Diabetic Dog Food: Learn How to Get The Best for Fido

Diabetic Dog Food
Anna Smith
Written by Anna Smith

When it comes to keeping your dog healthy, a healthy, balanced diet is very important. It takes care of both their insides and their outsides, so they look good and feel good at the same time. But sometimes, your dog can’t subsist on the normal dog food that you find at the store for health reasons. One of the most common diseases that can be caused by the food a dog eats is diabetes.

It can arise from a genetic condition or can be the result of overeating. This can mean you’ll have to resort to looking for diabetic dog food to help your pooch control his condition. So what can you do to keep this condition from becoming too problematic?

What is diabetes?

In dogs, diabetes is a disorder that causes the body to not react properly to insulin. This can take place in two forms: either the dog’s body does not produce insulin (this is the most common form of diabetes in dogs) or insulin is produced but the dog’s body is not responding to it properly (this is known as insulin resistance).

Canine diabetes infographic

Normally, when food is ingested, it is broken down into glucose, which is then absorbed into the pancreas to create insulin. Insulin moves sugar into the blood cells so that they can be used as energy. Without it, the cells can starve and eventually die, resulting in a number of health complications that can be life threatening.

What are the common signs of diabetes?

The signs to look for are:

  • a change in appetite
  • excessive water consumption
  • increased urination
  • breath is sweet-smelling
  • dehydration
  • lethargy
  • urinary tract infections

If you do notice a combination of any of these symptoms, it is important that you schedule an appointment with your vet immediately. It is likely that blood tests and a urinalysis will be taken in order to confirm a diagnosis. Once your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, then he will remain diabetic for the rest of his life.

There is no cure for it, so it will have to be carefully managed through diet. Even so, they may require insulin injections for the rest of their lives. Regulation of a careful diet plan is the most important step in ensuring that your dog’s condition does not become severe.

What kind of food should I feed?

High quality dog food brands are best, as they contain higher amounts of dietary fiber. Studies have shown that the inclusion of fiber in the diet slows down the absorption of glucose from the digestive system, preventing a sugar spike after a meal. Many of these high quality foods can be found at your pet store, or you may need to get a prescription from your vet to obtain one.

Hill's Prescription Diet low fat

If diabetes is the result of your pet being overweight, then helping him to shed those unnecessary pounds will definitely help. A reduction in weight can actually affect your pet’s sensitivity to insulin, and may result in the need for insulin shots even less. This can save you on a lot of hassle in vet trips in the future. Provide your dog with food that has reduced calorie content, and engage him in more vigorous exercises throughout his day. If your dog is underweight, then reduced calorie food is not recommended.

If you’re not sure on what kind of diabetic dog food is available for purchase, here are a few brands that you can easily find online:

  • Hill’s Prescription diet w/d low fat: The Hill’s Prescription Diet is designed to help your dog lose weight and keep his insulin under control. It’s been formulated with extra carnitine to boost his metabolism, and also stabilizes blood glucose levels by the inclusion of fibre, which helps your dog to fill fuller much more quickly.
    What carnitine does, which is biosynthesized from certain amino acids, is to move long-chain fatty acids into the cells of the body so that they can be burned for energy. This helps the cells to still thrive without the same demand for glucose and insulin.
  • Royal Canin Glycobalance: Royal Canin produces both a dry and wet dog food that can be used interchangeably, depending on the particular tastes of your dog. Fat content is reduced to help your dog lose weight, and fiber has been added to slow the production of glucose within the body. Complex carbs force the body to work a little harder in producing the energy that it needs and moderates the level of sugar in the blood.
  • Purina DCO Dual Fiber Control dog food: although this has been designed for dogs with stomach issues, the reduced fat content and complex carbohydrates are the perfect ingredients to help your dog control his blood sugar levels and stop him from gaining more weight. The increased fiber content will also reduce the rate at which glucose is converted into insulin by the pancreas.
  • Wellness Complete Health natural dry dog food: Maintaining a healthy weight is the key in the fight against diabetes, and Wellness takes a step in the right direction with their reduced calorie dog food. It helps overweight dogs to trim those pounds, and natural fiber to promote healthy intestinal tracts. All natural products are used, with no meat byproducts, corn, wheat or soy.
    There are also no artificial additives, flavors or preservatives, so you know that your dog is getting the best. Wellness also makes wet canned dog food, so that you can provide more meal options for your dog.

