Feeding A Diabetic Dog

Dogs with diabetes need a diet that works with daily insulin injections. Ideally, a diabetic dog should be fed the exact same meal, twice a day at the same time, 12 hours apart, before administering insulin. Free feeding throughout the day should no longer be an option. Your dog will soon get used to the 12 hour feeding times and any hunger caused by high sugar levels will begin to lessen once receiving insulin.

The type of food you feed will greatly influence your dog's insulin needs and will require a balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fibre. Due to the risk of pancreatitis, your dog should ideally have a food that is no more than 12% fat on a dry matter basis. There are websites online that can calculate this for you such as All About Dog Food

There are many dog foods made specifically for diabetic dogs such as Royal Canin Canine Diabetic and Hill's Prescription Diet  w/d Canine. Both of these dog foods are available in wet and dry forms and need a prescription from your vet. They are not suitable for non diabetic dogs. Many dogs do extremely well on these foods but if your dog refuses to eat it or you find it too expensive, there are other options available that will work just as well in managing good glucose control. Some people have good results with Chappie which is an affordable alternative to other high cost foods. Foods containing potato, peas and carrots can cause blood sugar levels to spike. Regardless of the dog food you decide to feed your dog, the main aim should be to find a food low fat on a dry matter basis.

You may decide to give your dog a home cooked diet. If you do choose this option, it is best to keep ingredients to a minimum. Your dog will need a protein, a fibre and a carbohydrate in each meal. Proteins such as skinned chicken breast, very low fat boiled or pan browned minced beef or white fish can work well. Surprisingly, many cheap supermarket chicken's will contain added sugars, salt or a mix of salt and corn oil. These chickens are not suitable for your diabetic dog and should be avoided. Look out for ingredients such as dextrose, salt and oil on the label. To be sure of any additives, speak to your local butcher about the chicken breast they offer. Only give breast meat as this is the leanest part of the chicken and be sure to remove all skin before feeding due to the fat content. Do not add any oils, fats or seasoning to your dog's food when cooking. You can boil the chicken for best results. If you choose to feed minced beef, buy no more than 5% fat content if possible. Again, you can either boil the beef and skim off any fat or pan brown and rinse under boiling water to remove any excess fat before serving. Ideally you should try to buy grass fed beef. Grain fed beef can raise your dog's glucose levels.

A diabetic dog needs a daily amount of fibre in their diet. Fibre slows the release of glucose into the blood stream and reduces postprandial sugar spikes. Fibre will also help your dog feel fuller for longer. If your dog is underweight, you should not feed diets that are high in fibre. A high fibre diet will stop your dog from gaining weight and may cause more weight loss so a low to moderate level of fibre is recommended for an underweight dog. If your dog is overweight, a higher level of fibre will help reduce the excess weight. Insulin doesn't absorb as well in an overweight dog so obtaining a suitable weight for your dog is imperative. For fibre, you can use vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and red lentils. Vegetables should be cooked well and mashed/ pureed before feeding as dogs cannot produce the enzymes necessary to break down the cell walls of plants. Too much fibre can cause diarrhoea. If your dog's stools become loose, reduce the fibre until you find the right balance. Increased fibre can also help dogs suffering from constipation. An added spoonful of pure, organic pumpkin such as Libby's canned pumpkin, can help to balance your dog's blood glucose levels and add fibre to the diet. Do not use pumpkin listed as pie filler.

Carbohydrates are needed for the insulin to function properly, however feeding too much carbohydrates tends to cause high fasting glucose spikes. Low to moderate amounts usually work well. Carbohydrates such as brown rice, wholewheat pasta, quinoa and barley are complex carbohydrates. They release glucose into the blood stream slowly throughout the day to work with the insulin. Simple carbohydrates such as white rice and white pasta are a quick source of energy, as they are digested rapidly. Simple carbohydrates are not suitable for diabetic dogs as they will cause glucose spikes soon after eating and not will not last the 12 hours between insulin injections.

A home cooked diet will need vitamin and mineral supplements. Do your homework and find out what your dog will need to stay healthy. Many supplements contain sugars and flavourings that are unsuitable for a diabetic dog, adding further difficulties when choosing a home cooked diet.

When feeding your dog, regardless of the food you use, it is very important to weigh the food and give the exact same amount of each ingredient with each meal. Consistency is crucial to regulating your dog's glucose levels. Keeping with the same ingredients in each meal will also help to keep your dogs levels balanced. When you feed your dog, you should be giving the amount of calories recommended for your dog's ideal weight. You can calculate your dog's ideal weight online. the 'My Cocker Spaniel' website has a good calorie calculator and you can work out the nutritional values of different foods at Calorie King

For commercial dog food, you can learn about the ingredients and dry matter fat content at All About Dog Food

Remember, each dog is different in how they react to different foods and insulin, what may work for one may not work for another and therefore a close watch on how the insulin is working with your chosen diet is needed. 

As important as it is to feed your dog a diabetic suitable food, the most important thing is that your dog eats so that it can receive insulin, therefore if you have a picky eater, give your dog what it will eat rather than trying to force a food that it won't.

When your dog won't eat, you can try toppers (no more than a teaspoon) such as scrambled egg whites (no milk, butter or oils added), tuna or tuna water, a small amount of low sodium chicken broth, non fat, plain cottage cheese or yoghurt, or a small sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Some dogs will also eat if their food is gently warmed.

Can Your Dog Still Have Treats?

This all depends on your dog's glucose level reaction to treats during the day and the type of treats you offer. Treats such as shop bought dog biscuits and chews should be withheld due to the ingredients which are not suitable for diabetic dogs. Unfortunately, shop bought dog treats mainly contain high fat levels, sugars and flours which should always be avoided.  High sugared fruit and vegetables such as banana's and carrots are not suitable for diabetic dogs either.

Diabetic dogs can instead be offered a few green beans, either frozen or warmed up. You may think your dog won't like them but many diabetic dogs enjoy them as a small treat between meals! You can also give a small amount of scrambled egg whites during the day as a treat (no added milk, fats or seasoning). It is recommended that you only use egg whites due to the fat and cholesterol in egg yolks. Another great treat for a diabetic dog is home made Jerky using meats such as chicken, liver and kidney. A piece of dried meat is also a great way to get your dog to look forward to their insulin injection. If a dog knows it will receive a tasty treat after their shot, they are much happier to have it! Other safe treats include frozen yoghurt squares, no fat plain cottage cheese, frozen pumpkin pieces, small pieces of skinless chicken and turkey breast and canned tuna (in spring water).

Everything your dog consumes will raise the glucose levels to some extent however, the treats mentioned above shouldn't cause much of a glucose spike but as said before, all dog's are different! The only way you can really know if a treat is safe for your dog is by testing the blood glucose levels before and after giving the treat.