fbpx

9 Best Dog Foods for Diabetic Dogs

Dog Food Icon

Dog Food By Ben Team 29 min read October 6, 2020 85 Comments

best dog food for diabetic dogs

Unfortunately, dogs can suffer from a number of the same health problems that people do. One of the most common and serious examples is canine diabetes — a disease characterized by improper pancreas function.

Without a healthy pancreas, your dog will have trouble regulating his blood sugar levels. Left untreated, diabetes can cause very serious complications and even death. So, you’ll always want to work with your vet to keep your dog as healthy as possible and feed him a food that provides the kind of nutrition a diabetic dog needs.

Best Diabetic Dog Foods: Quick Picks

  • Ketona Chicken Dog Food [Lowest Carb Count] This ultra low-carb kibble has under 5% carbohydrates, just 0.5% sugars, and boasts 46% protein. Chicken is non-GMO, antibiotic-free, and sustainably raised.
  • Orijen Grain-Free [Another Great Kibble] Orijen features 38% protein with 85% meat for a tremendous amount of animal protein. Plus it’s just 20% carbohydrates, great for diabetic dogs.
  • Wellness CORE Grain-Free [Best Canned Food] A protein-rich canned food with 50% protein featuring tons of chicken & turkey and just 8% carbohydrates (dry matter basis).
  • Acana Appalachian Ranch [Best Chicken-Free Recipe for Dogs with Allergies]Made with an assortment of nutritious proteins and fortified with probiotics, this kibble boasts a very low carbohydrate count of just 32% (GA).

Continue reading for more in-depth reviews

What Is Doggie Diabetes?

For the most part, diabetes affects dogs and humans in similar ways.

When food is eaten, it is broken down by the body into its constituent parts — primarily fats, proteins and sugars (glucose). A little while later, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin; insulin helps the body process the glucose.

However, sometimes the pancreas stops producing insulin or the body’s cells fail to respond to it in the proper way. The former problem is referred to as Type I diabetes, while the latter is known as Type II diabetes. Both types are very serious and ultimately manifest in a relatively similar way: The body cannot process glucose properly.

Type I diabetes — the most common form to occur in dogs – is thought to occur when an autoimmune disease attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. No one knows exactly why this occurs, although there does appear to be a strong genetic link.

Type II diabetes, on the other hand, is often associated with obesity and other factors. Essentially, the body produces so much insulin that the cells become desensitized to the hormone.

In either case, the glucose in the body cannot be used effectively, which can lead to a litany of health problems. Accordingly, diabetes must be considered a very serious condition.

While treatments for both types of diabetes exist, there is no cure – diabetes is a life-long condition.

Diabetes & Your Dog’s Diet

Your dog’s diet may also require some tweaking upon receiving a diagnosis of diabetes. It will be important to monitor his caloric intake carefully, and many vets will recommend a low-carb, high-fiber food.

Dr. Jeff Werber, chief veterinarian of the Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles, California, recommends that owners pick a food that has 20 – 25% carbohydrate content on a dry matter basis.

This will help prevent blood sugar spikes, which is imperative when caring for a diabetic pooch. Foods that do not trigger a blood sugar spike are said to have a low glycemic index.

High fiber content also helps in this regard, as it reduces the rate at which glucose is released into the blood stream. It also takes up space in the digestive tract, making your pooch feel full for longer. 

There are a few prescription diets made for diabetic dogs, but many diabetic dogs will be fine with a regular, high-quality dog food. You’ll need to discuss the issue with your vet to know for sure.

How to Calculate the Carbohydrate Percentage of Your Dog’s Food

Much to the frustration of any owner with a diabetic dog, the carbohydrate percentage is not often displayed on dog food packaging.

Luckily, there is a way you can calculate the amount of carbohydrates in your dog’s food using the provided information in the Guaranteed Analysis (GA) section.

  1. Add up the percentages of protein, fat, moisture, and ash recorded in the GA.
  2. Subtract that amount from 100.
  3. That is the percentage of carbohydrates present in the dog food.

One small issue though: the amount of ash isn’t usually listed in the Guaranteed Analysis. However, this amount usually ranges from 5%-8%.

