Many of us are familiar with the risks of diabetes for humans, but have you considered the possibility of diabetes affecting dogs? Although not as common in dogs as in humans, diabetes is still a major health concern among responsible dog parents. Diabetes is the most frequently reported endocrine disorder in dogs, affecting about 1 in 200 dogs.
Dog parents must understand that diabetes in dogs is not a temporary issue. It is a life-threatening condition that requires a lifelong commitment to insulin injections and feeding and dietary strategies.
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when a dog’s body is either unable to produce or unable to adequately utilize the hormone insulin. The purpose of insulin is to help regulate the dog’s blood sugar level, keeping it from skyrocketing too high or dropping too low.
Diabetic dog food
The best approach for managing diabetes is by proper dietary strategy. Diabetic dog food should consist of a fixed formula with consistent:
- high levels of high-quality proteins
- high levels of dietary fiber
- low levels of carbohydrates
- low levels of fats.
Ideally, at least 30 to 40% of the calories in your diabetic dog’s food would come from protein and less than 30% of calories would come from fat and carbohydrates each.
Healthy dietary fiber is an integral part of all diabetic dog foods. Fiber is the indigestible portion of plant foods and there are 2 types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Healthy dietary fiber has low caloric density and contributes to weight reduction. Healthy dietary fiber also promotes a satiety feeling, thus limiting the voluntary ingestion of food. Additionally, certain fiber, such as CMC (carboxymethylcellulose) slows down the emptying of the stomach, and by doing so, slows the delivery of sugar into the bloodstream.
Tip: Fiber takes water from the body and if your dog does not drink enough, it may lead to constipation. When using diabetic dog food, make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water at its disposal.
When it comes to diabetic dog food is not the carbohydrate itself that matters, as much as its glycemic index. The glycemic index measures the effects of the food’s carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. If a food has a low glycemic index it is digested slowly and steadily and it slows down the delivery of sugar into the bloodstream. Typical examples of carbohydrates with low glycemic indexes include ancestral cereals such as oats, spelt, and barley. On the opposite side of the scale, rice which has a high glycemic index is digested quickly and results in a blood sugar peak and sudden high demand for insulin.
Tip: Since any change in carbohydrates affects the amount of insulin needed, try to feed the same amount of the same type of food at the same time each day, ideally in two meals, 12 hours apart.
Specially formulated diabetic dog foods induce an optimal and gradual post-prandial glycemic response that modulates insulin release. Simply stated, they help keep blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Keeping the blood sugar levels normal makes it less likely, your dog will get diabetes-related complications such as vision clouding (cataract) and urinary tract infections.
Note: Putting your diabetic dog’s blood sugar levels under control takes time. Do not get discouraged if the blood sugar levels are not optimal at your first checkup at the vet.
How to improve the taste of diabetic dog food?
Even the best diabetic dog food can be useless if your dog does not like how it tastes. Fortunately, you can improve the diabetic food’s taste and make it more tempting by adding:
- 1 tablespoon of low-carb canned food in the regular diabetic food
- few small pieces of shredded chicken in the regular diabetic food
- 3 tablespoons of low-sodium chicken broth in regular diabetic food.
Tip: Never inject insulin on an empty stomach, since it can make your dog sick.
What to avoid?
Soft, semi-moist, and wet foods must be avoided because they are very high in sugar and stimulate the greatest blood sugar increase after eating.
Can I give my diabetic dog treats?
As funny and mischievous as it gets, on occasion, your dog is a good boy/girl. And on those occasions, he/she deserves a reward. Do not deprive your dog of treats. As long as the treat has a low glycemic index and low caloric density it is safe for your diabetic fur baby.
Tip: Replace commercial dog treats with diabetic-friendly whole-food treats, such as carrots, chunks of melon, apples (without peel and seeds), broccoli, and blueberries.
Seeking professional opinion
No matter how many insightful blogs you have read and how many well-educated salespersons at local pet stores you have talked to, always go a step further and seek a professional opinion. Talk to your trusted vet or dog nutritionist. Every diabetic dog needs a tailored approach and modified dietary strategy. A true professional will take into consideration your dog’s:
- current state of health
- body weight
- level of physical activity.
Diabetes in dogs is a chronic and serious, but effectively manageable health condition. The key to controlling and treating diabetes is by regulating the blood sugar levels. Luckily canine nutrition has come a long way in recent years and a properly controlled diet can keep the blood sugar levels within acceptable limits.
All in all, although scary, having your dog diagnosed with diabetes, is not the end of the world. With proper care and devotion, your dog can live a long and healthy life.
Here you can see the latest products in our Diabetic Dog Food Category. Use the flavor sprays to taste up the food for your best friend!