Food is a critical aspect of maintaining a diabetic dog’s health, and that means the type of food he eats, the amount and even the timing.
Diabetic dogs don’t tend to eat too much, in fact most senior dog parents are looking for advice on how to get their dogs to eat. Having said that, a dog may eat too much if he has diabetes but the condition has not yet been diagnosed, or it has been but isn’t yet stabilised.
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What is diabetes?
The most common type is diabetes mellitus, and here’s what that means.
The pancreas, an organ near the stomach, produces insulin which helps control blood sugar (glucose) levels. When a dog eats, the glucose levels rise – how high depends on the sugar content of the food. The pancreas makes insulin in order to get those levels back down to normal.
When a dog has diabetes, the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to normalise glucose levels, so they remain too high and that is known as hyperglycemia.
When that happens a dog’s body produces extra urine, causing your dog to pee more often. Since he’s peeing more often, he will drink more often as well but it won’t be enough to prevent dehydration.
“This combination of very high blood sugar and dehydration will eventually affect the brain’s ability to function normally, leading to depression, seizures and coma. It is rare, however, since symptoms will often warrant a visit to the veterinarian before a pet’s health has deteriorated to that level.”
What happens when a diabetic dog eats too much or not enough?
With diabetes it is all about balance.
- Eating the same amount of food at pretty much the same time every day
- Taking insulin on schedule
- Maintaining the same level and amount of exercise every day
Too much of either/all of the above can be dangerous.
Mild hyperglycemia (high glucose) is always better than hypoglycemia (low glucose), so it’s extremely important for your diabetic dog to eat. Too much food can elevate glucose to higher levels than are safe, causing what we already discussed – more peeing – more drinking – dehydration.
By the same token, failure to eat (a big problem with diabetic dogs) leads to low levels which can put your dog at risk for –
- Blurred vision
- Disorientation and confusion
- Weakness, low energy, loss of consciousness
- Seizures (rare)
- Anxiety, restlessness
- Heart palpitations
Exercising your dog too intensely can also cause a drop in glucose levels.
Is your dog really overeating or is he just hungry?
One of the signs your dog has diabetes is that he’s hungry all the time, and no matter how much he eats he seems to always want more. Not only that, he may also be losing weight.
This is because the glucose your dog’s body needs for fuel cannot enter the cells, meaning the body cannot effectively use that fuel for energy. The body is always hungry and cannot be satisfied.
Fat dogs and diabetes
What about overweight dogs that have been diagnosed with diabetes?
It is critical for the management of this disease that you focus on getting him to a healthy weight. This will help his cells better use insulin, and make it easier for his body to turn food into fuel.
Your veterinarian will advise you what that healthy weight is, and what steps you can take to get him there. Be sure he gives you a schedule not only for meal amounts but also exercise.
How to maintain blood sugar levels
♦ Dogs should get the same amount and type of food every day
♦ Meals should be given 12 hours apart
♦ Give insulin after meals so the dose can be lowered if he doesn’t eat as much as he normally does. “Your dog should eat before you give an insulin injection, because once the insulin is administered it cannot be removed from the body. If your dog does not eat, or if only half of the food is eaten, give only a half dose of insulin. If this happens more than once, take your dog to the veterinarian for assessment.”
♦ Do the same type of exercise, level of intensity and length of time every day at roughly the same time
♦ Try and avoid putting your dog in a stressful situation. If he’s become anxious due to vision loss for example, sticking to your usual route and the familiar can help.
What foods should a diabetic dog avoid?
Simple carbs which are sugars like corn syrup, fructose, maltose and dextrose cause a rapid rise in glucose levels and should be avoided. Check the ingredients on your dog’s wet food to see if it contains any.
If you feed commercially made snacks, it’s important to check those ingredients as well. If you prefer to make food and treats at home, I have included some recipes to get you started.
Food requirements for a diabetic dog
According to the 2018 AAHA Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats:
“Dogs with DM can do well with any diet that is complete and balanced, is fed at consistent times in consistent amounts, and is palatable in order to achieve predictable and consistent intake. For dogs, diets that contain increased quantities of soluble and insoluble fiber or that are designed for weight maintenance in diabetics or for weight loss in obese diabetics can:
Improve glycemic control by reducing postprandial hyperglycemia
Restrict caloric intake in obese dogs undergoing weight reduction
Some clinicians recommend that owners supplement with canned pumpkin, green beans, or commercial fiber supplements containing psyllium or wheat dextrin.”
DM stands for diabetes mellitus.
What does this mean?
It means that you don’t need to buy a prescription diabetic diet for your dog
You can carry on/switch to a good quality nutritious food (remember to check the sugar content)
If you prefer, or have already been cooking for your dog, carry on.
NOTE: Your vet will help you figure out how much food he needs for each meal, depending on weight and activity level. A qualified and experienced canine nutritionist can help you with recipes, and provide you with a list of foods you can try.
What vegetables can a diabetic dog eat?
- Cucumber slices
- Green beans
- Squash – pumpkin, acorn, butternut
- 100% pure canned pumpkin
What human food can I feed my diabetic dog?
There are lots of things you can batch cook and freeze, to be used in place of commercial dog food, or if he’s getting fussy used as toppers to his existing diet.
NOTE: If your vet recommended a prescription diet or other brand and your dog won’t eat, check with your vet and ask if you can give homemade a try. Remember, it’s all about balance and you may need some advice getting the amounts right. If he can’t help you, consider speaking with a canine nutritionist. Again, always keep your vet informed of what’s going on.
