Does Your Dog Need Diabetic Dog Food?

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Diabetes is a well-known illness in humans, but it is also found in dogs. While data isn’t clear, anywhere from 1 in every 200 to 500 dogs will be diagnosed with canine diabetes at some point in their life. Luckily it’s relatively easy to treat and control a dog’s diabetes if caught early enough. Through proper diet and possible insulin shots, dogs can go on to live long, happy lives. Looking for diabetic dog food? Here we’ll share some options and share some common causes and signs to look for in diabetic dogs.

Natural FoodRaw FoodPrescription Food
Ketona Chicken Recipe Adult Dry Dog FoodInstinct Original Grain Free Real Chicken Recipe Natural Wet Canned Dog FoodHill's Prescription Diet w/d Multi-Benefit
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What Is Dog Diabetes?

Dogs with diabetes have problems producing the right amount of insulin for their bodies. A dog’s body burns sugar for energy. When it does not have the right amount of sugar, it might start burning fat so that it can maintain their energy level. This can cause the release of too many ketones (by-products of metabolized fats). These ketones can lead to serious incidents of hypoglycemia and even death.

But you can’t treat your dog’s diabetes like you would a human. They have a different version of the illness that shares some similarities with human diabetes but works differently. Most closely related to Type 1 Diabetes in humans.

Causes Of Diabetes In Dogs

Old Golden Retriever

Numerous things can cause diabetes in dogs. Age, gender, breed, and diet may increase the risk of diabetes. However, even if a dog does not fall into any of the categories that are well-known for putting a dog at risk for diabetes, please keep in mind that there may be unknown factors at play. Dogs that don’t fall into the category that would generally be considered to be to be at risk for diabetes should not be assumed to be impossible to end up with the disease.

  • Age – Though it is unclear when dogs specifically develop diabetes, they are most likely to start to show the symptoms of dog diabetes between the ages of 6 and 9.
  • Breed – Though mixed breed dogs commonly have canine diabetes more frequently than purebred dogs, some specific purebred breeds are known for having diabetes. These breeds include but are not limited to golden retrievers, German shepherds, miniature schnauzers, Keeshonds, and poodles.
  • Diet – A high-fat diet could put your dog at risk for diabetes. Dog food that consists of mostly carbohydrates (such as the dog foods that use carbohydrates as fillers to help form kibbles) can also be a contributing factor to the development of dog diabetes.
  • Gender – Either gender can develop diabetes, but there does seem to be an increased risk factor for female dogs and dogs that have been neutered. In other words, all other factors aside, a male dog that has all of his natural parts is at low risk for developing diabetes.

While obesity does not cause diabetes, it can make it more difficult for the dog to resist insulin.

Signs Of Diabetes In Dogs

Early Signs

Yorkie eating food

To put it simply, diabetes causes the dog not to metabolize enough sugar to burn. Because of this, in the early stages of diabetes, the dog’s body develops a need to seek out other resources. Hence, the dog will develop a larger appetite than normal. He might also drink more in order to avoid becoming dehydrated (and urine frequently). Your dog may also experience rapid weight loss.

Advanced Stages

The advanced stages of diabetes in dogs are more alarming. Your dog will start to lose his appetite and may become lethargic. He may also become dehydrated and feel weak. The dog may eventually slip into a coma. Dogs in advanced stages of diabetes are also at risk for other health issues. An enlarged liver is one way the body can respond. The dog will also be prone to more infections and can possibly experience neurological problems.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

During diabetic ketoacidosis, the dog experiences a buildup of ketones. The body does not have enough sugar to metabolize, so it begins to metabolize fat instead. When fat is metabolized, the process causes the production of by-products called ketones. The buildup of these ketones can potentially lead to a coma and/or death. The dog will experience rapid breathing, weakness, and vomiting. His or her breath may also begin to smell like acetone (or fingernail polish remover).

If your dog is experiencing any of the advanced stages of diabetes, please seek emergency care immediately.

What Kind Of Dog Food Is Best For A Dog With Diabetes?

Fat dachshund dog stands on scale to find out its weight and wrapped flexible centimeter ruler to make measurements (Caption: Best Dog Food For Dogs with Diabetes)

Now that you know about the causes and symptoms of diabetes in dogs, you can better prepare to treat it. You now have information that allows you to see the signs of diabetes in your dog, but you need to know what to feed your dog to avoid diabetes or improve your dog’s diabetic condition.

Every dog is different, and we recommend working closely with your vet to determine the best option given your pup’s health and situation. In general, these are some of the best diabetic dog foods out there. They all are low in carbohydrates and high in fiber which are important factors to help control a dog’s blood sugar.

And you might need to try out different options before you find the right fit. Just because it’s the best food for diabetic dogs doesn’t mean it’s the best for your furry friend. The best food for a diabetic senior dog might not be the best for a younger dog.

Natural Dog Food: Ketona

Ketona Chicken Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food

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Natural dog food is always going to be the best food for dogs with diabetes because it is void of the chemicals that other dog foods are processed with. When your dog’s body has to process chemicals that act as toxins to him, this is one more step that takes away from other things the body could be doing. However, you still need to make sure that your natural dog food has a low carbohydrate content so that you are buying food that will assist in managing diabetes.

Starts at: $39.99 ($0.60 / Ounce)

Check out our comparison of Taste of the Wild and Blue Buffalo, two of the leading natural dog food providers, to learn more.

Raw Food: Instinct

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Many people choose to use the raw food diet because it places a high focus on protein. This is one option for those who have diabetic pets. Just be sure that you are still offering a low-fat intake to your dog when you offer him or her the raw food diet.

Starts at: $22.14 ($4.47 / lb)

Learn more about feeding a dog a raw diet and more raw dog food options.

Prescription Dog Food: Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Multi-Benefit

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Your vet may insist that you feed your dog a prescription diet. They may also offer you other options. Always follow your vet’s advice because they know your dog’s specific information. Most dogs that have diabetes do fine with non-prescription diabetic dog food. Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Multi-Benefit is a popular option (and available online with your vet’s approval).

Starts at: $45.99 ($5.41 / lb)

Canned Food

In general, canned dog food is better for dogs that have diabetes. That’s because they don’t require the same fillers as dry dog food does. Dry dog food is typically high in carbohydrates because these are what they tend to use to form the chunks that make up dry dog food.

Low Glycemic Index

Dogs with diabetes require dog food with a low glycemic index. The glycemic index is the number that tells you how fast food is converted to blood glucose or sugar. The lower the number, the longer it takes the body to convert the food.

What Human Food Can I Feed My Diabetic Dog?


In general, dogs with diabetes should avoid carbs and anything that will adversely impact their blood sugar level. If you’re looking to make your own dog food (or give human foods as a snack), squash, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, and peas tend to be safe options. Just make sure their diet consistents of primary protein.

It’s also a misconception that dogs with diabetes should avoid grains. But that’s not entirely true. Grains help support digestion and give your dog the energy they need. Just avoid starchy, complex carbohydrates. The best whole-grain options are amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa.

Answers To All Your Dog Diabetes Questions

The video by Reid Shufer, DVM at Alta Rancho Pet & Bird Hospital, below can help you understand your pet’s diabetes diagnosis.

Additional Advice

If you are still unsure of what kind of food your diabetic dog needs, please ask your vet, or you are welcome to visit our best online vet page, where you will be able to ask a certified veterinarian about what foods they might recommend for your diabetic dog.

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