Diabetic dog eating

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Diabetes mellitus in dogs is similar to the condition that occurs in humans, where the body fails to successfully control the blood glucose levels. If your dog feels thirsty too often, is losing weight, or has digestive problems, then all of this may be a sign of canine diabetes.

If diabetes is not monitored and treated in time, it may result in death or serious medical conditions for your pet. However, it is also true that diabetes can be effectively managed with treatment and lifestyle changes. In this article, we look at canine diabetes and how it can be treated, particularly through diet.

An Overview Of Canine Diabetes

Before we look at what a dog diabetes diet should be, we must first understand canine diabetes and its types. A diabetic dog may either have an insulin deficiency or be insulin resistant. Most dogs have insulin deficiency. This happens when the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin. Your dog could also have a resistance to insulin where the body does not effectively react to the insulin being produced.

Both of these situations cause an abnormal rise in blood glucose levels in the bloodstream, which is harmful to your dog’s health and may cause other diseases. By percentage, a female dog is more likely to develop diabetes than a male, so you should look out for your dog, especially if she is a mother or is soon going to be one.1

Some other risk factors include:

  • Dogs that are older than 7 years
  • Genetic history of diabetes
  • Pure breeding
  • Excess weight
  • Steroid medications
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Other medical conditions

As mentioned above, dogs are often diagnosed with diabetes caused by insulin deficiency. This is known as Type 1 diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). Type 2 diabetes may also occur in dogs, but it is more common in humans and happens when the body cannot react accurately to the insulin produced in the body. This is usually a result of obesity.

Dogs are most commonly diagnosed with diabetes similar to ‘Type 1’ Diabetes, or what we may call ‘insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus’ (IDDM).

So, how do you identify if your dog has diabetes? Below are a few signs and symptoms:

  • Frequently needing to urinate (polyuria)
  • Drinking excess water (polydipsia)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in weight, especially sudden weight loss
  • Eye cataracts
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Sweet smelling breath, which is caused by diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)

A diabetic dog diet plan is one of the best methods to control blood sugar levels. However, a good diet should be combined with veterinary advice, which may include suitable medications or other therapies for the best results.

What Should Diabetic Dogs Eat?

You can only plan out the best diet for a diabetic dog once you understand that every dog is different. This is why you should keep their needs in mind when creating a suitable diet plan with your vet. Make sure you also discuss all other factors, such as other medical conditions and age.

A good diet should preferably be a high-fiber but low-fat diet. Diabetic diet dog food should also be low in carbs and sodium, with adequate protein content. It is also important to make sure that you keep a controlled portion size with a suitable amount of calories in front of the dog at mealtimes.

You should also make sure to follow your vet’s recommendations. The doctor will recommend food that includes a suitable amount of protein but fewer carbohydrates needed for nutrition. This will prevent and minimize the chances of postprandial hyperglycemia.

Graphic - diabetic dog diets typically include high-protein, high-fiber, low-carb

A diabetic dog’s diet should have:

A high amount of proteins

  • Generally, protein-rich foods automatically have a fewer amount of carbohydrates. A protein-rich diet does not affect palatability.
  • Proteins help balance fat metabolism and act as a good energy supply for the body.
  • Protein-rich foods suitable for dogs include: chicken, turkey, duck, pork, beef, fish, muscle meat, animal organ (heart, liver, kidney, lungs), soybeans, and grains (corn, wheat) 

Sufficient fiber

  • Foods that contain soluble and insoluble fiber are great for a diabetic dog’s diet.
  • Fiber improves glycemic control and helps balance portions by making the dog feel fuller soon. This, in turn, leads to weight loss. 
  • High-fiber foods include canned pumpkin, ground flaxseed, apples, lettuce, kelp, carrots, green beans, brown rice, strawberries, blueberries, and fiber supplements.
Graphic with examples of high-fiber and high-protein foods

Keep your dog hydrated 

  • Keep your dog well-hydrated to effectively manage polydipsia or excessive thirst.

Consult vet regarding medication

A low amount of carbohydrates

  • You should give your dog a low carbohydrate diet to prevent the risk of hyperglycemia and glucose toxicity.

  • Healthy carbohydrates that you can include in your dog’s diet include sweet potatoes, peas, broccoli, carrots, beets, and celery.

Other Tips For Managing Canine Diabetes

While diet is a great way to help keep glucose levels in control, it is not the only method that you should use. You must combine this with other advice given by your vet, along with proper medications. A few other things that you can add to your dog’s routine include:

Feed on a consistent schedule 

  • All mealtimes should be 10 to 12 hours apart as this allows the dog’s body to digest the food, process it, and send it off for energy. This duration also helps balance out sugar levels and allows medications to follow their course. Eating too frequently may cause blood sugar levels to shoot and pose threats to the dog’s health.

Monitor weight 

  • Most diabetic dogs are overweight, which poses further health risks. Make sure to come up with a diet plan with your vet that encourages weight loss. It is also smart to adjust insulin dosage according to the need. If your dog is underweight, you will need to come up with a completely different diet to help balance glucose levels and keep them in check.

Conduct regular glucose testing 

  • It is essential to monitor your dog’s blood glucose levels regularly and at periodic intervals. This will help you understand how insulin affects their bodies and whether certain foods are good for them. Before conducting glucose testing, make sure to talk with your vet to identify a testing regimen that’s right for your pet.

Insulin therapy 

  • Ensure that your vet is updated regarding your dog’s health. It is also essential to let your vet know all about your dog’s habits and behavior so that they can come up with the best possible medication and insulin therapy program. You can also discuss your dog’s diet and weight.

Diabetic dog receiving insulin therapy

Dog Diabetes Diet: Frequently Asked Questions

What should diabetic dogs eat?

The diet of a diabetic dog depends on various factors, and different solutions work for different dogs. However, in general, a diabetic dog should be provided with food that is high in protein and fiber content but low in fats and carbs.

What should diabetic dogs not eat?

Just as important it is to know what a diabetic dog should eat, it is also important to know the things that should be avoided or reduced in their meals. You should avoid home-cooked or prepared meals as these cannot be accurately accounted for for their nutritional value. It is best to give your dog tried and tested veterinary therapeutic foods. The portion sizes are well defined, and the calorie intake is easy to monitor. You should also avoid giving your diabetic dog semi-moist food, as these may contain sugars or carbohydrates that are injurious to your dog’s health.

Can you control a dog's diabetes with diet?

You can definitely control your dog’s diabetes through diet, but it is important to combine this with proper glucose monitoring and medications. You should always reach out to your vet if you feel that something is not right with your dog and come up with a detailed treatment plan.

Owner feeding diabetic dog

Final Notes

Managing your dog’s diabetes is very important. Although not a life-threatening condition on its own, it can easily catalyze a range of reactions in the body that can lead to serious health problems and even death. This is why you should always reach out to a vet if you find your dog displaying symptoms of diabetes mellitus.

With Dutch, you can simply book an appointment with a highly qualified vet. You can do this online from the comfort of your home. You will receive a customized treatment plan from an animal expert with prescriptions delivered right to your doorstep! So, what are you waiting for? Reach out today to get the best treatment plan for your pet right away!



  1. Deborah E. Linder, DVM. “What's the Best Diet for My Dog with Diabetes?” Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School, 24 Feb. 2020, https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2020/01/whats-the-best-diet-for-my-dog-with-diabetes/

  2. Veterinary Practice Guidelines 2018 Aaha Diabetes ... https://www.aaha.org/globalassets/02-guidelines/diabetes/diabetes-guidelines_final.pdf

  3. “Diabetes.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 15 July 2021, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/canine-health-center/health-info/diabetes

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