Top 10 Best Foods for Diabetic Dogs

Top 10 Best Foods for Diabetic Dogs

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), over 30 million Americans have diabetes. This makes diabetes a disease of near-epidemic proportions, and it is closely linked to the obesity epidemic. Both of these conditions are commonly thought of as human diseases, but you may be surprised to learn that both can affect dogs as well.

Not only do dogs have the potential to develop diabetes, but the problem is surprisinglshry common. In fact, statistics from Banfield Pet Hospitals suggest that there was a nearly 80% increase in the number of dog diabetes cases between 2006 and 2015. Canine diabetes is a serious condition but also a manageable one and, in some cases, it may even be reversible.

The key to managing your dog’s diabetes is to feed him a healthy diet. A wholesome and nutritious diet will help your dog maintain a healthy bodyweight, and it will help keep his blood sugar stable as well. In this article, we’ll explore the subject of canine diabetes including treatment options. You’ll also see our diabetic dog food list including our top 10 picks.

What Do You Need to Know About Diabetes in Dogs?

You’ve almost certainly heard of diabetes, but how much do you really know about it? And how does canine diabetes differ from diabetes in humans? Diabetes is a type of endocrine disorder that affects your dog’s ability to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone created in the pancreas which is released in response to an increase in blood sugar.

When your dog eats, his body breaks down the food into its core components which include glucose. That glucose then enters the bloodstream for dispersal throughout the body and, in response, the pancreas starts producing insulin. Insulin enables cells in the body to absorb glucose from the bloodstream so they can use it as a source of energy. As the cells absorb glucose, your dog’s blood sugar level tapers back down to normal, and insulin production slows down.

The problem occurs when your dog’s ability to produce insulin becomes impaired or if his body stops responding to it properly. Chronically high blood sugar will cause your dog’s pancreas to work double time to produce enough insulin and, as a result, it may end up taking more insulin to achieve the desired result, or the pancreas could start to dysfunction. That’s when diabetes occurs.

Diabetes is a condition that typically develops over time and may produce symptoms such as:

  • Dehydration
  • Low energy
  • Poor coat condition
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cataracts
  • Weakness in hind legs

Diagnosis of diabetes in dogs requires blood and urine tests. When testing your dog’s blood, the vet will be looking for an above-normal glucose level – normal levels for dogs are between 60 and 125 mg/dl. Your veterinarian may also test your dog’s urine for ketones. In addition to testing for ketones, your vet will also check the urine for signs of bacteria since they tend to flourish in high-sugar environments.

There are two types of diabetes in both humans and dogs. Type 1 diabetes is also known as diabetes mellitus, and it occurs when the pancreas is damaged or otherwise not functioning properly. Type 2 diabetes is known as adult-onset diabetes in humans but is often referred to as insulin-resistant diabetes in dogs. It occurs when the body is no longer able to utilize insulin as well as it should.

Tips for Treating and Managing Diabetes in Dogs

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are very serious conditions for dogs. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to some serious complications. Chronically elevated blood sugar will damage the internal organs and, without insulin to enable cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream, the cells will be starved for energy. Eventually, your dog may develop kidney problems, heart failure, and eye problems.

Though diabetes in dogs cannot be cured, it can be managed through various treatment options.

Dogs with Type 1 diabetes will require insulin injections as well as dietary changes to lose weight and manage their blood sugar. Dogs with Type 2 diabetes typically don’t require insulin injections because the condition can be managed with dietary changes, weight loss, and oral medications. The goal of treatment for diabetes is to stabilize the dog’s blood sugar levels and to help him achieve a healthy body weight. Once the dog’s condition is stable, he may no longer need insulin injections.

While your dog requires insulin therapy, he’ll probably need injections twice per day. Unfortunately, it can take some time as well as a fair bit of trial and error to determine the right dosage. Your vet will need to test your dog’s blood every couple of hours to monitor changes in blood sugar in response to insulin injections. It may take several months of weekly or bi-weekly testing to find the right dosage. In the meantime, you’ll need to keep your dog’s diet and exercise habits as consistent as possible.