Can I feed my dog treats?

Keeping your dog healthy and fit doesn’t mean that he has to go without the occasional small treat every now and again. Eliminating treats from your dog’s diet entirely can be cruel and leave him feeling disappointed, but there are a number of healthy treats that can be used, especially if you’re still in the process of training your young dog to follow commands.

Ella's diabetic dog treats

Finding the best treat will require you to read ingredients carefully. Don’t pick treats that contain any obvious kinds of sugar. Eliminate treats that include corn syrup, malt syrup, molasses, cane sugar, maltose, dextrose or fructose. Whole grains and protein are a must so that your dog can still receive the energy that he needs.

Here are a number of healthy treats that you can purchase online:

  • Ella’s diabetic dog treats: these dog treats are made with all-natural ingredients and are free of any preservatives. They don’t include any ingredients that would spike a dog’s sugar, such as potato, wheat, and corn. However, they’re still tempting to even the pickiest of dogs, so you won’t have to worry about your canine turning up your nose at them.
  • Old Dog Cookie Co. diabetic cookies: these certified organic dog treats are only made with natural ingredients. They were made with diabetic dogs in mind, so they include ingredients that help to regulate the levels of insulin within the body. Made by a company that has specialized in these treats for over fifteen years, they supply many vets with their treats to provide to their patients and their owners.

In the event that you aren’t sure of what kind of treats to buy, there are some natural treats that you may already have in your home that are perfectly suitable for your diabetic dog. Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli or green sweet peppers make excellent treats for your dog while still providing him with some fiber. Tofu can also make a good dog treat, as it’s high in protein but has very few calories.

If you’re feeling extremely creative, you can even make your own dog treats at home, using the same food that you provide in his meals. Simply crush the dog food and mix together with a low fat, low sodium chicken broth, and then bake it in the oven until it’s dry. It may be the same stuff, but having it in a different form and shape can convince your dog he’s getting a treat.

All Natural Diabetic Dog Treats

Always remember that treats should be offered in moderation. Remember that you’re trying to help your dog maintain his weight in the process, and providing too many treats will only make him fatter. Instead of giving your dog one large treat, break a large treat into several small pieces, and provide half of them in one day.

He won’t know the difference, and you can still treat him guilt free. Lastly, include treats in a special toy that makes your dog have to think or work to get it out. This will help him to burn more of the calories than he’s getting from the treat itself.

How often should I feed my dog?

In order to regulate the levels of insulin, the timing of your dog’s meals will have to be adjusted. Food should be provided just before the insulin activity peaks so that the food can be digested and burned more efficiently, and keeping blood glucose levels more stable.

Your vet will help you to decide whether a strict feeding schedule needs to be adhered to, as the feeding habits of your dog can be very particular. Gluttonous dogs should be placed on schedules, while dogs that nibble on their food throughout the day don’t need to be.

Dog feeding chart

Knowing the kind of insulin peaks that your dog has will also dictate what kind of feeding schedule he should be on. Strong insulin peaks require schedules in order to benefit most from the insulin levels in the blood. Feeding after a peak will result in a sugar spike since there is no insulin present to counteract it.

This is less important for insulin that has a gradual onset and curve, as it’s present in the blood throughout the entire day. Your veterinarian can help you to figure out what is best through blood tests.

What are other options?

If your dog is quite picky and doesn’t want to try a new brand of food, you can always home cook his meals. Although it can be a little time consuming to cook your dog’s meals in addition to your own, it can certainly help to provide a more balanced aspect to your dog’s diet, still maintain his weight, and being completely positive about the ingredients he is ingesting.

