What to Feed Your Diabetic Dog

Diabetes mellitus is about a lack of insulin and a need to balance insulin given by injection with dietary nutrients, especially sugars, fats and proteins.   Insulin is typically given only after the pet has eaten so the food should taste good and the pet should want to eat it.  The food you feed your diabetic dog  must be of a quality and quantity to maintain a good body condition so that the dog is able to build muscle and a healthy amount of body fat. Some diabetic dogs are very thin while others are too fat. It is important to discuss food choices with your veterinarian to tailor the diet to the individual dog rather than to adhere to rigid dietary rules.

The ultimate goal is to feed your dog two similar meals a day, approximately 12 hours apart, with less than 10% of the total nutrients for the day coming from treats. Insulin is given within an hour of eating each meal and this schedule should be maintained with as much regularity as possible.

Things to keep in mind about food for the diabetic dog:

  1.  Talk to your veterinarian about the right food for your dog.
    1. Be aware of foods that may lead to higher blood glucose levels after eating, including diets made for dogs with sensitive stomachs.  Diets made for dogs with sensitive stomachs are made for easy digestion and absorption, which leads to higher glucose after eating.  
    2. Check the soft moist foods for ingredients.  These foods may be preserved and flavored with sugars, leading to increased blood sugar.
    3. If your dog has pancreatitis, fat restriction is a must, although fat restricted diets may not be a good idea for very thin diabetic dogs.

As long as the diet is consistent, it is generally possible to work with it in achieving diabetic regulation. Here are some additional tips:

  • If the dog has an additional medical problem that requires a specific diet in its management, then this trumps the suggestions for diabetic management.
  • As long as a reputable food that has passed AAFCO feeding trials is being fed, it should not be necessary to add nutritional supplements.
  • Ideally, a brand of food with a fixed formula is preferred to one with an open formula. Foods with an open formula stick to their prioritized ingredient list on the label and to the guaranteed analysis minimums and maximums, but the exact ingredient amounts are not fixed. A fixed formula food uses specific amounts of each ingredient every time in every lot. In general, non-prescription diets are open formula diets.

Your veterinarian can help you choose the most appropriate food for your diabetic dog.

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