Since we could not get the definitive carb count for some recipes using the GA, the carbohydrate percentage may actually be lower than what we’ve recorded (we’ve noted which foods that may be true for below).

In some cases, Dog Food Advisor was able to provide a carbohydrate percentage, or the carbohydrate amount was recorded by the manufacturer, and when that data was available, we used that.

Once you’ve narrowed down a few foods, it may be best to call the manufacturers to find out the definitive carbohydrate count.

The Best Diabetic Dog Foods

Let’s be very clear: Diabetes is a serious medical condition and you must work closely with your vet when selecting a food for your pooch.

However, many owners find it necessary to experiment with different foods until they find one that is not only helpful for regulating their pet’s blood sugar levels, but also palatable and easy for their dog to digest.

Accordingly, we present the following foods as some potential options for your diabetic pet.

Each one possesses the general traits that characterize good foods for diabetic dogs, but always discuss any potential dietary changes with your vet and defer to his or her expertise when making a selection.

Also note that some of the foods listed below may not be available without a prescription.

1. Ketona Chicken Recipe Dog Food

About: Ketona Chicken Recipe Dog Food is a scientifically formulated dog food designed to have a very low carbohydrate content.

In fact, this recipe only contains 5% digestible carbohydrate content, .05% sugars, and a whopping 46% protein. Definitely very worthy of serious consideration for diabetic dogs. The only downside is the price – it’s quite expensive.

Ketona Chicken Recipe Dog Food

Ketona Chicken Recipe Dog Food

  • American-raised, GMO-free chicken is the first listed ingredient
  • Contains 46% protein (Guaranteed Analysis)
  • Formulated without corn, soy, wheat, or potatoes
  • Made in the USA

PROS

Ketona Chicken Recipe Dog Food has fewer carbohydrates than any other food we could find. It is also made without any of the insulin-surge inducing carbohydrates that are present in many other foods. Most dogs appear to like it, and it appears to have been helpful for managing blood sugar levels in many cases.

CONS

Ketona is a very expensive food, but that’s to be expected from such a protein-rich recipe (proteins are usually the most expensive components of a given dog food). We’d also prefer if Ketona contained probiotics, but this is a minor problem (and you can always use standalone probiotic supplements if you like).

Ingredients List

Chicken, Pea Protein, Ground Green Peas, Oat Hulls (Source of Fiber), Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)...,

Flaxseed Meal, Phosphoric Acid, Gelatin, Chicken Liver Digest, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Pea Fiber, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Vitamine E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Oil, Citric Acid (Preservative), Ascorbic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid Supplement, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Iodine Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Lecithin, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Rosemary Extract.

2. Orijen Grain-Free

About: Orijen Grain-Free is a highly regarded dog food with very impressive amounts of protein and an extremely low carbohydrate percentage perfect for diabetic canines.

orijen

Orijen Grain-Free

  • 20% carbohydrates
  • Features 38% protein with 85% meat inclusions and 15% veggies & fruits
  • Absolutely no grain, tapioca, or plant protein concentrates.
  • Includes fresh meat, organs, cartilage and bone for additional nutritional value
  • Made in the USA

Ingredients List

Fresh chicken meat (13%), fresh turkey meat (7%), fresh cage-free eggs (7%), fresh chicken liver (6%), fresh whole herring (6%)...,

fresh whole flounder (5%), fresh turkey liver (5%), fresh chicken necks (4%), fresh chicken heart (4%), fresh turkey heart (4%), chicken (dehydrated, 4%), turkey (dehydrated, 4%), whole mackerel (dehydrated, 4%), whole sardine (dehydrated, 4%), whole herring (dehydrated, 4%), whole red lentils, whole green lentils, whole green peas, lentil fibre, whole chickpeas, whole yellow peas, whole pinto beans, whole navy beans, herring oil (1%), chicken fat (1%), chicken cartilage (1%), chicken liver (freeze-dried), turkey liver (freeze-dried), fresh whole pumpkin, fresh whole butternut squash, fresh whole zucchini, fresh whole parsnips, fresh carrots, fresh whole Red Delicious apples, fresh whole Bartlett pears, fresh kale, fresh spinach, fresh beet greens, fresh turnip greens, brown kelp, whole cranberries, whole blueberries, whole Saskatoon berries, chicory root, turmeric root, milk thistle, burdock root, lavender, marshmallow root, rosehips, enterococcus faecium. ADDITIVES (per kg): Nutritional additives: Zinc chelate: 100 mg.

