What Is the Best Diet for Diabetic Dogs?
Written by: Dr. Steve Sanderlin, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM
Ask the Vet: Diabetic Beagle Diet Recommendations
Question: Can you recommend the best diabetic diet for my 9 year old Beagle mix? I have opted for a low carb diet; is this good? Is wet food better than dry food?
Answer: The short answer is yes, but perhaps not for the reasons you thought.
The Difference Between Type I & Type II Diabetes
Dogs most often get Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes, which is a failure of the pancreas to make enough insulin. These dogs need insulin to manage the disease; and carbohydrates are not as critical. Cats, on the other hand, most often get Type II diabetes. This type is most commonly the result of too many carbs in the diet. High levels of carbs in food trigger insulin to be released; ultimately the body tissues become overwhelmed and become resistant to insulin. This is the form that is very responsive to a low-carb diet and, if caught early, a large percentage of diabetic cats will reverse the disease, and will remain normal with dietary management.
Low Carb Diet for Diabetic Dogs
While Type I diabetes can’t be reversed or managed with diet alone, food does play a role in regulating blood glucose as well as overall health. A low-carb diet is more in line with the natural canine diet. Limiting carbs helps dogs lose fat and maintain lean body mass. When choosing foods for your dog, bear in mind that low or no grains in a food does not necessarily mean low carbs. Some foods substitute yams, potatoes, peas or other starchy vegetables for grains.
How to Calculate Carbs in Dog FoodTo get a ballpark estimate of carbs, subtract the percentages of all the ingredients listed in the guaranteed analysis from 100. The remainder will tell the approximate carb content; look for 20% or less for dogs, less than 10% for cats. A raw food diet will be the healthiest option for a low carb dog food diet. Frozen raw or freeze-dried raw are both suitable. Canned foods are definitely better than dry foods in the low-carb department, but if you must use dry food, be sure to avoid corn as an ingredient since it causes a dramatic increase in blood sugar.
Supplements for Blood Sugar Support
Some compounds, like colostrum, can be helpful with blood sugar support. You may also want to consider supplement antioxidants. Diabetic dogs may especially benefit from alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to be valuable in human Type I diabetics. (Note: cats are extra-sensitive to lipoic acid, and even small amounts can become toxic. Do not supplement cats with alpha-lipoic acid.)