Finding the best diets for dogs with diabetes can be tricky because no one diet regimen will work for all dogs.
Their size, weight, allergies, and food preferences will all play a role.
What you feed your four-legged best friend is important, but nutrition becomes critical if they have a disease.
You must ensure they get the best combination of macronutrients and fresh, clean water.
After all, the best diets for diabetic dogs will help them live long, healthy lives.
In this guide, we discuss the symptoms of diabetes in dogs, dietary needs and restrictions, and helpful tips for managing your dog’s diet.
Can Dogs Have Diabetes?
Dogs are typically diagnosed with Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM.)
This type of dog diabetes is similar to Type 1 diabetes in humans.
This diagnosis means that the dog’s body can no longer produce insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas that helps process glucose.
Low insulin levels or insulin resistance causes the dog’s body to hold onto the glucose in their bloodstream.
Once the levels reach a certain point, they overflow into the dog’s urine along with large volumes of water.
The inadequate transport of blood glucose throughout the body also causes the dog to enter a state of metabolic starvation.
In this state, muscles and fat break down.
The dog’s liver processes this and turns it into sugar.
The result is often severe weight loss and dehydration.
Dogs can get diabetes at any age, although it most often occurs between four and 14.
Female dogs are 50% more likely to have diabetes than their male counterparts.
Obese or overweight pooches are also more at risk for having diabetes.
What Are Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs?
There are several key symptoms to watch out for in a dog you suspect may have diabetes.
If any of the following symptoms present, you must take your pet to the vet as soon as possible.
The sooner a diabetes diagnosis is made, the sooner you can begin treating them with medicine and the proper diet.
Excessive Water Drinking and Urination
Dogs with diabetes will be thirstier than normal and drink frequently.
The increase in water intake leads to an increase in urination.
That is the body’s way of ridding itself of the excess sugar, however, water is excreted alongside it.
Despite feeding your dog a calorie-sufficient diet, you may notice they are losing weight.
Weight loss is a common sign of diabetes in dogs because their bodies can’t process the food they are eating.
Therefore, they aren’t getting the proper nutrients.
Some dogs with diabetes will experience an increase in appetite.
Often, dogs with more advanced cases of diabetes will likely experience a loss of appetite, which is concerning for an owner.
Cataracts often develop in dogs with diabetes, which can become blindness if left untreated.
More than 75% of diabetic dogs will experience cataracts within a year of diagnosis.
Chronic infections such as UTIs, skin infections, and dental diseases are also common symptoms of diabetes.
That is because improper insulin balance within the body weakens the immune system.
What’s the Best Diet for Dogs With Diabetes?
One of the most critical factors in controlling a dog’s diabetes is to give them the best diet possible.
Unfortunately, this may come with some experimenting on your part with diabetic dog food requirements.
The best diets for dogs with diabetes are those made of high fiber.
Depending on their weight, most vets recommend between five and 15% of the dog’s diet consisting of insoluble fiber and digestible carbs.
Insoluble fiber is preferred by most diabetic dogs because of how it digests in the body.
This type of fiber slows down digestion to help a pup feel fuller longer.
What’s more, having it as part of a diabetic dog food diet allows your pooch to properly digest what they’ve eaten.
That will limit the risk of their blood sugar level spiking.
A low-fat diet is one of the best diets for diabetic dogs.
That is generally because low-fat diets are much lower in calories than high-fat diets.
A diabetic dog on a low-fat diet is more likely to lose weight, which can help reverse some of the more serious symptoms of the disease.
Lots of Water
Keeping your pet hydrated is key when managing canine diabetes.
Not only are diabetic dogs more thirsty due to the excess sugar levels in their bloodstream, but their high-fiber diet can also contribute to thirst.
You must always keep a bowl of clean, fresh water accessible to your dog.
Prescription Dog Food
Depending on the severity of the disease, your vet may prescribe prescription dog food to treat their diabetes.
Pet food can be diabetic-specific, with even dog treat options varied enough to satisfy the pickiest of eaters.