PROS

Definitely one of the best dry dog foods on the market, especially for diabetic dogs considering the unusually low carbohydrate count.

CONS

As with many of these ultra low-carb, high-protein dog foods, it’s quite expensive.

3. Merrick Grain Free Dog Food

About: Merrick Grain-Free Dog Food is a well-balanced food, made with great proteins, a few great fruits and vegetables and a variety of helpful supplements. It is a reasonably good choice for diabetic dogs, although it is not perfect.

merrick texas beef

Merrick Grain Free Dog Food

  • Made with several different protein sources, including real beef, lamb meal, and salmon meal – the first three ingredients
  • Grain-free dog food recipe that features no corn, wheat or soy
  • Fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin to promote joint health
  • Approximately 36% carbohydrates (dry matter basis)
  • Made in the USA

PROS

Merrick Grain-Free is a great option for picky pups, as most dogs love the taste. It also features just about every type of supplement you’d want, including vitamins, minerals and probiotic bacteria.

CONS

While Merrick Grain-Free is made with sweet potatoes, which are often used in an effort to reduce the glycemic index of a food, it also contains regular potatoes, which have a pretty high glycemic index. Also, Merrick Grain-Free has slightly more carbohydrates (estimated 36% carbohydrate content on a dry matter basis) than is typically recommended for diabetic dogs

Ingredients List

Deboned Beef, Lamb Meal, Salmon Meal, Peas, Sweet Potatoes...,

Potatoes, Potato Protein, Pea Protein, Pork Fat, Natural Flavor, Beef Liver, Beef Stock, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Flaxseed, Organic Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potassium Chloride, Apples, Blueberries, Choline Chloride, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate), Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Mixed Tocopherols for Freshness, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitre, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Citric Acid for Freshness, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product.

4. Nulo Adult Salmon & Peas

AboutNulo Adult Salmon & Peas is a very high-quality kibble with a solid protein count (30%) with 80% of those proteins coming from animal proteins, NOT plant proteins (which is largely considered a good thing). It’s also quite low in carbs, with just 38% carbohydrates.

Nulo Adult Salmon & Peas

Nulo Adult Salmon & Peas

  • Features deboned salmon, turkey meal, and chicken meal as first ingredients
  • 80% of proteins in this formula come from animal proteins ( as opposed to plant proteins)
  • 38% carbohydrates (via Guaranteed Analysis) and low-glycemic ingredients

NOTE: We calculated the carbohydrate percentage using the Guaranteed Analysis data provided by the manufacturer. However, the amount of ash present was not provided. Ultimately, this means that the carbohydrate count may be even lower than what is recored here.

PROS

Nulo is a very impressive dog food brand, with an emphasis on high-protein, low-glycemic ingredients.

CONS

Naturally, a quality food like Nulo boasts a high price tag that may be difficult to manage long term.

Ingredients List

Deboned Salmon, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Whole Peas, Sweet Potato...,

Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols & Citric Acid), Chickpeas, Deboned Turkey, Lentils, Pea Fiber, Natural Flavor, Yeast Culture, Dried Chicory Root, Dried Blueberries, Dried Apples, Dried Tomatoes, Dried Carrots, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Iron Proteinate, Niacin, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of Vitamin B1), Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of Vitamin B6), Sodium Selenite, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

5. Acana Appalachian Ranch

About: Acana Appalachian Ranch is an extremely high-quality, protein-packed dog food with an impressively low carb count of just 32% (GA).

acana

Acana Appalachian Ranch

  • Deboned beef, deboned pork, deboned lamb, lamb meal, beef meal, pork meal are the first 6 ingredients. Talk about protein!
  • 70% fresh, raw, or dried animal ingredients, along with vegetables, fruits, and botanicals.
  • Made in the USA

NOTE: We calculated the carbohydrate percentage using the Guaranteed Analysis data provided by the manufacturer. However, the amount of ash present was not provided. Ultimately, this means that the carbohydrate count may be even lower than what is recored here.

