Managing The Diet Of A Diabetic Dog

Diabetes is a chronic and incurable condition that is caused by problems or deficiencies with the body’s insulin levels. However, diabetes in dogs is manageable and can be maintained through either diet alone, or a combination of diet and the supplementary administration of insulin. Various different health conditions can lead to diabetes in the dog, including pancreatitis, obesity and thyroid disorders, or diabetes may come about on its own due to a genetic predisposition to the condition or a simple case of bad luck.

As is the case with humans, diabetes in the dog comes in two formats: type one and type two. Type one diabetes refers to cases where the body simply does not produce enough insulin to fulfil the dog’s needs, and must be managed by a combination of dietary changes and supplemental insulin injections. Type two diabetes in dogs occurs when the pancreas produces enough insulin to theoretically fulfil all of the dog’s needs, but the body is unable to process it properly or absorb it in sufficient quantities. Type two diabetes may require supplementary insulin injections, but can sometimes be managed by means of diet alone.

Regardless of whether a dog suffers from type one or type two diabetes and requires insulin injections or not, the diet of the diabetic dog plays a huge part in the management of the condition, and getting the diet right is key to ensuring the ongoing health and wellness of the diabetic dog.

Read on to learn more about dietary management in diabetic dogs.

Why is dietary management important?

The dietary requirements of the diabetic dog differ significantly to that of the healthy dog, and should contain a different balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats. This means that most shop bought complete foods are inappropriate to feed to the vast majority of diabetic dogs, as they contain the standard balance of ingredients without any great variations, which simply won’t meet the diabetic dog’s needs.

The key to the dietary management of diabetic dogs is the regulation of the body’s blood-glucose levels, and the ingredients and balance of ingredients within their food is the key to doing this. Simple carbohydrates such as products rich in sugar will cause peaks and troughs in the body’s blood-glucose levels, which can play havoc with the dog’s insulin levels, and simple carbohydrates are present in the average dog’s diet in sufficient quantities to trigger this occurrence.

Why are special diabetic veterinary diets different?

Many different dog food manufacturers produce diets specifically tailored to the needs of diabetic dogs, although these cannot be bought in the supermarket and are generally only available from your veterinary surgeon, or to order online after recommendation by your veterinary surgeon.

The overall make-up of the special diet required for diabetic dogs differs from standard dog diets in a variety of different ways, mainly in that they replace the simple carbohydrates within the food with a range of complex carbohydrates, such as fibres and grains.

These release glucose into the bloodstream slowly, avoiding the peaks and troughs in blood-glucose levels that come about from simple carbohydrates. The diabetic dog’s diet should contain around 40% of its total caloric energy from complex carbohydrates, which is rather higher than that required by the healthy, non-diabetic dog. The protein levels of the diabetic dog’s diet should be around the same as that of a non-diabetic dog, and specially designed complete diets for diabetic dogs take these factors into account, and make the management of the condition much more straightforward than it would otherwise be.

Keeping to set mealtimes and portion sizes

As well as the way that the actual ingredients of the diet can ensure that the blood-glucose levels remain stable and do not oscillate wildly, so too does when you feed and how much you feed have a significant affect on this as well. When your dog is diagnosed as diabetic and is placed onto a dietary management program, your vet will advise you of how much your dog should be fed, when, and how often. It is important to stick to these guidelines, as changing the frequency of your dog’s mealtimes or not providing enough food (or giving too much) will in itself cause the blood-glucose balance to swing about, and have a similarly negative affect on your dog as feeding too much sugar or simple carbohydrates will have. This also means that you must not allow your dog to beg or scavenge for other food, or give them sweet, sugar-rich treats, or any other foodstuffs other than that which you have planned for and accounted for in their diet.

Some alternatives to standard dog treats

It is possible to work a small amount of food rewards and treats into the diet of the diabetic dog, but this must be done carefully, with consideration given to what you offer and when you can do so. Store bought dog treats are generally rich in sugar and ergo unsuitable, so you will need to look for alternatives, such as fibre and protein rich treats like dried strips of plain chicken, or cubes of vegetables such as yam or squashes.

Good supplements for diabetic dogs

A range of different supplements may be able to help to boost your dog’s insulin production rate or uptake rate, including chromium, cinnamon, and fenugreek seeds. These supplements may be able to help to make your dog’s diabetes easier to manage, as they are renowned to help maintain a healthy blood-glucose balance, or improve the way the blood cells absorb insulin.

Working closely with your vet

Working closely with your vet is important for the diagnosis and ongoing management of diabetes in the dog, and even once a diagnosis has been reached, you will usually need to take your dog back to the vet regularly for monitoring and assessment of the condition, and to judge the efficacy of your treatment protocols. If you think that something is amiss or not working out for you, if you wish to add supplements to your dog’s diet or find out if a specific treat is ok and how much to give, or if your dog’s diet needs adjustment, your vet should be available to answer any questions and address any problems that you may run into along the way.


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