Here are some additional tips for treating and managing canine diabetes:

  • Be consistent about what, how much, and when you are feeding your dog while completing a blood glucose curve – this information is essential to determine the right dosage.
  • Maintain your dog’s twice-daily insulin injections according to your vet’s advice while keeping other aspects of his life (diet, exercise, and stress levels) as consistent as possible.
  • Consider timing your dog’s insulin injections to be given right after a meal – this enables you to lower the dose if needed, if your dog doesn’t eat as much at one meal.
  • The first few months of diabetes treatment can be frustrating and time-consuming but most dogs that make it through live another two years.
  • Most dogs do not completely recover from diabetes, but the condition can be managed, and the dog can still live a healthy life with regular exercise and dietary management.

What to Look for in a Dog Food for Diabetes

Though diabetes can affect any dog, it is most common in middle-aged and senior dogs as well as dogs that are overweight or obese. There are also certain breeds more susceptible to diabetes than others – examples include Pugs, Bichon Frises, Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers, Beagles, Miniature Poodles, and Fox Terriers. Female dogs are also more likely to get diabetes, particularly unspayed females.

Treatment of diabetes in dogs should be monitored by a veterinarian. Your vet will be able to determine which type of diabetes your dog has and how to best manage it. In addition to insulin treatments, your vet may also recommend dietary changes to help your dog lose weight and to manage his blood sugar.

Here are 5 key things to look for in a dog food for diabetes:

  1. Low-to-moderate fat. Healthy fats provide a concentrated source of energy for dogs as well as support for his skin and coat. For overweight dogs, however, you want to limit the fat content of the dog’s diet as a means of controlling his calorie intake.
  2. High in protein. Lean protein is the foundation of a healthy diet for dogs, especially if your dog needs to lose weight. Focus on high-quality animal proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish.
  3. Highly digestible. Look for a dog food with supplemental fiber to help your dog digest food and absorb nutrients. Fiber also helps slow the rate at which glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream, so a high-fiber diet may help control your dog’s blood sugar level.
  4. Low glycemic index. Most commercial dog foods contain carbohydrates, and it’s completely fine as long as they come from digestible, nutritious sources. For dogs with diabetes, you want to limit the carb content as much as possible and stick to low-glycemic carbs to avoid spiking your dog’s blood sugar at each feeding.
  5. All-natural ingredients. Generally speaking, all dogs should be fed a diet made from wholesome, natural ingredients but it is particularly important to avoid artificial additives for dogs with health problems like diabetes.

The 10 Best Dog Foods for Diabetes

The best dog food for diabetes is a low glycemic dog food rich in protein with moderate fat content. It should be highly digestible, ideally supplemented with fiber and probiotics, but still limited in total carbohydrate content. It should also contain fresh fruits and vegetables as natural sources for key nutrients with vitamin and mineral supplements for nutritional balance.

Here’s our diabetic dog food list including our list of top 10 picks for the best diabetic dog food brands:

Purina Pro Plan Weight Management – Best Value

Purina Pro Plan Weight Management (1)

First Three Ingredients: Chicken, rice, whole grain wheat
Food Form: Dry food
Life Stage: Adult

Dogs with diabetes can be predisposed to gaining weight. The Purina Pro Plan Weight Management formula helps these pups lose weight while maintaining lean muscle mass. This dry food is also more economical than other options designed for dogs with diabetes, although still recommended by most vets.

However, a few dog owners have noticed that it gives their dogs more gas. Plus, since it contains grains and wheat, it may be more difficult for dogs with sensitive stomachs to digest.

  • Real chicken as the first ingredient
  • Good value for money
  • Help maintain a healthy weight
  • Packed with probiotics for better digestive health
  • Not suitable for dogs allergic to grains or wheat
  • Some owners reported that this food made their dog very gassy

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Glycobalance Formula – Best Overall

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Glycobalance Formula (1)

First Three Ingredients: Chicken by-product meal, barley, corn gluten meal
Food Form: Dry food
Life Stage: Adult

Royal Canin is a master of the art of making high-quality medical foods that are popular with dogs. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Glycobalance is no exception: these dry kibbles have been designed to help regulate blood glucose in your diabetic dog, while still being appetizing.