PROS

There’s no denying Acana is an incredible food, with remarkably large amounts of animal protein and a low carbohydrate count.

CONS

Acana is certainly a pricey dog food to be sure.

Ingredients List

Deboned beef, deboned pork, deboned lamb, lamb meal, beef meal...,

pork meal, whole green peas, red lentils, pinto beans, beef liver, beef fat, catfish meal, chickpeas, green lentils, whole yellow peas, deboned bison, whole catfish, herring oil, lentil fiber, natural pork flavor, beef tripe, lamb tripe, lamb liver, pork liver, beef kidney, pork kidney, pork cartilage, dried kelp, whole pumpkin, whole butternut squash, kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, carrots, apples, pears, freeze-dried beef liver, freeze-dried lamb liver, freeze-dried pork liver*, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, zinc proteinate, mixed tocopherols (preservative), chicory root, turmeric, sarsaparilla root, althea root, rosehips, juniper berries, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product.

6. Hill’s Prescription Diet W/D

About: Hill’s Prescription Diet W/D is a prescription dog food that is specifically designed for dogs with digestive difficulties, weight management problems, or blood-sugar issues.

You’ll need a prescription from your vet to purchase this food, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy it directly from your vet. This food is often vet-recommended for dogs with diabetes.

Hill’s Prescription Diet WD

Hill’s Prescription Diet W/D

  • Formulated to support your dog’s immune system 
  • High levels of L-carnitine help to speed up your dog’s metabolism
  • Contains moderate fiber levels to help keep your pup full between meals
  • Made in the USA

Ingredients List

Whole grain wheat, whole grain corn, powdered cellulose, chicken meal, corn gluten meal...,

whole grain sorghum, soybean oil, pork liver flavor, lactic acid, Carmel color, potassium chloride, glyceryl monosterate, chalice chloride, vita E, L-ascorbyl-2, polyphosphate, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine chloride, vitamin A, vitamin B12, Riboflavin supplement, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate , sodium serenity, turbine, L-carnitine, calcium sulfate, DL-methionine, tryptophan. L-threonine. Mixed tocopherols for freshness. Beta-carotene.

PROS

Many owners who tried Hill’s diabetic dog food found that it did help to manage their dog’s blood sugar levels, and a few owners reported that it helped their dog to lose a little weight too. Additionally, most canines appear to like the way the food tastes

CONS

The ingredient list is not very impressive considering the high price tag (although all prescription diets will likely cost more than a regular food). We’re reticent to critique a prescription diet, but we can’t help but be slightly disappointed that the first listed protein is chicken meal, and it appears fourth on the list.

7. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Wet Canned

About: Wellness CORE Grain-Free Canned Food is another protein-rich recipe that is also low in carbohydrates.

Made with several different proteins and an assortment of delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables, this grain-free food may help some owners regulate their dog’s blood sugar levels.

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Wet Canned

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Wet Canned

  • Mineral levels specifically formulated to support overall metabolic function
  • Made without any corn, soy, or wheat
  • 50% protein and only 8% carbohydrate content on a dry matter basis
  • Made in the USA

PROS

Most owners were quite pleased with Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Canned Food. Most dogs seem to love the way this recipe tastes, and a number of owners reported that their dog digested it well too.

CONS

There were quite a few complaints about shipping problems, but the only other thing that appeared to displease owners who tried this food was its high cost. That said, this food is actually much more affordable than some of the other options listed above.

Ingredients List

Whitefish, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Salmon Broth, Salmon...,

Herring, Sweet Potatoes, Ground Flaxseed, Guar Gum, Carrageenan,

8. Instinct Original Grain Free Recipe Natural Wet

About: Instinct Original Grain-Free Canned Food is an extremely low-carb option that may be a good choice for some diabetic dogs.

And unlike many other canned dog foods, Instinct Original is chock full of nutritious fruits and vegetables to help ensure your dog gets all of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants he needs.

