Does Your Dog Need Diabetic Dog Food?

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Bowl of dog food: Does Your Dog Need Diabetic Dog Food?Diabetes is a well-known illness in humans, but it is also found in dogs. One out of every two hundred dogs will be diagnosed with canine diabetes at some point. But don’t treat your dog like you would a human because they have a different version of the illness that shares some similarities with human diabetes, but works differently.

Dogs that have diabetes have problems producing the right amount of insulin for their body. 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 the 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.

Causes of Diabetes in Dogs

There are numerous things that can cause diabetes in dogs. Factors such as 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. So, 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.


Though mixed breed dogs commonly have canine diabetes more frequently than pure bred dogs, there are some specific pure bred breeds that are known for having diabetes. These breeds include, but are not limited to golden retrievers, German shepherds, miniature schnauzers, Keeshonds and poodles.


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.


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.


A diet that is high in fat 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.

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

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 will also urinate more frequently and will drink more in order to avoid becoming dehydrated. 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 or her appetite and may become lethargic. He or she may also become dehydrated and feel weak. The dog may eventually slip into a coma.

Dogs in advanced stages of diabetes are at risk for other health issues, as well. 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 is experiencing 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. (Note that acetone is the active ingredient in fingernail polish remover, so if your dog’s breath smells like fingernail polish remover, he is experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis.)

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?

Now that you know about the causes and symptoms of diabetes in dogs, you can better prepare to prevent or 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.

Prescription Dog Food

Your vet may insist that you feed your dog a prescription diet. He or she 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 not require prescription dog food, but they do require a low-fat, moderate fiber dog food.

Natural Dog Food

Natural dog food is always going to be better for your dog 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 or her, 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.

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

Raw Food

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.

Canned or Dry?

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 high in carbohydrates because these are what they tend to use to form the chunks that make up dry dog food.

Low Glycemic Index

The bottom line is that a dog with diabetes requires a 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.

Common Dog Diabetes Questions

Below are some common questions asked about dog diabetes.

Ask a Vet

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 Ask a Vet page where you will be able to ask a certified veterinarian about what foods they might recommend for your diabetic dog.

What do you feed your diabetic dog?

About The Author:

Sadie graduated from the Moody School of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in Advertising and minor in Business. Her love of pets started from an early age with her childhood cocker spaniel, Peanut, and two cats. She is currently dog mom to Lexie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

As a professional dog sitter for more than a decade, Sadie has cared for dozens of canines of various breeds, sizes and temperaments. The responsibility of caring for others' pets has helped her understand the importance of giving animals a loving home. She has experience potty and house training as well as teaching dogs tricks such as sit and shake. Sadie is passionate about canine well-being so she feeds her pup all-natural meals and no table scraps.

Sadie and her husband live in Washington DC and enjoy walking Lexie to nearby dog parks or patios and taking her canine companion on trips. Having an adventurous, long-haired Blenheim means frequent baths and home grooming to maintain a clean coat. A small dog also requires more frequent dental care and Sadie is proactive with Lexie's oral hygiene.

She has been covering dog-related topics since 2012 and is proud to share her latest personal experience, resources and information with fellow pet parents. Her expertise has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, Apartment Therapy, and other regional news organizations.

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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June 24, 2018 3:13 pm

stage 1 diabetic, vet said no to carrots,, Sugar,, green beans ok

April 6, 2017 4:58 pm

my dog Kobe is 12 years old found out he has Cushing disease and also diabetic .I was wondering can I feed him boiled chicken ,sweet potatoes, carrots.

June 20, 2018 9:48 am
Reply to  linda

Wow .. this totally my dog too..
I knew my dog was diabetic I went in to the vet because she was having issues he ran some tests then he said she had Cushing’s and then he wanted to run another blood test it was so overwhelming I said all right I need to think about this so I went and Googled Cushing’s and came up with drops called Adrenal Harmany.. it’s working good and I did not have to pay $250 for another blood test.., she gets insulin for her diabetes twice a day and she is eating WD dog food I was curious about switching over to raw food..

July 3, 2018 10:29 am
Reply to  Nancy

Be very careful with the adrenal harmany drops asthey can do a lot of harm if your dog does not have Cushings, I bought them too as my dog was diagnosed with both diabetes and Cushings based on blood work done by the vet. But then I wanted to do further blood work on Cushings as we can’t seem to get the diabetes under control, and he actually doesn’t have Cushings… so I stopped the drops straight away. Hopefully I have done no damage..

April 8, 2017 11:35 pm
Reply to  linda

Carrots are a definite no for dogs with diabetes because they’re loaded with sugar! Boiled chicken and sweet potatoes are fine. Good fruits & veges I’m aware of are green beans, cucumber and Granny Smith apples. Would love to hear from other folks which foods their vets have said are okay because the prescription food is very expensive. I usually add a couple spoonfulls of Polar all natural tuna that has no additives at all, just sold tuna, water and a bit of salt

September 22, 2017 1:26 am
Reply to  Lea

Not true about carrots! This is the only site I’ve ever seen to say no to carrots. Vets recommend them as treats. They are usually listed (even for diabetic humans) as a recommended vegtable. Because of sugar content amount should be limited. My pug eats 3 medium-sized carrots a day. Whole, raw. Love to carry them to his bed and hold them up with his paws. Plus not expensive.

October 10, 2017 9:54 pm
Reply to  Barbara

Thank you! My dog gets a baby carrot a couple times a day for his potty great. Yes, my vet also skated carrots!

February 26, 2016 12:34 pm

Wow this is fascinating! I had no clue that dogs could get diabetes too! Who knew?