Having a dog diagnosed with diabetes can be daunting. Fortunately, however, canine nutrition has come a long way in recent years. We now have a much better understanding of canine diabetes and the part that proper nutrition can play in it. Diabetic dog food can help you regulate your pet's condition without a lot of medications.
Although a canine diabetes diagnosis can be scary, know that it is not the end of the world. Canine diabetes can be easily and effectively managed so long as you have the right tools and the plenty of knowledge on your side.
For this reason, it's imperative that you work with your veterinarian, a canine nutritionist and any other member of your pet health team. Planning the right treatment for a diabetic dog is not something that you can do on your own.
Your veterinarian will be able to guide you in selecting the treatment plan that will meet your dog's needs and your budget. This plan may include diabetic dog food, medication and a change in activity level. While it will require more effort on your part, caring for a diabetic dog is not as difficult as you may originally think.
15 Tips on Diabetic Dog Food
and how to feed dogs with diabetes
1. Talk to your vet about your diabetic dog’s diet
When your dog is first diagnosed with diabetes, the first thing you should do is talk to your vet about your dog’s diet. Depending on your dog’s current state of health, you may or may not need to make adjustments to the quantity or type of food that your dog eats.
Not all dogs with diabetes require a special type of dog food r diet, so it’s important to know what your pet needs by talking with their veterinarian. If you decide that diabetic dog food and vet recommended brands should be part of your pup's treatment plan, you may also want to seek the help of a canine nutritionist.
2. There are alternatives to prescription diabetic dog foods
If your diabetic dog does require a change to the type of food that they eat, know that prescription diets are not your only option. Many vets push prescription dog foods because they are paid to do so or because they aren’t aware that there are other options out there.
Remember that your vet is not a canine nutritionist; most vets are general practice professionals.
If your vet recommends a prescription food that you are not comfortable with, make note of the details of the food being recommended. For example, if your vet recommends the Royal Canin Diabetic Diet, ask what it is that makes this food appealing. Your vet will likely tell you that the high fiber content, restricted fat content and lack of simple sugars is their reason for recommending this food.
Take this information and the specific levels of nutrients from the Royal Canin food and begin your own research into other dog food brands that may be suitable. If you prefer not to feed the dog food brands recommended for diabetic dogs and cannot find a reasonable commercial alternative, you can also consider home cooking or a raw diet.
3. Home cooking can help a diabetic dog to thrive
Home cooking may seem like a time-consuming and difficult process, but there are many resources available to help you. Not only are there many websites available with diabetic dog food recipes, but there are more than a few diabetic dog cookbooks on the market too!
So many pet parents of diabetic dogs have found their dog’s condition easier to manage with home cooking that online resources are thriving. Be sure you run any recipes by your veterinarian before feeding them to your dog. Just because an online site says it is a nutritionally balanced diabetic dog food, doesn't mean it truly is.
RECIPE #1: Homemade Diabetic Dog Food Recipe
4. Raw feeding might be a good solution for diabetic dogs
Raw feeding is beneficial for some diabetic dogs because it focuses on feeding whole and healthy foods. This increases your dog’s intake of vitamins, eliminates chemicals and preservatives, avoids unnecessary carbohydrates, and puts much less stress on internal organs as it is processed.
5. Don’t be afraid to try another diet type
If one type of diet doesn’t agree with your diabetic dog, don’t be afraid to try a different diet type. For example, if diabetic commercial diets don’t better your dog’s health, look into trying a raw food diet instead.
Different dogs thrive on various diets. Just because your dog’s diabetes is unmanageable on a commercial dog food, does not mean it will be unmanageable on a home cooked or raw diet too.
6. Different diets may work better with different insulins
Many owners of diabetic dogs have found that different insulin types tend to be more effective with certain diets. For example, Humulin N has been widely reputed as being most compatible with dogs on a raw diet.
Finding a diet that works for your diabetic dog and an insulin that works with that diet is a balancing act. Until you find a diet and insulin system that works for you, know that there are plenty of combinations out there!
RECIPE #2: Homemade Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs
7. Get rid of those traditional treats!
Commercial dog treats are widely known for being exceptionally high in calories, sugars and fat as well as for containing a large number of artificial ingredients. No dog needs to consume these types of ingredients, heck, humans shouldn’t be consuming them either!
So, ditch the commercial dog treats and substitute diabetic friendly whole food treats. Some great all natural treat options you can give to your dog include:
- Apples (without the core!)
- Natural fish jerky
- Oatmeal based homemade treats
8. Maintaining a healthy weight in diabetic dogs
Weight plays an important role in the health of a diabetic dog which is why diabetic dog food is often lower in calories and lower in fat. Regardless of what type of diet you feed your diabetic dog, though, it is important to keep a close eye on your dog’s weight.