It is a complete dietetic food that contains few carbohydrates and starch. In addition, it has a high protein content to maintain the muscle mass of the dog. This formula also contains antioxidants to strengthen the immune system. However, it is only available with a prescription from your veterinarian. Besides, it is not cheap. But unfortunately, the majority of diabetic dog food options are not exactly budget-friendly.

  • Available only with a prescription
  • Pricey, but it’s comparable to many other prescription dog foods
  • Recommended by most veterinarians
  • High protein content
  • Helps regulate blood sugar levels
  • Contains antioxidants to strengthen the immune system

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula – Best for Puppies

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula (1)
First Three Ingredients: Water buffalo, lamb meal, sweet potatoes
Food Form: Dry food
Life Stage: Puppies

You don’t have to wait for your puppy to develop diabetes to start feeding him in a different way! Taste of the Wild High Prairie is a dry food made with quality protein, such as bison and lamb. In addition, it does not contain any grain, wheat, soy, or other additives that can be harmful to the sensitive stomach of a small puppy.

However, be aware that a completely grain-free diet may not be suitable for your pet unless it has been specially recommended by your veterinarian. Make sure you have his approval before purchasing this brand, to avoid throwing your money away for unsuitable food for your puppy.

  • Real meat is the first ingredient
  • Made with quality ingredients from sustainable local and global sources
  • No grains, corn, wheat, artificial flavors, or artificial colors
  • Most puppies adore this food, even the pickiest
  • Contains berries and starches
  • Grain-free formula may be harder to digest for some puppies

Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Multi-Benefit – Premium Choice

Hill's Prescription Diet w_d Multi-Benefit
First Three Ingredients: Whole Grain Wheat, powdered cellulose, chicken meal
Food Form: Dry food
Life Stage: Adult

Hill’s Prescription Diet is food designed by veterinarians and nutritionists for dogs with digestive problems. This clinically tested food helps dogs maintain or lose weight (while keeping their muscle mass intact), manage blood sugar levels, and support the immune system. And these aren’t just empty claims made by the manufacturer: this food fulfills its promises for most dogs with excess weight and unstable blood sugar. However, regular check-ups with your veterinarian are the only way to know if this food is really improving the health of your pooch.

Besides, a premium choice comes with a higher cost and the bill can get steep in the long run. Additionally, you will need a prescription from your vet before purchasing this option online, which can be time-consuming for some owners.

  • High content of fiber and protein
  • Effective in helping obese dogs lose weight
  • Most dogs digest this food better than other options
  • Very expensive
  • Only available with a prescription

ORIJEN Original Grain-Free

ORIJEN Original Grain-Free (1)
First Three Ingredients: Chicken, turkey, flounder
Food Form: Dry food
Life Stage: Adult

Orijen is a well-known food brand that is popular among doggie owners. Its grain-free version offers an impressive amount of high-quality protein, paired with a very low carbohydrate content. This makes this dry food a good option for diabetic dogs.

Unfortunately, its high price may turn off many buyers. Plus, small dogs may have a hard time chewing these kibbles, while others may just turn their noses up at these top-quality ingredients, despite being palatable to most dogs! Thus, a safe bet would be to buy a smaller bag to try it out with your pooch first.

  • Contains probiotics
  • Made in USA with whole ingredients
  • Includes fresh meat, organs, cartilage, and bone
  • Kibbles may be too big to chew for small dogs
  • Expensive

Visionary Pet Foods Keto

Visionary Pet Foods Keto (1)
First Three Ingredients: Chicken meal, chicken, chicken fat
Food Form: Dry food
Life Stage: Adult

Just like humans, dogs can also follow the keto diet! And it can be very effective for dogs with diabetes, as the extremely low carbohydrate content in Visionary Pet Foods helps keep blood sugar levels stable. This dry food option contains no grains, wheat, fruits, sugars, or other fillers. The ingredient list is short and sweet and doesn’t contain any impossible-to-pronounce names, which is – most of the time – a good indicator of the quality of the product.