Prescription dog foods help increase soluble fiber while also restricting calories and fats.
Making sure your pup eats a precise amount of calories every day is also important for managing dog diabetes.
If they are getting too much food, they can gain weight.
This makes the problem worse.
Too few calories can cause severe weight loss.
What Should Diabetic Dogs Not Eat?
As with any diet, there are some foods that diabetic dogs should never eat.
If you have a diabetic dog, you should strictly avoid high-fat foods and anything with simple sugars.
Lots of Fat
Foods with a high-fat content raise the amount of fat present in the dog’s bloodstream.
This leads to inflammation in the pancreas, also known as pancreatitis.
An inflamed pancreas will release digestive enzymes prematurely which leads to the organ digesting itself.
Pancreatitis is highly damaging and painful for your diabetic dog.
To avoid this, stay away from foods like:
- Chicken skin
- Fatty pork
- Ground beef
- Meat by-products
- Canned Tuna
Simple sugars such as those found in baked dog treats, Greenies, and canned dog foods are also not good for a diabetic dog.
These foods contain high amounts of simple carbohydrates, sugar, and corn syrup which turn to glucose during ingestion.
Related: Can dogs eat bread?
What Human Food Can You Feed a Diabetic Dog?
Like people, some pups are picky eaters, even when it comes to what should be a tasty dog treat.
Given that, they might not like their new diabetes-friendly diet at first.
That can cause pet parents to stress about what kinds of foods they have around the house that their dog will eat.
Many human foods are off-limits to dogs with diabetes due to their high fat or high sugar content.
However, in a pinch, there are a handful of foods you can prepare or add to your dog’s food bowl.
Recommended human foods for picky diabetic dogs include:
- Shredded cheese
- Plain chicken
- Fresh vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, cucumber)
- Plain beef
- Low-fat fish
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Brown rice
- Whole-grain barley
High protein and high fiber human food are probably safe for your dog to eat.
However, it is always a good idea to confer with your veterinarian before giving your diabetic dog any human food.
When Should You Feed a Dog With Diabetes?
Knowing when to feed your dog with diabetes is also important.
Canine diabetes requires you to be consistent with managing their diet, so as to help their bodies regulate and digest food.
Dogs cannot get an insulin dose on an empty stomach.
So, plan meals around the times of day they will get theirs.
Diabetic dogs should eat at least twice a day within a 12-hour window.
Will Your Dog Be Able To Stop Insulin if You Stick to a Diet?
Diabetes is not curable in dogs.
If your dog requires an insulin injection as part of the diagnosis, they will likely need them for the rest of their life.
Tips for Managing a Diabetic Dog’s Diet
Managing a diabetic dog’s diet can be summed up in the following tips:
Keep an Eye on What They Eat and How Much
Your dog is not going to understand what is happening to them.
In that vein, be attentive to what they eat and how much they are consuming.
Otherwise, they could harm themselves through unhealthy habits.
Stick to a Schedule
Dog owners know how much a schedule is essential to a well-adjusted pet.
With that in mind, develop one for your dog’s diet.
Doing so will help their bodies digest food properly and keep your pup’s blood sugar level from spiking.
Balance With Exercise
Exercise is essential for good dog health while dealing with diabetes.
So, balance everything out with gentle exercises, like long walks.
Dogs thrive on predictability.
Diabetes is challenged, but you can make this another source of reassuring stability through consistent management of the condition.
Consult the Vet
When it comes to your pet’s wellbeing, there is no better option than to exercise caution by consulting with your vet.
If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to them for advice.
Although a diabetes diagnosis for your dog can feel overwhelming and scary, there is no need to panic.
There are many tools at your disposal that can help manage diabetes and ensure good dog health, from an insulin injection to a nutritious diet.
The best diets for dogs with diabetes are diets low in sugar, fat, and complex carbs.
A diet high in protein and fiber is the best way to get your pup the nutrients they need to live a long and happy life.
If you have any questions about managing dog diabetes, feel free to comment below.