Instinct Original Grain Free Recipe Natural Wet

Instinct Original Grain Free Recipe Natural Wet

  • Made with real beef and venison
  • No grains, artificial colors, artificial additives, or artificial flavors
  • 6% estimated carbohydrate content (dry matter basis)
  • Made in the USA

PROS

Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe has a very low carbohydrate content and full of protein, which may help manage your dog’s blood sugar levels. It also has far more fruits and vegetables than most other canned dog foods. The majority of owners who tried the food reported that their dog loved the taste.

CONS

Most owners were pleased with Instinct Original Grain-Free, but a few were put off by the high fat content of the food. The only other common complaints related to packaging and shipping issues, which can occur with any food.

Ingredients List

Beef, Venison, Beef Broth, Beef Liver, Ground Flaxseed...,

Montmorillonite Clay, Peas, Carrots, Potassium Chloride, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Cobalt Proteinate, Potassium Iodide), Menhaden Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Salt, Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Artichokes, Cranberries, Pumpkin, Tomato, Blueberries, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Parsley

9. Taste of the Wild Southwest Canyon Canned Dog Food

About: Taste of the Wild Southwest Canyon is a low-carb canned food that is bursting with protein (it contains 50% protein on a dry matter basis). In fact, this recipe contains several different proteins, including beef, lamb and wild boar.

Taste of the Wild Southwest Canyon Canned Dog Food

Taste of the Wild Southwest Canyon Canned Dog Food

  • Carbohydrate content of only 20% on a dry matter basis
  • Made with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Made in the USA
  • Appropriate for all life stages

PROS

There’s a lot to like about Taste of the Wild Southwest Canyon, including its low carbohydrate content and the inclusion of multiple protein sources. Most dogs appear to love the way this food tastes, and several owners reported that it improved their pup’s energy levels, coat condition and elimination habits.

CONS

Complaints about Taste of the Wild Southwest Canyon were relatively rare, and most related to packaging or shipping problems (which can happen with any dog food). Additionally, a few owners did report that this food made their dog exceptionally gassy.

Ingredients List

Beef, beef broth, vegetable broth, beef liver, dried egg product...,

Peas, potato starch, lamb, wild boar, chickpea flour, guar gum, tricalcium phosphate, natural flavor, sunflower oil, sodium phosphate, salt, potassium chloride, inulin, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, blueberries, raspberries, flaxseed oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), choline chloride, yucca schidigera extract, fish oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), zinc amino acid chelate, iron amino acid chelate, vitamin E supplement, copper amino acid chelate, manganese amino acid chelate, sodium selenite, thiamine mononitrate, cobalt amino acid chelate, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, potassium iodide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, rosemary extract.

Diabetic Dog Foods

Important Considerations When Selecting a Diabetic Dog Food

There are a lot of high-fiber, low-fat foods on the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re all good. In fact, several have very troubling traits that should cause you to look elsewhere.

Look for Products Manufactured in a Country with Rigorous Safety Protocols

Different countries have different food safety guidelines, and this is especially true of pet foods.

To increase your chances of providing your dog with a safe, adulterant-free food, try to pick one manufactured in one of the following countries:

  • USA
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • England
  • France
  • Germany

Avoid Foods Listing a Carbohydrate as the First Ingredient

Dogs require meat-based diets to look, feel and act their best, so you always want to use a food that lists a whole protein, such as deboned chicken or fish, as the first ingredient.

Carbohydrates are obviously important components of any dog food, but they should occur farther down the list. Remember, you are ideally looking for a food with a carbohydrate content below 25%.

Not all carbohydrates are created equally either. For example, while there is nothing particularly “wrong” with corn, it isn’t the best carbohydrate for dog foods — especially in the case of diabetic dogs. Instead, try to look for foods that utilize carbs like brown rice or bran.

Never Use Foods Containing Unidentified Meat Meals or Byproducts

Although they may seem disgusting to pet owners, meat meals and animal byproducts can be nutritious ingredients.

However, meat meals should not be the first listed ingredient (you still want a whole protein to be the leading ingredient in any food), and they must be properly identified.

