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 Pawdiet.com

There are many foods made specifically for diabetic dogs such as Royal Canin Canine Diabetic, Royal Canin Satiety and Hills w/d Prescription Diet. These dog foods are available in wet and dry forms but it's worth noting that the Royal Canin diabetic wet food is quite high in fat on a dry matter basis which should be avoided, especially if your dog has a history of pancreatitis. 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 suitable options available that will work just as well in managing good glucose control including Chappie original wet and dry which is an affordable alternative to other high cost foods. Foods containing white potato and white rice will cause blood sugar levels to spike.

When feeding your dog, it is very important to weigh the food and give the exact same amount at each meal. Consistency is crucial to stabilising glucose levels. We need to give the correct amount of calories recommended for ideal weight. You can calculate your dog's calorie needs using the 'Waltham Nutrition Calculator' (second calculator down the page) which gives the best calculations for a diabetic dog that we have found. Enter your dog's ideal weight and choose his activity level. You can work out the calories per gram of different foods using the PMFA NRC 2006 (4-step method).

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, some supermarket chickens 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.

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 avoid diets that are high in fibre. A high fibre diet can make gaining weight difficult. 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 and green beans. 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 Baking Buddy 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.

Raw diets may not be suitable for diabetic dogs due to the high fat content in most complete raw foods available and the difficulty in giving a consistant, low fat, balanced meal when feeding a DIY raw diet.

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.

If your dog refuses to eat, you can try toppers (no more than a tablespoon) such as scrambled egg whites (no milk, butter or oils added), tuna or tuna spring water, a small amount of low sodium chicken broth, non fat, plain cottage cheese or yogurt, 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 bananas and carrots are not suitable for diabetic dogs.

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 white 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 usually much happier to have it. Other safe treats include frozen yogurt squares, zero 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 glucose levels to some extent however the treats mentioned above shouldn't cause much of a glucose spike but as said before, all dogs are different. The only way you can really know if a treat is safe for your dog is by testing blood glucose levels before and after giving the treat.