Diabetic Dog: Tips to Manage His Diet

So, your dog has diabetes. Take a deep breath. With good care, your companion can lead a long, healthy life.

Like humans, when dogs have diabetes, staying trim is key. If your dog is overweight, losing some pounds can help his cells better use insulin, a hormone that keeps blood sugar levels in check. That makes it easier for his body to turn food into fuel.

The goal for any pooch with diabetes is to keep blood sugar (or glucose) levels as close to normal as possible. This helps your dog feel good and makes it less likely he'll get diabetes-related complications, such as vision-clouding cataracts and urinary tract infections.

Food as Fuel

Your veterinarian will determine how many calories your dog needs every day, based on his weight and activity level. Once you know that number, it's important to keep a close eye on what he eats and how much.

Researchers are still exploring what diet is best for dogs with diabetes. Most vets recommend a high-fiber, low-fat diet. Fiber slows the entrance of glucose into the bloodstream and helps your dog feel full. Low-fat foods have fewer calories. Together, the diet can help your dog eat less and lose weight.

But make sure your pooch drinks plenty of water. Fiber takes water from the body, and that can cause constipation and other problems.

Most dogs do fine with food you can buy at the store. But your vet may recommend prescription dog food or a homemade diet developed by a veterinary nutritionist. Your vet can tell you the best way to go about changing your dog's food.

Even the best diet won’t help if your dog doesn’t eat it, though -- and you can't give insulin to a dog on an empty stomach. It can make him very sick.

If your dog isn't eating as much, it could be because he doesn't like the food. It could also mean he has another problem, or that he's having diabetes-related complications. Talk with your vet.

Food as Fuel continued...

Make sure your dog eats something -- even if that something isn’t ideal. But steer clear of soft, semi-moist dog foods in packets, which are typically high in sugar.

With your vet’s OK, here’s how you can entice your pup to eat:

  • Stir a tablespoon of canned food into his regular food.
  • Scatter shredded chicken or scrambled eggs into kibble.
  • Add a tablespoon of low-sodium chicken broth to dry food.

Treats between meals are OK, as long as they’re low in sugar and carbohydrates. Avoid snacks that list syrup, molasses, fructose, dextrose, or maltose on the ingredients label. Homemade dehydrated meats, carrots, snap peas, and even canned pumpkin are good options.