Initially, most owners of diabetic dogs are instructed to help their dog lose weight by reducing calorie intake and increasing exercise. It is important not to reduce the diabetic dog’s weight too quickly, however, and not to prolong weight loss any longer than needed.
Tracking your dog’s weight with a weekly weigh-in can be beneficial during the first few months of managing your dog’s diabetes. This will help you to track weight loss vs. calorie intake so that you can understand your dog’s specific caloric needs.
9. Always time your insulin shots properly with mealtimes
Your vet will instruct you on how and when to give your dog their insulin injections. It is important to stick to this schedule so that the insulin injections can do what they are designed to do.
For dogs receiving insulin once daily, 2/3 of daily diabetic dog food intake is usually given before the first insulin injection. The second meal is then given between six and eight hours after the insulin injection.
For dogs receiving insulin twice daily, ½ of the daily diabetic dog food intake is usually given before the morning insulin injection. The second meal is then given between ten to twelve hours after the first insulin injection. The second insulin injection is then given after the second meal.
If your diabetic dog requires insulin shots, it is important to time these shots with your dog’s mealtimes.
EXPERT INTERVIEW: Dealing with Canine Diabetes ft. Rachel Poulin RVT
10. Make sure to stay on a feeding schedule
When your diabetic dog eats, their blood sugar rises. Unlike the average dog, however, the diabetic dog does not produce or use insulin effectively enough to turn that sugar into energy. This is why you must provide an injection of insulin after eating.
If dog's insulin shots are given too close together and your dog receives too much insulin, they may experience hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
If this happens, he will become listless and unresponsive. Measure your dog’s blood sugar, call their veterinarian and follow their advice. It will take a few hours for blood sugar to return to normal so they may have you give your dog another meal or bring them in for an exam.
If you forget to give insulin after your dog eats, your dog will experience high blood sugar. This will present with the same symptoms that you noticed when your dog was first diagnosed with diabetes – increased thirst and urination. This is not dangerous, but you should measure your dog’s blood sugar when you remember the missed insulin and give the shot if needed at that time.
11. Maintain consistency with your dog's meals
As a rule of thumb, any alteration in the carbohydrate content of your dog’s meals is going to result in a change in the amount of insulin needed. This is why it’s important to choose a diabetic dog food and stick with it.
If you choose to feed your dog a raw diet or home cooked diet, you can maintain consistency by tracking nutrient levels rather than feeding the same meal every mealtime.
12. When a diabetic dog refuses food…
Meals and insulin injections go hand in hand, so if your diabetic dog refuses food, you need to adjust their insulin. Despite not eating, most diabetic dogs will still require an injection of insulin, but this injection will be considerably less than usual.
How do you know how much insulin to give a diabetic dog who doesn’t eat? Talk to your vet. Every dog is different, so talk to your vet to prepare for such an occasion by mapping blood glucose levels and the correlating insulin injection amounts.
Diabetic dogs who do not eat a meal will require roughly 25% of their usual dose of insulin despite not eating.
13. When a diabetic dog vomits…
When a diabetic dog vomits after eating, their food intake has obviously been reduced. This reduction in diabetic dog food intake means that your dog is going to need a reduction in their insulin injection.
How do you know how much insulin your dog will need? The amount of insulin a diabetic dog should receive after vomiting will depend upon whether they have vomited up part or all of their meal. Talk to your vet and establish insulin levels and how they correlate to blood sugar readings for your dog.
Diabetic dogs who vomit after eating will generally require between 25% to 50% of their usual insulin injection.
14. Supplementing the diabetic dog’s diet
Many owners of diabetic dogs choose to supplement their dog’s diet to better manage their diabetes. These supplements are best when given at mealtimes and include L-carnitine, chromium, omega-3 fatty acids, cranberry extract, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.
Not all diabetic dogs require supplements and not all of the supplements above need to be given to see any benefit. If you do choose to use supplements, it is crucial that you talk with your vet about the right dosage of each supplement for your dog.
You must also record any supplements with your vet since some supplements can influence the effectiveness of medications or even interact with medications your pet could be taking. Supplements can be beneficial to managing canine diabetes, but only when given appropriately and monitored carefully.
15. Know what your dog eats and when
Most dog owners have a habit of giving their dogs table scraps, extra treats, and other food-based treats. For diabetic dogs, this type of indiscriminate feeding can have serious consequences so it is important to know what your dog eats and when they eat it.
Even a single treat can create an imbalance in your dog’s blood sugar!
If you live with family members or have a friend care for your dog, make them aware of your dog’s diabetes. Make sure that everyone is aware of the consequences of indiscriminately feeding a diabetic dog.