For example, chicken byproducts are usually acceptable ingredients; generically labelled animal byproducts are not. Some of these poorly identified meat meals and byproducts may contain protein from very unsavory, and potentially dangerous, sources.

Purchase Foods that Feature all the Nutrients and Supplements Your Dog Needs

Most modern dog foods – particularly premium options – are formulated to contain the proper mix of vitamins and minerals, but health isn’t just about vitamins and minerals.

Your dog may need other things in his diet to stay healthy. For example, many good dog foods include antioxidant-rich ingredients, which can help ensure your dog’s immune system performs as it should.

Other foods contain supplements like chondroitin or glucosamine, which help protect your dog’s joints. Additionally, probiotic supplements are included in many foods to help regulate your dog’s digestive system and improve his ability to digest his food.

Avoid Foods with Artificial Additives

Many sub-standard dog foods rely on artificial colors and artificial flavors to help make the food look and taste more appealing.

However, these substances may trigger dog food allergies or other health challenges, and they should be avoided whenever possible. Besides, foods made with high-quality ingredients are typically delicious without these additives.

Diet for Diabetic Dogs

Dog Diabetes Symptoms: Potential Red Flags

Unfortunately, some of the early signs of diabetes are quite subtle and easy to miss. This is yet another reason it is imperative to pay close attention to your dog – he can’t tell you when something’s wrong, he needs you to spot these symptoms for him.

Some of the most common signs that indicate the possibility of diabetes include the following:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increase urination
  • Appetite changes
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Fruity breath
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Depression
  • Chronic skin or yeast infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Cataracts

These aren’t the only dog diabetes symptoms you may notice, but they are among the most common.

If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms discussed above, seek veterinary assistance promptly. Some dogs are already so sick by the time they get to the vet’s office that they require hospitalization to stabilize them.

Try to avoid this at all costs to give your pup the best chance of recovering.

How Is Canine Diabetes Treated?

Most often, diabetic dogs will require regular blood testing and insulin injections to remain healthy. This will ensure that your dog’s blood contains enough insulin to properly process the glucose present.

best dog food for diabetes

Don’t worry: These procedures are easier than they sound, and your vet will help teach you how to do them safely.

Some dogs can get by with oral medications, which are obviously easier to administer.

Your vet will probably also encourage you to ensure your pup remains active, as exercise can provide important benefits for diabetic dogs.

The amount of exercise you’ll need to provide your pet with will vary from one dog to the next. Some may only need regular walks around the neighborhood, while others will require more intense exercise to remain healthy.

Complications of the Early and Final Stages of Dog Diabetes

Diabetes is certainly a serious condition, so you’ll want to follow your vet’s advice very closely to give your dog the best chance of living a long, healthy life.

In fact, if not properly managed, canine diabetes can cause a number of serious health problems or even death. A few of the most important complications of the disease include the following:

  • Cataracts — Diabetic dogs often develop cataracts over time, which typically leads to partial or complete blindness. However, cataracts can often be addressed surgically to restore a dog’s eyesight.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy — This condition occurs when a dog’s diabetes triggers changes in the blood vessels that provide blood flow to the eye. In some cases, treatments for this condition are possible.
  • Insulin Overdose — If you administer too much insulin to your dog, it can cause his blood sugar levels to plummet, potentially causing a variety of problems, including seizures and permanent brain damage.
  • Urinary Tract Infections — Because the urine of diabetic pets often contains high levels of sugar, and some diabetic dogs have difficulty voiding their bladders completely, urinary tract infections are common in diabetic dogs.

Several other complications can also occur in response to your dog’s diabetes — particularly if it is not managed well. This includes rear-leg weakness, high blood pressure and low blood calcium levels.

In the final stages of dog diabetes, even more serious problems can occur. This most notably includes diabetic ketoacidosis — a condition in which the body starts using emergency energy stores.

Ketoacidosis can even trigger additional complications, including brain swelling and heart failure.

Breeds That May Be Predisposed to Diabetes

Unfortunately, it appears that a few breeds may be more likely to develop diabetes than others. If your dog belongs to one of the following breeds, be extra vigilant about watching for signs of the disease.

