I think it’s easier for human diabetics to make sound nutritional choices for themselves than for their diabetic pets. Eating a colorful salad is clearly a better choice than eating a greasy burger on a thick white bun. Eating broccoli is clearly a better choice than having a cupcake. You can expect simple carbs like white rice, candy, soda and bread to cause a spike in the blood sugar. And yet, there are subtle sneaky sources of simple carbs that may slide under the radar such as sugar in salad dressings or sauces. Pet Diabetes Diet choices can be different.
Human diabetics (well, humans in general) should understand the impact of the food we eat on our bodies. Diabetics are simply forced to deal with the sugar impact of food ingested every day.
Then we think about how to feed our diabetic pets. Oftentimes this is simply scooping the dog food or opening the can of cat food, so the day to day temptations may not come into play provided you don’t feed your pet lots of human snacks or pet treats. This means the pet food choice should be thoughtful. And of course, it means not giving Fluffy carb-laden snacks between meals. If you must give your diabetic pet a mid-meal snack, make the snack small. Perhaps a bit of lean meat, a bit of protein or green veggie, or something low in carbohydrate.
Diet choices greatly affect the amount of insulin your pet requires. I’ve changed diabetic cats that were already diabetic and already on insulin when they came under my care from dry kibble to a canned, low-carb food and seen diabetic remission within weeks of the diet change. Even if a diabetic cat doesn’t go into remission, the glucose regulation usually improves significantly when we take away kibble and instead feed a low-carbohydrate canned diet only.
When cats go into diabetic remission, their insulin requirement may vary from dose to dose. As a cat goes into remission we check the blood glucose before each insulin dose and adjust the dose based on the blood glucose at that time. Frankly, if I have a particularly good diabetic cat owner, I’ll have them check the blood glucose before each dose right away when we diagnose diabetes. Many diabetic pet owners resist such frequent blood glucose monitoring, so I don’t force all diabetic cat owners to do this. This frequent monitoring and adjusting the insulin dose in diabetic cats is called “tight diabetic control” for cats. We do this with the goal of diabetic remission. If we get the “glucose toxicity” resolved, that’s the negative impact a high blood glucose has on the insulin producing cells of the pancreas, a cat can go into diabetic remission and actually go off insulin. Of course, these cats must remain on a low-carb and canned cat food diet longterm if they wish to stay in remission. And if course, we want these cats to stay slim as obesity is a huge predisposing factor to diabetes in cats.
Then we look at diabetic dog diets…
Veterinarians haven’t seen the same dramatic success from feeding low carb diets to canines as we have with felines. Nonetheless, we should definitely avoid high-carb diets. Canine diabetic diets are usually high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, yet low in fat. Fiber slows gastric emptying and helps the pet feel fuller. It also slows the peak of blood glucose rise by slowing gut transit time. Many diabetic dogs have a history of pancreatitis, so we typically stick to low fat diets for them. Prescription weight loss diets for dogs often fit the bill for good diabetic dog diets.
Finally, don’t run out of your pet’s food. Consistency is your friend when you have a diabetic pet. Equal portions every 12 hours of the SAME pet food, day in and day out, may sound boring to you, but pets feel crummy when their blood glucose is not regulated. Changing from one diet to another will likely affect the blood glucose. Find a pet food that works well, figure out the best portion of the food and insulin dosage, and stick with it. Please don’t worry about your pet getting bored with the diet if your pet eats well and is well regulated.
Have a question or comment? Then post below! I always enjoy hearing from my readers!
NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.
Hello Dr Sutton-
Our 10 yr old Chesapeake Bay Retriever is epileptic (6 years now-taking keppra and pheob) and has been diagnosed with diabetes, Dec. 9, 2022. She is a master hunter, so is active for her age and weighs 76 lbs, she lost 4 lbs. She is still not in range and was swinging so we backed her to 8 units, from 19 and are working our way slowly back up, (9.5 currently) with curves.
I need help with her food. She eats Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind dry,( 170 mg) twice daily, loves it and has no gastro issues and I think it help her seizures as well. She gets shredded chicken -30 mg. and 40 mg green beans. I add one cup water to the food. Her weight appears steady but I am wondering if there is anything I can add to her food to help keep her bg more stable. I read about long acting carbs, fiber, etc. but don’t know what if anything I should do. She is currently still in 300-400, but once dropped as low as 35 right before a meal and acted totally normal. She does get lower at the end of the day and then higher at morning fast.
My 12 year old Lab has diabetes and has arthritis in his back legs – can I give him Cosequin for Seniors? I am hoping it will help him
Joint supplements are a good thing for arthritic pets. Always check a blood glucose curve a week or so after adding meds, supplements, treats or doing a diet change. You never know when these can alter the blood glucose.
Our 7 year old dachshund was diagnosed as diabetic about 2 months ago. He seems to be pretty well regulated and gets fed and insulin (Vetsulin) at 6:30 AM & PM. He used to get a dentastix daily at 3:30 but we have cut this out after his diagnosis. Do you think it would be ok to resume this for his dental health or is it a bad treat for him? If not, is there another dental treat you can suggest. Thank you.
Dr. Sutton: Thank you for all the good information you share.
My dog Hunter is 13 yrs. old and was diagnosed with Diabetes in October. I am having a difficult time trying to find a dog food that he will eat.
I have tried so many different brands and nothing he fancies.
I usually give him ground turkey, fresh chicken, meatballs, eggs and vegetables. At times he will eat and other times he walks away.
Do you have any suggestions or recipes for dog food for dogs with diabetes?
Thank you! Enjoy your day!
Well, he may have nausea. Speak with your vet about trying some angina uses medications and seeing if that helps his appetite. Additionally, there are appetite stimulants you can try.
There is a great website made by veterinary nutritionists called BalanceIt.com. They can help you formulate a diet for him.
Dr Sutton, your articles are very informative thank you. My veterinarian put my dog on Purina OM Lamb as she has diabetes and needs to lose a little weight too. He told me that I can give her in the early afternoon a little meal of the OM with green beans. I weigh the food and add water to the kibble always. I just wanted to make sure the little meal of OM would be fine from your opinion.
Both Am and PM meals are 57grams of OM and for that snack meal it is 12 or 15 grams of OM with water to hydrate the kibble and green beans. The vet said that amount 12/15g of OM would be fine @1pm. Just be consistent he said.
To know how this snack affects your pet’s glucose control you might check a blood glucose an hour or so after the extra snack. In general I prefer to avoid any in between meal snacks. Green beans alone (without the kibble) would not likely affect the glucose at all. Make sense?
In 2015 our Maine Coon cat was diagnosed with diabetes. I connected with the Feline Diabetes Board, an online site to help with questions about caring for diabetic felines. We had a little difficulty in transitioning our cat to another food as she had skin issues. However, after the transition we did exactly as you recommended and changed from a high carb dry food to a low carb wet food. After being on insulin (and testing 8-10 times a day for dosing) for approximately 2 1/2 months she went into remission in about two weeks later. She was on the start low, go slow method and then was on tight regulation at the end. She is healthy, weight controlled and is in her third year of being a diet controlled diabetic. We feed her four times a day.
This makes my heart sing. Great job!