It is important to be consistent from meal to meal in order to ensure that your dog is getting everything that he needs. It is important that you consult your vet before you consider making home cooked meals for your diabetic dog. He can provide with some tips and recipes should he feel that your dog’s diabetes can be regulated in this manner.

Meat with uncooked pearl barley, rice and beans

Here is one such recipe that can be altered as necessary, depending on the dietary needs of your dog. This makes roughly two gallons of food, so you can spend less time in your day making food. You’ll need:

  • 6 lbs of any kind of lean meat (chicken or lean ground beef)
  • 5 cups of uncooked pearl barley
  • 5 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 2 cups of any green vegetable (spinach or green beans; do not use peas)
  • 24 cups of water

Bring everything to boil in a large pan and cook until all of the water is absorbed. This can be provided on its own, or can be mixed with high-quality dog food to provide your canine with some variety in his food.

What should I do if my dog still won’t eat?

Some dogs can be fussy eaters, and it can be difficult to get him to eat when he needs to, especially with his diabetes. Short of forcing the food down his throat, there isn’t a lot that you can do. Switching over to a completely new meal can have your dog turning his nose up at it and refusing it altogether.

Instead, try to wean him into it. Add a little bit to his regular food and, over time, start to increase the amount until he’s only eating the new food. This gradual method is generally accepted, unless your vet recommends that an immediate change be made.

But what happens if your dog still continues to refuse to eat? It can be life-threatening for your pet if he doesn’t eat, especially after he’s been given an insulin injection. There are some things that you can try to entice him to eat, such as high quality foods that you know he can’t resist. Be sure that these are healthy additions, however, and won’t jeopardize your dog’s health in any way.

Dog won't eat

One trick is to add some kind of topping to his food and to mix it in so that he eats all of it. It needs to be well incorporated so that he can’t pick them out and still leave the dog food behind.

Some good toppings to use are a small amount of wet tuna, scrambled eggs, shredded cooked chicken, low sodium chicken broth, crumbled crackers, or a small amount of quality wet canned food. Not only will it get your dog to eat, but he’ll also believe that he’s getting a treat in the process.

If that still doesn’t work, then eating something is better than eating nothing at all. Even if it’s not your dog’s usual food, getting him to eat something that’s reasonably healthy will definitely help. Any of the high quality treats mention above, such as tofu and certain vegetables, will definitely make the difference in ensuring that your dog’s health isn’t on the line. It’s fine to do this once or twice, but if your dog continues to refuse to eat, then you should seek the advice of your vet in order to remedy the situation.

Can I monitor my dog’s glucose from home?

If you want to be able to better monitor your dog’s blood glucose levels at your convenience without a trip to your vet’s office, then there are some devices that you can purchase online to help you, such as the AlphaTRAK 2 blood glucose monitoring system kit. It comes with an instructional DVD and all of the tools that you’ll need to conduct a blood test at home so that you know that your dog’s diet change is working.

Always be sure to contact your vet before purchasing one of these devices so that you can receive recommendations on the best ones to get, and how often your dog should be tested.

AlphaTRAK 2 blood glucose monitoring system kit

Taking control of your dog’s diet is the first step to putting a leash on his diabetes. It can be a debilitating condition if it’s not controlled properly, and can make your dog extremely sick. Without treatment, your dog can develop cataracts (loss of vision from cloudy lenses), severe urinary tract infections, can fall into a coma, and may even die.

It’s a lifelong condition that has to be carefully monitored and maintained. However, your dog can live a full long life with diabetes without the quality of his life diminishing.

About the author
Anna Smith
Anna Smith

Anna Smith resides in beautiful Santa Monica, CA, where she works as a Pet Nutrition Expert in a leading retail pet store. She is responsible for nutritional strategies for different breeds and development of new products on the market in compliance with Association of American Feed Control Officials. Anna's passions are education about proven methods and best practices in the industry and her dog Max, who is always well-fed.