Homemade diabetic dog food
6 lbs lean beef
1 broccoli, fresh
1 package of fresh spinach (10 oz.)
2 cups of chopped celery
3 cups of rye
4 cups of brown rice
165 oz. of liquid (1/2 broth and 1/2 water)
Simmer the lean beef in the liquid for 20-30 minutes and then remove it. Mix all other ingredients in a pot and put it on a stove until liquid is absorbed. Mix the beef and vegetables and put the hot rice and rye over the mix, then mix it all together.
You can keep all leftovers in your fridge in an airtight container. You can also use any other protein source instead of beef, like chicken or turkey, and you can also use any other green vegetables.
You can use this for treats too.
This recipe makes about 2 gallons of food, which is about 30 servings for my Malamute Montauk. I vary both the meats and vegetable depending on what is inexpensive. I will also add other proteins as toppings for the food – hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese, meats, etc. You might just try a little of that on the current food you are using.
6lbs lean ground beef, chicken or other lean meat
5 cups uncooked pearl barley
5 cups uncooked brown rice
2 cups minced celery, green beans, chopped spinach or green vegetable
24 cups water
Put ingredients in large pan, bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer and cook until all the water is absorbed.
Mork’s Recipe (18lb terrier mix)
2 large skinless whole chicken breasts
1 bunch of broccoli
2 cups brown rice (dry)
Boil the chicken in at least 5 cups water. Save the broth. Remove the cooked chicken, cool, and cut into small pieces. Cook the rice in 4 cups of the saved broth (about 20 to 25 minutes). Cook the broccoli separately and mash well. Combine all ingredients and mix well. If it looks dry, add more of the saved broth, or add water.
There is enough here for Mork to eat for a month. I freeze the mix in ice cube trays and microwave the cube for 30 seconds, and add to 3/4 cup Eukanuba Glucose Control prescription diet. He is fed morning and evening.
All natural diabetic dog treats
We’ve talked about the importance of avoiding simple carb laden foods, and also of being consistent with type, amount and feeding schedule.
So how do dog treats fit into that scenario? Well, you’ll have to speak to your vet about how much food/what type in between set meals are allowed. I know of senior dog parents who won’t feed snacks because it messes up sugar levels, but others have managed to find the right type and amount.
Pure Bites 100% Pure Chicken Breast
Vegetables listed above
Turkey/Chicken Breast and Kale Meatballs
(I found this recipe on the diabetic dogs FB page)
1lb ground turkey or chicken (turkey is less fat)
1 cup of kale, diced
1/3 cup of egg whites
1 tbsp of pumpkin
Roll into small balls and bake 350 25-28 minutes
Dehydrated Turkey, Spinach, Carrots and Pumpkin Jerky
1lb chopped meat (turkey, chicken or beef)
1 tbsp pure pumpkin
1/4 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 cup fresh carrots, grated
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix together.
Spoon mixture into Jerky gun.
Using the jerky gun form rows of stick-like treats directly onto dehydrator pan.
Set dehydrator for 6 hours on 160F or overnight on 125F.
2 chicken breasts (no skin or fat)
1 garlic clove, thinly chopped
1 cup asparagus, cut into ½” pieces
1 cup raw broccoli
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 tsp fresh parsley
2 cups cooked brown rice
Slice up the chicken breast into 1” pieces.
In a large saucepan, combine the garlic, asparagus, chicken, chicken stock, parsley and broccoli bring to a boil. Simmer for 1/2 hour or until the vegetables are tender.
Add the cooked brown rice to the saucepan and mix all the ingredients together. (Add more brown rice if it seems too soupy)
Pour the mixture into a glass dish and cool down, before serving.
How to get a fussy diabetic dog to eat
One of the reasons your diabetic dog may have become fussy is because he doesn’t like the new food he’s eating. Since this is a serious problem, the best strategy is to come up with as many possibilities as possible to increase the odds. You must do this in conjunction with your vet or canine nutritionist, since it’s always important to maintain balance.
When choosing food bear this in mind – many diabetic dogs also have pancreatitis, so if that’s the case with yours be very careful of the fat content.
- Add some boiled chicken or scrambled eggs (do not use oil) – Read this ⇒ Are Eggs Good for a Diabetic Dog?
- Stir a small spoon of wet food into his existing food
- Add homemade food or treats to his meal
- If your dog is on a prescription diet, changing brands might help
- Warm up canned food
- Pour hot water over kibble to make gravy
- Save the water from the chicken you boiled, freeze in ice cube trays then defrost and pour over his meal
Diabetic dog food suggestions
Since most foods are okay for dogs with diabetes, the list of suitable foods would be endless. Here are a few brands I kept seeing when researching, including what senior dog parents in my FB group are feeding.
Acana Regionals Grasslands Dry Dog Food
Ketona Chicken Dog Food
Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food
Orijen Six Fish Dry Dog Food
Royal Canin Glycobalance Dry Dog Food
Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free
TruDog – raw, freeze dried, dehydrated dog food. Although my dog hasn’t tried this brand, he likes raw and freeze dried, which I’m happy about because of its nutritional value. If you’re interested in giving this a try, please speak with your vet first.
Mix of kibble, Weruva and home cooked proteins
Prime100 crocodile roll (Australia)