  • Samoyed
  • Keeshonds
  • Dachshunds
  • Poodles
  • Golden
  • German Shepherds
  • Dobermans
  • Schnauzers
  • Puli
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Pomeranians
  • Fox Terriers
  • Beagles
  • Bichon Frise

Additionally, females – particularly overweight individuals — are more likely than males (particularly thin males) to develop diabetes late in life. There is some evidence that suggests spaying may help reduce these risks.

Dog Diabetes Cost: How Much Will This Illness Set You Back?

Many owners become concerned about the costs involved in treating a diabetic dog once their pup is diagnosed with the illness.

There are a number of different factors that’ll influence the amount of money you spend, but we’ll try to give you an idea of what to expect below.

Insulin Medications

Most diabetic dogs will require twice-daily insulin injections, although there are (rare) exceptions. Insulin will likely represent the single most expensive component of your dog’s treatment on a monthly basis, so you’ll want to plan accordingly.

According to PetRx Inc., most owners should expect to pay between $30 and $150 per month on insulin. The exact amount you’ll pay will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • The severity of your dog’s disease
  • The size of your dog (bigger dogs will typically need more insulin)
  • Where you obtain the insulin

The last factor is the only one you can really control, but fortunately, it’s also the most influential part of the equation. The cost of insulin varies greatly from one vendor to the next, so it is wise to shop around.

For example, many vets will sell insulin to their patients. However, because veterinary clinics are rarely set up to be efficient retail outlets, they usually implement a pretty hefty markup to make the sales worth their efforts.

On the other hand, your local pharmacy will likely have more reasonable prices, as they’re very business model is designed around selling medications.

But some of the best prices for insulin can often be found at big-box retailers and their online counterparts (we’re talking about Walmart, Costco, Amazon and similar places).

Some of these places even participate in discount programs, which may lower the cost of your dog’s insulin even further.

Syringes

Once you’ve obtained your dog’s insulin, you’ll need to purchase some syringes to perform the injections.

Syringes aren’t terribly expensive, but you’ll need to plan to spend about $10 to $20 a month on them. 

Try to purchase syringes in bulk whenever possible, as this will usually lower the price-per-unit significantly.

Glucose Monitor, Lancets and Testing Strips

There are a number of different glucose monitors on the market, and they vary significantly in terms of price.

There are cheap models available for around $20, while some of the most expensive cost about $150 or so. You don’t want to skimp where your dog’s health is concerned, so you should probably expect to spend about $50 in most cases.

Lancets and test strips are disposable supplies that you’ll need to use with most glucose monitors.

Like syringes, they aren’t terribly expensive, but you will need to set aside money for them on a monthly basis. Typically, dog owners spend about $5 to $20 a month on these supplies.

If you are currently in the market for a glucose monitor, be sure to check out the AlphaTrak 2 Monitoring System Kit.

AlphaTRAK 2 Blood Glucose Monitoring System Kit

Designed specifically for cats and dogs, this kit comes with everything you need to get started, including the monitor, lancing device, 30 lancets, 25 testing strips, a carrying case, and two user guides.

Most owners who’ve tried it found it easy to use and effective. However, some owners complained about the cost of the test strips and lancets sold by the manufacturer of the AlphaTrak 2 kit.

Fortunately, there are more affordable alternatives available, such as this Test Strip and Lancet Kit, sold by Care Touch. These lancets and test strips will work with AlphaTrak and AlphaTrack 2 monitoring kits.

Diabetic Dog Food

Your dog needs food whether he has diabetes or not, but you may find it necessary to purchase a slightly more expensive dog food than normal if your pet is diagnosed with the illness.

Prescription dog foods for diabetes are typically the most expensive options, and some cost twice as much as non-prescription formulas.

However, not all diabetic dogs require a prescription diet. Your vet may simply recommend switching to a premium dog food, that is high in fiber, low in simple carbohydrates, and full of protein.

In these cases, you’ll likely only spend about 10% to 20% more per month on your pet’s food. And if you were already feeding your pet a premium brand, you may not have to pay any more for his food at all.

