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Canine diabetes is a serious lifelong condition in dogs, thus it must be well managed by pet parents who wish to keep their dogs happy and healthy for as long as possible.
Although nobody can guarantee that our dogs won't develop diabetes, there's a certain dog food for dogs with diabetes that can help with the condition.
There is no one ideal diet plan for diabetic dogs and each individual canine's needs and health have to be taken into consideration. When it comes to dogs with diabetes, some things to consider are:
- the weight of your dog
- the severity of the condition
- choice of dog food for diabetic dogs
EXTENSIVE BREAKDOWN: What is the Best Holistic Dog Food Brand?
Dog Food for Dogs with Diabetes: What You Need to Know
The main thing is to keep your diabetic dog's blood sugar levels even throughout the day; consistency is key in managing diabetes in dogs. There’s no point getting expensive prescription dog food for dogs with diabetes if they turn their noses up at it.
However, if you feed your pet commercial dog food you may have to consider introducing a higher quality brand to help manage your canine's diabetes condition more efficiently. With high quality dog food brands, it's easier to distinguish and find better quality ingredients, and these brands are usually made in the USA and can be more trusted.
We've previously written about overweight dogs, and have an eBook on that as well (which you can download by subscribing below), but there is no single dog food or diet plan for a diabetic dog that will suit all pets. The first few months after your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes will involve lots of trial and error to get the right diet and feeding schedule.
The most important thing is that your dog eats something, so shop around and find the dog food your pet likes the best and will enjoy. Many dog owners can manage their dog’s diabetes with a normal adult diet and a prescription diet is not required. If the dog has another illness, you will need to get dog food that's most appropriate for that illness and diabetes.
Pet parents looking for the best dog food for dogs with diabetes and wanting to fix this issue may want to look through Vet-recommended dog foods and consult with their veterinarian before subscribing pets to specially made dog foods. If you're looking for discounted dog foods, you can take a look at our recent post on best deals on dog food for cheaper options.
Carbohydrates in Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs
Carbohydrates are a nutrient that your dog's body converts into energy. Slow-release carbohydrates are better for dogs with diabetes because they won’t cause a sharp spike in blood sugar levels.
Some slow-release carbohydrate ingredients to look for in dogs foods that fall low on the glycemic index are:
- brown rice
- barley and bran
If you have a diabetic dog, avoid starchy ‘white’ carbs like wheat, maize, soy and potato in commercial dog foods.
Veterinarians say that any change in carbohydrate levels when changing your dog’s diet will affect the amount of insulin needed, so expect a lot of trial and error at the beginning of your diabetic dog's diet. However, this process will be worth it when you find a meal plan that you and your dog are happy about and can stay consistent with.
Dog owners must avoid many different types of soft, moist dog foods that come in sachets as these are often very high in sugar and low in fiber, thus they could make matters worse for your diabetic dog.
What science says? The National Research Council at the National Academy of Science has a great overview of this subject (carbs for dogs, diabetes in dogs) and other aspects of dog nutrition. Pet parents who would like to educate themselves and don't mind a long read, should take a look here.
Fiber in Dog Food for Dogs with Diabetes
There is some evidence that increasing soluble fiber can slow down the absorption of glucose into the blood. If your vet recommends increasing fiber, what your diabetic dog needs is dog food that will keep their blood sugar levels even without sharp spikes and the subsequent crashes.
Many commercial foods for dogs have low levels of fiber and use fillers like wheat and maize which are high in carbohydrates but low in fiber. Sometimes, high fiber diets can cause weight loss in dogs who are at a normal weight and high fiber diets do have some side effects like decreased appetite, bloating, diarrhea and constipation in dogs.
Side effects from high-fiber dog foods are much more likely to happen if the increase in fiber happens very suddenly, so it’s always best to introduce new dog foods over a longer period of time.
If your vet advises an increase of fiber in your dog’s diet, make sure to introduce any changes slowly by adding a small proportion of the new food to their usual one. Start at around ten percent and increase the amount of new kibble over a gradual period of a week or two.
Remember to keep an eye on your pup during this time to make sure the higher fiber content food isn’t causing them any stomach or bowel problems, and be extra vigilant with monitoring their blood sugar levels during this time.
Make sure you always provide fresh drinking water because fiber absorbs a lot of water from the body, and this can cause constipation and other stomach problems. Diabetic dogs may want to drink more on this diet plan, so it's vital to have water available at all times, and possibly even remind them of it.
For more choices on different types of foods for dogs that your vet may recommend to you, take a look at our picks of best dog foods and see if any of these brands can fit your diabetic dog's requirements:
Protein in Dog Foods for Diabetes
You can also opt for a ‘grain-free’ brand, which will have a much higher percentage of protein from meat or fish sources and don’t contain high carbohydrate ingredients like corn, wheat, maize and soy.