However, this food can cause bloating in some dogs, especially if the change in diet is done too quickly. Additionally, some dogs can develop an intense thirst, which is a common and normal effect of ketogenic diets. Either way, be sure to check with your vet first to make sure this option is right for your dog. 

  • Extremely low carb
  • Made in the USA
  • Very high protein content
  • Expensive
  • May cause bloating and intense thirst in some dogs

Dave’s Pet Food 95% Premium Chicken

Dave's Pet Food 95% Premium Chicken (1)
First Three Ingredients: Chicken, water, chicken liver
Food Form: Wet food
Life Stage: Adult

Dave’s Pet Food is a wet food that can be fed to dogs with high protein requirements and as an alternative to raw food. The list of ingredients is stellar: only chicken, water, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, the high-water content is ideal for diabetic dogs with excessive thirst.

However, this product contains very little fiber and more fat than the other options, which is not suitable for dogs with excess weight. Besides, this diet is expensive, especially if you use this option as the primary source of food for your dog.

  • High-quality ingredients with only chicken, water, vitamins, and minerals
  • Lower-calorie recipe for dogs who are overweight
  • Grain-free
  • Low fiber content
  • May not be the best option for overweight dogs
  • Pricey

ACANA Red Meat Recipe

ACANA Red Meat Recipe (1)
First Three Ingredients: Beef, deboned pork, beef meal
Food Form: Dry food
Life Stage: Adult

Acana is a brand that is also renowned and loved by many dog owners and their pets. This Red Meat Recipe contains high-quality protein, including beef and pork. Fiber is also found in large quantities and comes from vegetables, legumes, and fruits added to the recipe. But, it also results in higher carbohydrate content than in the other options, which is not optimal for a dog with diabetes.

Plus, it’s an expensive option, especially when compared to brands recommended by vets. Also, several dog owners report that their pups have shunned this food, although there does not seem to be any particular reason. It’s probably just a matter of taste and texture!

  • Contains a good proportion of fiber from vegetables, fruits, and legumes
  • High-quality ingredients
  • Made in the USA
  • Contains more carbs than other options
  • Expensive
  • Many dog owners report their dogs don’t care for the taste

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food

The Best Foods for Diabetic Dogs

  • What a perfect diet for a dog with diabetes!.
  • A 100% grain free diet, Wellness Core is a perfectly balanced and complete meal for a dog. Combined with essential vitamins and minerals, this meal has maximum proteins of chicken or turkey along with real fruits and vegetables.
  • The product is completely free from wheat, corn or soy, colors or any additional preservatives. Another feature making this food ideal for diabetic dogs is the presence of probiotics and antioxidants. The fibers present in it in the form of spinach, sweet potatoes, etc. are able to keep the glucose level balanced

Orijen Six Fish Grain Free Adult Dog Food

The Best Foods for Diabetic Dogs

  • Diabetes may cause your pet to lose weight surprisingly. That’s of course a matter of concern for you.
  • Feeding your dog with Orijen Six Fish Grain-free diet can help dog gain weight immediately and boost the muscles too. It is rich in proteins, coming through fish meat

Buyer’s Guide: Purchasing the Best Diabetic Dog Food

What Is Canine Diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that causes insulin deficiency. This means that the pancreas makes less insulin or that the receptors in the cells can’t respond adequately to this hormone, so the effectiveness of insulin is reduced.

Insulin is the main regulatory hormone in the metabolism of carbohydrates and dietary sugars, but it also influences the metabolism of fats and proteins, and a deficiency of this hormone compromises the functioning of the whole body.

There are two types of diabetes in dogs, just like in humans:
  • Type I diabetes: This type of diabetes is also called insulin-dependent. It is characterized by a complete cessation of insulin production by the pancreas. So, without insulin, the sugar stays in the blood and the cells cannot function well. Type I diabetes is most commonly seen in dogs, and these dogs need daily insulin injections to maintain their blood sugar levels.
  • Type II diabetes: Type II is the type of insulin-resistant diabetes. The dog’s pancreas is still able to produce insulin, but the cells of its body cannot respond to it adequately: this is why it is called insulin resistance. This type of diabetes can affect dogs of all ages but is mostly found in older or obese dogs.