Additional Veterinary Visits

You will likely end up needing to visit the vet several times over a short period of time after your dog is diagnosed with diabetes.

You’ll also need to start taking your dog in for more frequent visits so your vet can ensure he is doing well.

The cost of veterinary visits varies, and some vets may be willing to offer reduced rates for patients that must come in repeatedly.

Just ask your vet how much you should prepare to spend on visits, and be sure to inquire about any discount plans he or she offers.

Are Homemade Diets a Good Idea for Diabetic Dogs?

Although an increasing number of owners are experimenting with homemade diets for their pets, we usually discourage owners from doing so.

Properly balancing the nutritional content of a dog food is much more difficult than many dog owners believe it is, and very few owners will be able to prepare a food that is as nutritious as a high-quality commercial food.

Over time, the types of nutritional imbalances that characterize most homemade diets will often result in deficiencies and long-term health problems which are difficult to resolve.

But homemade diets are even more dangerous for diabetic dogs, given their unique dietary needs.

For example, improper carbohydrate and fiber levels may cause your dog’s blood sugar levels to swing wildly, which will create an acute threat to your dog’s health.

Accordingly, we strongly recommend that owners of diabetic dogs stick to a good commercial recipe that meets the criteria we discussed above.

Three Final Care Tips for Diabetic Dogs

Hopefully, one of the foods listed above will help you manage your dog’s diabetes and ensure that he enjoys many more years to come.

But before you go, we wanted to share three more tips, which should help your dog whether he is in the early or final stages of dog diabetes.

1. Feed Your Dog on a Regular Schedule

In addition to providing your dog with a low-carb, high-fiber food, it is also important to feed your dog on a consistent schedule. This will also help to keep his blood sugar levels stable.

You’ll need to discuss the optimal feeding schedule with your vet, but most diabetic dogs will thrive on a twice-daily feeding schedule. Typically, you’ll want to feed your dog right before administering his insulin.

No matter what feeding schedule you and your vet decide upon, try your best to feed your dog at the same times each day.

2. Don’t Switch Foods Unnecessarily

Unless there’s a compelling reason to do so, try to avoid making significant changes to your diabetic dog’s diet.

Switching foods can cause your pet’s blood sugar levels to fluctuate in unpredictable ways, which can put his health in jeopardy.

Accordingly, you’ll want to think carefully about the food you select, and always talk to your vet before changing to a different recipe or brand.

3. Don’t Forget to Think About Treats

Treats can represent a significant portion of your dog’s daily calories, so be sure that you don’t sabotage your efforts by giving your diabetic pup high-calorie or sugary treats.

You can still give your pet treats (assuming your vet signs off on the practice), but just be sure to limit them and to select treats that are protein-based!

All Natural Diabetic Dog Treats, 10 oz- Vet Approved

For example, Old Dog Cookie Co. manufacturers treats made specifically for diabetic dogs.

These American-made, certified-organic treats are made with several ingredients that will help to manage your dog’s blood sugar levels, and most dogs appear to love the way they taste too!

***

Do you have a diabetic dog in your care? What types of foods have you found helpful? We’d love to hear all about it (particularly if you are aware of a great food we missed) in the comments below.

healthiest-dog-food
Recommended For You

What Is The Healthiest Dog Food?

Written by

Ben Team

Ben is the senior content editor for K9 of Mine and has spent most of his adult life working as a wildlife educator and animal-care professional. Ben’s had the chance to work with hundreds of different species, but his favorite animals have always been dogs. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his spoiled-rotten Rottweiler named J.B. Chances are, she’s currently giving him the eyes and begging to go to the park.

Dog

Join our pup pack!

Get tons of great dog training advice and tips about gear!

Mailbox

85 Comments

Leave a Comment

Name
Email Address
Comment
robert lichowid

Our 13 yr old poodle/bishon mix was just diagnosised with diabetes. She really did not like the wet food from the vet, refused to eat it. It was recommended We try Weruva. She actually likes it. All natural human grade, grain and gluten free. Nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for adult dogs.

Reply
Ben Team

Glad you found something that works, Robert.
Thanks for sharing!

Reply

Also Worth Your Time