These foods are designed to resemble a dog’s natural diet in the wild and the high protein levels will keep them satisfied for longer. Again, talk to your vet first and if they give you the go-ahead, introduce any new food slowly and take care to monitor their blood sugar levels during the transition period.
If you need a list of good quality and decently priced grain-free dog foods, take a look at this list of 10 Best Grain Free Dog Food Brands.
Dog owners looking for more actionable advice on feeding their canines should read some of these articles below:
Fats in Dog Food for Dogs with Diabetes
Excess weight in dogs can increase the chances that a diabetic dog will suffer from additional health complications, so if your pet is a little on the heavy side, you will want to either slowly introduce a lower calorie food – if they like it and eat it – or reduce portion sizes slightly (but keep mealtimes consistent) if they are picky eaters.
Take a look at our eBook with a diet plan for overweight dogs which you can get by subscribing at the end of this article. In there, we've laid out a plan alongside some tips for overweight and diabetic dogs.
In additional, regular, moderate exercise will definitely help your diabetic dog to slowly and safely lose weight. Always be careful to not overdo it if your pooch was previously very sedentary; a slow and steady weight loss is important to keep your dog's diabetes in check.
Sometimes, dogs with diabetes will also have other concurrent conditions which need to be taken into account when considering their diet. If your dog has diabetes and Cushing’s disease, pancreatitis, high cholesterol, elevated triglyceride levels, or high levels of fat in the blood, then your canine's diet may need to be made lower in fat.
Managing weight is especially important in diabetic dogs because a healthy weight reduces the risk of additional health complications. Use proper calorie calculators for dogs to make sure you're right on point. Here's a great calorie calculator.
When choosing a low fat dog food, pick a good quality brand and make sure that it has good levels of protein and absolutely no fillers. It’s often recommended that if fat is reduced in a dog’s diet that protein should be increased slightly to avoid replacing fat with carbohydrates.
Furthermore, pet parents should also take a look at using dog supplements to help out with nutrition. There are some great vitamins and supplements for dogs that are often recommended by veterinarians (see below) that will help replace some of the nutrition from dog foods, as well as help with your dog's diabetes and much more. Always consult with a veterinarian before giving any of these dog supplements to your pet.
- 7 Vet Recommended Supplements for Dogs
- 8 Superb Pet Supplements for Your Dog
- 56 Most Popular Dog Supplements
- How I Give My Dog Essential Supplements She Doesn’t Like
Tips on Choosing Dog Food for Dogs with Diabetes
A quick tip for checking out dog food for dogs with diabetes is that ingredients are always listed in order from highest to lowest proportion on the packet, so the closer to the beginning of the list an ingredient comes, the more of it the food contains.
ALSO READ: How to Read Dog Food Labels
Feed your dog at regular intervals two to three times a day and keep this timing regular every day. This will ensure your dog’s blood sugars stay even and allows you to find a stable routine. If your dog’s blood sugar levels fall too low between meals, it is okay to give your pet a healthy snack or healthy and vet recommended dog treats to keep them on an even keel.
To best control your diabetic dog's sugar levels, it is important to feed consistent meals at fixed times each day. Ideally, your dog's meals are timed to the insulin injection; for example, feed your dog and give insulin within 1 hour to help combat the blood sugar rise from his dog food.
The insulin works effectively at each meal, and it is best that each feeding contains the same amount of calories and the same ingredients so that the insulin will have an expected effect.
Feeding your Fido just before administering insulin may be safer to ensure your dog eats because otherwise the insulin on an empty stomach can be dangerous. Alternatively, give your pooch a little of his diabetic dog food, then the insulin, and then the rest of his meal as a reward.
If you’ve tried different brands of diabetic dog foods and still your dog isn’t keen on the his new kibble, you can add a tiny bit of canned dog food as incentive, sprinkle that dog food with a little chicken or add a spoonful of low-salt broth. Ask your veterinarian for more tips on how to have your dog love his new dog food using healthy methods.
Do not give your dog treats at random as this can cause blood sugar levels to spike. Doggy treats should be consistent and it’s best to give them around four to six hours after your pet received an insulin injection.
It would be smart to avoid commercial dog treats that are high in carbohydrates and sugar, and instead opt for pet treats that are high in protein such as freeze dried meat, or even nibbles of fresh meat. Here are some of the best dog treats we've seen.
With a little research, trial and error and proper planning, you can pick the best dog food for dogs with diabetes, and your canine's diabetes can be controlled. As a general rule, choose dog foods for diabetic dogs that are high in protein, moderate in fat and low in carbohydrates. Make sure your pet gets lots of exercise, eats well and on time, and the diabetes will be kept in check.