Yes, dogs can be diabetic. Dogs should never have sugar but there are sadly many dog treats and foods that are made with sugar, disguised as other things. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is basically sugar. It may actually be worse than sugar to the body and it is added to many dog treats on the market and a few low-end dog foods.
Dog foods and cat foods are both loaded with artificial food coloring and HFCS. HFCS is a product made from corn and dogs don’t even digest corn well to begin with. The commercial foods that we feed dogs are often not good for them and unfortunately diabetes is the end-result for many dogs and cats.
Some animals will actually need to be in insulin and without it they will die. Owners are forced to inject their dog or cat each day to help regulate their insulin in the body so that they can metabolize their food and stay alive. Their diets will need to be strict for the rest of their lives as well.
Specific Diet Foods for Diabetic Dogs
Hill’s Science Diet is typically the prescribed diabetic food for dogs because veterinarians carry it on hand. It’s very expensive in most cases and the reason it is considered a good choice is that it is high in protein, with very low to moderate amounts of fat and the carbs are low. The carbohydrates come from barley or sorghum, which are low on the glycemic scale.
You could potentially find other foods if you become good at reading ingredients and you could also make your own dog foods by feeding them a diet that is close to the same as the diabetic diet recommended for humans.
They key is to provide carbs in the right amount and choose carbs that are slow burning so that they do not flood the blood stream all at once, causing blood glucose levels to rise rapidly. The slowler a carbohydrate is metabolized the better for the diabetic.
Examples of slow burning carbohydrates include:
- Beet greens
- Brussel Sprouts
- Dandelion Greens
- Green Beans
- Mustard Greens
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brown rice
- Whole-wheat couscous
- Wild Rice
- Bulgur Wheat
These are all actually things that you could add to fresh meat and create some healthy meals for your dog that would be diabetic friendly. When you use fruits, you’d need to be especially careful to not use too many. Dogs don’t really require carbs like people do, so don’t give them a lot of carbs. Lean meat, a healthy grain and some vegetables are a great diet for a dog that is diabetic. Just make sure that you are using these sorts of carbs that burn more slowly than others.
A good rule of thumb is that the higher in fiber the fruit or vegetable is, the more slowly it will burn. This is why beans make a great addition to dog foods because they are also high in protein, especially lentils. When mixed with lean meat and some fresh vegetables, you nearly can’t go wrong.
You can also help your dog regulate insulin levels in their body by giving them meals are regular intervals during the day and if you feed several smaller meals rather than one or two large meals, they’ll also maintain more balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day.
How your pet is being treated for diabetes depends on how bad they are when tested. There are medications available other than insulin and your veterinarian can make the best recommendations based on the numbers indicated by blood sugar tests on your pet.
In nearly all cases of diabetes in dogs, the recommended course of treatment is insulin injected twice per day. Cats have better prognosis with other medications but dogs just don’t respond to much other than insulin. You’ll have to purchase insulin and your veterinarian will show you how to administer the injections twice daily. You don’t have to inject it into a vein. Insulin just needs to be injected into fatty tissue on the body. The amount is very small as well.
Most insulin needs to be stored in a cool place and you may refrigerate it but it depends on the brand and type of insulin as to whether it needs to be refrigerated.
Avoiding Diabetes to Begin With
Type two diabetes is also known as diabetes mellitus. It is typically the outcome of years of eating poorly and not getting enough exercise. The best way to avoid this devastating disease, for you or your pet, is to get good nutrition and plenty of exercise.
Dogs get overweight very quickly and it is easy to let it happen before realizing it. Five pounds makes a dramatic improvement on a dog. If you can’t run with them, throw a ball. If you don’t have a fenced yard, find a dog park and if that is not an option, then get a long rope, attach your dog to it, go to a park and throw a ball with them on a lead. Use a body harness so you don’t risk hurting their neck when you use this style of ‘check cord’ training.
Hunting dogs are trained this way and it works to get a dog more exercise. Go where you won’t encounter other dogs, find an abandoned field if you can, use the long lead and let your dog run. Tennis courts that are abandoned most of the time or basketball courts that stay empty in the evening are places you can sometimes enter and lock the dog behind you and let your dog run. They really need the exercise.
Walking is a step in the right direction, literally, but it isn’t enough for most dogs. If you have a chihuahua, you can probably walk fast enough to give them a good workout. If you have a pointer, you are going to need to find a place for them to run. Doggy day care is an option in many cities and some places will let you drop off by the hour. Check them out in your area.
Maintain a Healthy Diet From Day One
Dogs have specific dietary needs and they are basic. Stay away from salt, sugar, sweeteners, sauces, overly seasoned foods, fatty foods and try to stick to the sorts of things that are on the list above for snacks.
Choose a good dog food that doesn’t contain HFCS or sugar. Choose a food that doesn’t list food coloring on the product label. Seek a food that is 17-25% protein at the very least. Make sure that the label lists meat as the number one ingredient. You don’t want any meat ‘by products’ because those are the leftovers that humans don’t want – things like beaks, feet, feathers and what not. You never want pork for dogs, it is too fatty for them.
Beef, chicken, lamb, salmon, venison, turkey, and duck are relatively common dog food meats and are all just fine. Some foods will list real foods on the labels. Things like blueberries, sorghum, green peas or green pea powder, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, etc. These are great foods. Steer clear of foods with a long list of things you can’t pronounce and if there is corn, corn meal, hydrogenated corn, etc, leave that on the shelf because it is all fillers.
The more you invest in preventative care and food, the less likely that your dog will develop serious health issues like diabetes. Keep this in mind when he begs for your donut. Giving in to him is not an act of love at all. He doesn’t know any better but you do. Spare your dog a life of living with diabetes and think of the choices you’ll be forced to make if you can’t afford his insulin.
Many people are faced with euthanizing their dog or finding a rescue that can take a diabetic dog. It isn’t easy to find one. Diabetes can sometimes be a genetic problem, as with type one diabetes, but type two is typically preventable and this is the one we see most often in dogs today.
Making the best decisions for your dog from the very beginning will ensure that you never have to make really difficult decisions later in life. Diabetes causes many problems with the health, such as painful neuropathy, failing eyesight, kidney failure and more.
Dogs can suffer for many years and insulin has a tendency to cause weight gain for some, which makes diabetes that much harder to manage. It’s often a long, slow death sentence that you can avoid. Good luck, feed a properly balanced diet that leans towards a diabetic diet right from the start and your dog can remain healthy for life.
Dawn Greer is a passionate blogger and animal rights activist. She is a pet lover, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, pet nutritionist, and former veterinary technician. She continues her work while writing blogs for pet lovers around the globe.