If your dog has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you will no doubt be processing the news and working out your next step because although diabetes can’t be cured, it can be managed very successfully.
A dog’s diet and how their body reacts to it is one of the most common indicators they can give us about how they’re handling the condition, which is why weight loss or a sudden increase in appetite is considered one of the most common early signs of diabetes in dogs.
Why diet is important to dogs with diabetes
According to a recent article about the symptoms of diabetes on Dogmagazine.net:
“Typically, once we eat, the body breaks down the nutrients of our food, converting some of the nutrients into glucose which becomes a source of energy for our body’s cells and organs. It then gets absorbed into our intestines and into the bloodstream before filtering through our body’s system.
“Our body also produces insulin, which is released from the pancreas. Insulin takes hold of the glucose which our body has created from the bloodstream (alongside other nutrients) and uses them as fuel.”
When insulin and glucose stop working as they should it means two things.
1. A larger quantity of sugar is left in the body’s bloodstream instead of being taken to create insulin and this can damage other organs.
2. The body’s cells are deprived of vital fuel for energy, normally aided by the body’s glucose supply. Instead, to try and replicate, the body starts breaking down its fats and proteins to create and use as an alternative fuel source.
This is why a dog’s diet is so crucial and why many dog owners turn to specially created diabetic dog food because they know it has been created for dogs with the condition.
The importance of mealtimes for dogs with diabetes
Dogs with diabetes who need to be administered insulin by injection once or twice a day often need to have scheduled mealtimes and portion sizes too.
For example, a dog’s first meal (which may be ¼ or ½ of their daily intake) will be given prior to their first injection.
This is so owners can see their dog is feeling well and eating normally before insulin is given.
If the dog is being given an insulin injection once a day, the balance of their meal will be given 6-8 hours later. Dogs who are prescribed two injections daily will often have the process repeated around 12 hours later.
What can dogs with diabetes eat?
Veterinary formulated diets are often low in carbohydrates to help regulate blood sugar levels and they are usually high in fibre to help dogs to slow down the digestion process and the rate at which food is absorbed.
They will also be low-GI (low-glycemic) recipes, so they help dogs to process sugars more easily.
Dogs with diabetes don’t need to cut out treats altogether, but because diet is crucial to their condition, your choice of treats may alter. (Find out more about the definition of prescription dog food for conditions such as diabetes in this dog food glossary article).
There are some diabetic dog treats on the market to choose from, but as long as you read the pet food label you can choose from some of the healthier treats on the market.
Look for treats which include whole grains, such as oats, avoid corn, soy and treats with sugar listed in their ingredients.
Some dog owners swear by high fibre sources, like vegetables and fruits, which will help to stabilise a dog’s blood sugar levels.
Favourites include broccoli, green beans, cabbage and cucumbers, and to a lesser extent, fruit, such as pears and apples. They can even be frozen to give your dog a crunchier experience!