence is having greater levels of sugar in the blood.

A poor diet is the leading contributor to elevated sugar levels. Other possible reasons are stress, medications, and exertion. High blood sugar in canines is an indication of an underlying disease.

This can be pancreatitis or Hyperandrenocorticism, so consult your vet first to be sure that it is diabetes mellitus. Below are the symptoms to keep an eye for, in case you suspect it’s a case of diabetes mellitus:

  • Increased thirst and appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • More frequent urination
  • Vision problems
  • Chronic infections in the skin
  • Breath that smells sweet

In case your buddy displays all these symptoms, visit the vet immediately. Your vet will likely perform a series of exams, including a urinalysis to confirm if it’s really diabetes mellitus.

A dog with low specific gravity might be suffering from Diabetes Insipidus, a disorder that rarely occurs in canines. Glucose in the urine indicates diabetes mellitus.

Best Diabetic Dog Food List

Truth be told, it can be quite difficult to monitor the diet of a diabetic dog. You have to ensure that every food you offer falls in at least one of the four categories: fat-free, high-protein, moderate complex carbs, and slightly high in fiber.

Fat-Free Foods

Any food that has less than 0.50 grams of fat per serving is considered to be fat-free. Given that, some manufacturers use this to falsely advertise their product. Beware of products labelled with “fat-free.”

Many junk foods have this label and they can be sometimes misleading. They might contain table sugar that should be avoided when your dog is suffering from diabetes. Opt for healthy choices when choosing a fat-free treat for your buddy. The best choices are:

High-Protein Foods

A diet high in protein is associated with better weight loss results. You can also help your pet lower his carbohydrate intake if you feed him more protein-rich foods. Examples of the healthiest high-protein foods are:

  • Lean beef
  • Salmon
  • White fish
  • Legumes
  • Chicken
  • Shrimp
  • Greek yogurt
  • Mushrooms
  • Cabbage
  • Parsley

Moderate Complex Carbs

A dog suffering from diabetes should be given foods with a low glycemic index. GI is the measurement of how fast the carbs raise blood sugar levels. As we all know, carbohydrates can also contribute to the increase of glucose in the blood.

Your goal is to help manage your buddy’s weight. You can do that by giving him healthy foods that will make him feel fuller afterward. This prevents the need to eat more, which is common among diabetic patients. Foods with low-glycemic index or are considered as moderate complex carbohydrates are as follows:

  • Rolled oatmeal
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Legumes
  • Carrots

Do note that there are several factors that affect the glycemic index of every food. Foods that are preserved have a higher GI than the natural ones. When it comes to fruits and veggies, the riper they are, the higher the GI is.

Moderately High-Fiber Sources

In a research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was revealed that fibers, especially the soluble ones, can help in improving a diabetic’s glycemic control. Although this study was made on humans, the same may be true for dogs.

Do note that the soluble fiber is the type of fiber that makes one feel full. It attracts water and can help in the concentration of carbs in the body.

  • Berries
  • Peas
  • Pears
  • Barley

Aside from the ones mentioned above, it will also help to give your pet items that will help regulate the sugar in their body. Examples of best sugar-regulating foods for dogs are as follows:

Sugar-Regulating Foods

  • Coconut oil
  • Zucchini
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cinnamon
  • Berries
  • Melon

If you want to cook for your dog, there are so many homemade recipes you can try and most of them are easy to make. You can also combine your home-cooked meals with your pet’s prescription diets. Just make sure to decrease the amount of dry food when you are combining it with your home-cooked dishes.

Foods to Avoid for Diabetic Dogs

A diabetic dog needs to avoid foods that contain high amounts of sugar. In excess, the sugar in the dog’s body can cause its glucose levels to go up. Beware of the hidden sugar content in commercial pet food. The examples of high-sugar foods to avoid are:

  • Canned fruit
  • Cake
  • Milkshake
  • Candies
  • Cereal bars

There are manufacturers that use more sugar in their products than they should. Unfortunately, there are manufacturers who do this more than for palatability reasons. Some of them use sugar to conceal the bitter taste brought by the acidifying ingredients they used.

Avoid sharing your favorite desserts, such as doughnuts and muffins with your buddy. Some dogs will die for spaghetti, which is a favorite comfort food among humans. Resist the urge to share it even if your buddy begs for it. Pasta can increase glucose levels so no spaghetti and Mac and cheese for your dog at this moment.

Carbohydrates with High GI

Carbs turn to glucose as they enter the body. The glucose, on the other hand, is changed indirectly into sugar. But this does not mean that your pet can no longer munch on foods containing carbohydrates. There are healthy carbohydrates and there are some to avoid. Examples of foods with a high GI are:

  • White bread
  • Bagels
  • Russet potatoes
  • White rice

Fatty Foods

Aside from sugary treats, a diabetic dog should also not eat fatty foods. Consuming foods that are rich in fat can lead to pancreatitis or the inflammation of the pancreas, another condition that is considered as one of the risk factors for diabetes. The worst things to share with Fido, due to their high-fat content are:

  • Ham
  • Bacon
  • Sausages
  • Salad dressing
  • Meat Trimmings

There are foods containing high amounts of healthy fat and most of them are safe for your dog’s consumption. Meat, fish, and poultry are some of the good examples. Some sources of animal fat such as eggs can also be given to your dog in moderation.

Things to Consider When Choosing Commercial Food for Diabetic Dogs

  • Fiber content- fiber is an integral part of a diabetic dog’s diet. But you don’t need to put your diabetic dog on a high-fiber diet especially if he is already thin. If you wish to feed your dog dry food, check if the product can be mixed with wet food.
  • Natural flavors and ingredients – the product should be free from unnecessary fillers, preservatives, and artificial flavor that can cause ill effects in dogs. As much as possible, choose a dry food that is made of natural ingredients.
  • More protein, fewer carbohydrates- with so many brands out there, it might be confusing to tell which one will work best for your dog. If you can’t decide which one to get or you haven’t received a prescription formula from your vet, opt for a dog food that is loaded with protein but contains fewer carbs.

The Bottom Line

Diabetes is a manageable disease, so do not lose hope that your dog can still have a happy and long life. Of course, that will depend on how you help him manage the condition and that means you have to be a bit stricter with his meal portions and diet this time. He can still enjoy a lot of food and have treats every now and then, as long as they are free from fat and sugar. Aside from monitoring his appetite, it is also important to monitor his glucose levels at home at the onset of his insulin therapy.


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