Dogs with diabetes will exhibit certain symptoms, such as excessive thirst, weight loss, and severe lethargy. Your vet will be able to make a diagnosis using blood tests, a urinalysis, and a careful examination of the dog’s symptoms. Unfortunately, diabetes cannot be cured, but your dog’s quality of life can be improved with treatments prescribed by the veterinarian and with proper nutrition.

What Should Diabetic Dog Food Consist Of?

  • What is the best food for a diabetic dog? This question cannot be answered with a single sentence, just as it is impossible to talk about one type of optimal food for a perfectly healthy dog. All dogs are different and therefore have individual needs. Large dogs have different energy and nutrient needs than small dogs, just as athletic dogs will not eat the same food as dwarf dogs. Also, senior dogs will have very different needs from puppies.
  • Thus, to find the right diet for a diabetic dog, you will need to consider its age, breed, weight, gender, and level of activity. To find the perfect diet for your dog’s needs, get advice from your veterinarian or a dog nutrition expert.
  • However, it is a good idea to know which nutrients are essential for your dog with diabetes and which ones you should avoid. So, your dog’s food (whether it comes in cans or kibbles, or whether you prepare it at home) should be high in protein and fiber.
  • This is because since fiber slows the flow of sugar into the blood, it helps keep insulin levels stable. On the other hand, carbohydrates and fats are difficult to digest and also encourage obesity. This is why their consumption should be very limited: no more than 20% to 25% carb matter on a dry matter basis.

What Not to Feed a Diabetic Dog

  • Avoid treats as much as possible, which are usually too high in sugars, and encourage overweight in dogs. The rule to follow? No more than 10% of your dog’s diet should consist of treats.
  • At least as important as good, healthy food, mealtimes play a very important role for dogs with diabetes. A regular daily routine is even more crucial for diabetic dogs than for healthy dogs. It is advisable to divide your dog’s daily ration (which must be strictly observed) into two or three portions, to be given to your dog at different times of the day. Set fixed times, fill your pet’s bowl accordingly, and clean his bowl afterward, especially if your dog has not finished his meal.

How to Prevent Diabetes in Dogs

The best way to prevent diabetes in dogs is to provide them with a healthy lifestyle. Feed your pooch a high-quality diet rich in protein and fiber and low in carbohydrates, given at set times and in reasonable quantities. Watch his weight and limit treats and sweets, as well as table scraps.

Finally, make sure your dog can burn off his energy each day with walks, physical activities, and lots of playtime!

Are eggs beneficial to diabetic dogs? 

Yes, eggs are healthy for diabetic dogs since they are a rich source of protein and do not cause blood sugar levels to rise. One of the cornerstones to general health is eating the right, nutritious, and well-balanced diet.

Do diabetic dogs require special nutrition? 

A diabetic dog will be OK eating it as long as it is a high-quality, full, and balanced diet. If you haven’t been paying attention to your pet’s nutrition, consult your veterinarian for advice on a healthy diet. Foods high in simple sugars should be avoided.

Is it possible to treat diabetes in dogs? 

Diabetes is an incurable condition in dogs that must be regularly watched and managed in order for your pet to live as long as possible.

When a dog develops diabetes, what happens? 

Excessive urination and thirst are caused by the body’s attempt to eliminate excess sugar by excreting it in the urine together with water that binds to the sugar. Loss of weight. Despite eating regular meals, the dog might lose weight.

Final Thoughts

If properly cared for, a dog with diabetes will enjoy a good quality of life, and although the diabetes is still incurable, its treatment will allow the dog to live normally.

To help your dog maintain good health, you can choose one of the options from our list that works best for your pet. We strongly recommend that you try Royal Canin Glycobalance Formula or Hill’s Prescription Diet, as you will need to go through your veterinarian first to get a prescription. This will allow you to discuss these choices directly with the professional.

Edward Hollon is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Edward has been writing for petdii for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Edward has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Edward knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.