6 Mealtime Tips to Cut Out Diabetes in Dogs

Concerned about diabetes in your dog? Here's exactly what you should be feeding him.
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The American Diabetes Association has designated November American Diabetes Month. One in every 400 dogs has this disorder, which prevents the body from regulating its blood sugar (glucose) levels. According to Blue Pearl Veterinary, signs and symptoms of diabetes include: Increase in water consumption, increase in urination, increase in appetite, weight loss, and, if the animal has had diabetes for some time, cataracts.

“If you notice any of these symptoms, we highly recommend seeing your family veterinarian as soon as possible,” says Neil Shaw, Blue Pearl’s chief medical officer. Meanwhile, if your dog is young, healthy, and not exhibiting any of the symptoms Dr. Shaw cites, you can make sure you never get the diabetes diagnosis with some simple nutritional guidelines.

Here are six simple steps we can all take to prevent diabetes in dogs.

1. Feed a diabetes-preventive diet with a low-glycemic index

That means a grain-free formula, specifically one that does not contain rice, a very high-glycemic grain. Eating high-glycemic index food, humans and dogs alike feel hungry again shortly after eating, which makes us want to eat more than we should.

Over time, high glucose levels and excessive insulin secretion impair the pancreas’ ability to secrete insulin — and that’s diabetes. But when we eat low-glycemic food and snacks, we experience lower but more sustained increases in blood sugar after eating, which puts less strain on the pancreas. Feeling less full, Spot won’t be hungry shortly after a meal, and he’ll have higher endurance, improved blood cholesterol levels, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular and gallbladder disease.

2. Measure your mutt’s meal portions, and don’t leave food out for Spot to graze

As dogs help themselves to more than their healthy portion, they gain excess weight, grow fat, and become vulnerable to diabetes.

Let’s say the dog doesn’t do the necessary exercise to burn off those extra calories, they will (surprise!) become obese — and obesity puts a huge strain on the body, overtaxing the heart and gallbladder, and putting the dog at high risk for diabetes.

3. Resist the urge to share bagels with Spot on Sunday morning

White bread, crackers, and cereal (and their sugary cousins: cake, cookies, and doughnuts) should be totally off the table — don’t even give these high-glycemic items as an occasional snack. Why? They cause blood sugar levels to spike quickly, and rapid increases in blood sugar send signals to the pancreas to increase insulin secretion, which leads to a sharp dip in blood sugar (aka a blood-sugar low, or hypoglycemia, the dreaded “sugar crash”).

Give celery or carrot sticks as a treat instead.

4. Never feed a dog corn or anything that contains corn (or corn syrup)

This sweet, starchy ingredient — sadly, a staple of many dog-food brands — is something to avoid entirely if you want to protect your dog from diabetes.

Be careful with millet and sweet potatoes, too, which have both become popular pet-food ingredients. Although they are easily digested and excellent for dogs with GI issues, they’re high-glycemic index.

5. Feed more of the good stuff

The low-glycemic index ingredients you want your dog eating are protein (i.e., meat or fish), healthy fat, and oil (see below), plus nonstarchy, low-carbohydrate vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, asparagus, and celery.

Happily, more and more companies, such as Red Moon Pet Food, are making it easy to feed dogs a grain-free, low-glycemic index diet, to promote healthy weight management and help overweight dogs shed unwanted pounds.

6. Sprinkle a loving spoonful of cinnamon on your dog’s food

Studies show that just half a teaspoon of this delightfully fragrant spice each day helps to regulate blood sugar, boosting the body’s ability to use insulin to improve blood glucose levels. Add to that a loving spoonful of coconut oil; like cinnamon, it helps prevent diabetes by improving metabolic function and regulating and balancing insulin. Plus, both taste great, so Spot won’t complain!

Do you have a dog with diabetes? How are you managing it? Please share your tips in the comments!

5 thoughts on “6 Mealtime Tips to Cut Out Diabetes in Dogs”

  1. My dog was just diagnosed with diabetes and is on insulin twice a day after eating and she’s doing very well. My question is are they developing a insulin in a pill form? I can’t find any site that tells me anything about this. Thank you

  2. We are having a terrible time regulating our dog’s diabetes. We have tried two kinds of insulin and feed him wet and dry Hills Prescription Diet W/D (and a little I/D food to wrap his pills in). Each time we do a urine test lately it is between 500-1000. This is after we have repeatedly brought him for a stay at the vet in order to get his blood glucose levels under better control. What are we doing at home that’s causing his levels to spike? We are pretty good (with a half hour, at most an hour, but usually either at or very near the same time) about feeding him. These foods are very fibrous so he ‘goes’ easily 5x a day and the vet said we should feed him more because he dropped nearly 4 lbs at the outset of this disease. He has gained back about a pound but could it be that we are feeding him too much and that’s making his sugar go high? We really can’t figure out what to do! Plus he has developed cataracts and cannot see. A terrible state of affairs which has happened over a very brief period of time…

    1. Hi there,

      Thank you for reaching out — we’re so sorry that you and your dog are going through this! Please continue working with a vet on this. These articles may provide some additional insight on diabetes, too:
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/can-dogs-get-diabetes-about-canine-diabetes
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-health-diabetes-control
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/3-things-your-vet-might-not-tell-you-about-treating-your-diabetic-dog
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/diabetes-for-dogs-food-tips

    2. Start a homemade cook meal diet for them buy chicken breast broccoli ? and ground turkey ground beef ? it makes such a big difference!

  3. Pingback: Can Dogs Get Diabetes? Let's Discuss Canine Diabetes – Sporty Pets

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