best dog food for diabetic dogs

Best Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs in 2019 (Non-Prescription)

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Has your vet recently told you that your dog has diabetes? Maybe your dog was diagnosed a while ago, but you still haven’t found the right food. Either way, now you’re searching for the best non-prescription dog food for diabetic dogs.

We’ve collected the top 5 best diabetic dog food brands, along with plenty of resources. We want to help you provide your diabetic dog the best life possible. While food alone won’t treat diabetes, it’s important you have as much information about the condition as possible.

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What Is Diabetes and How Does it Affect Dogs?

Diabetes is commonly associated with people, but it can affect dogs, too. In fact, as many as 1 in 100 dogs will develop diabetes in their lifetime.

What is diabetes, anyway?

When you or your dog eat, the body breaks down the food into protein, fat, and sugar (glucose). The pancreas produces something called insulin, which helps process glucose.

There are two different types of diabetes that prevent glucose from being broken down properly.

Type I diabetes is the type that dogs are more prone to. In Type I diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to break down glucose.

In Type II diabetes, the body produces so much excess insulin that the cells become immune to its effects.

With either type of diabetes, the body can’t break down and use glucose properly. That can lead to a wide range of other health problems. There is no cure for diabetes – it requires lifelong treatment and care.

Diabetes and Your Dog’s Diet

Now that you better understand what diabetes is let’s talk about how it can be affected by your dog’s diet.

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which isn’t processed as well with diabetes. That’s why your vet may recommend a dog food diet that’s low in carbohydrates.

A diet that contains only 20-25% carbohydrates can help prevent dangerous blood sugar spikes. This type of dog food is said to have a low glycemic index.

Many vets also recommend a diabetic dog food diet that’s high in fiber. Fiber helps your dog feel full longer and slows how fast glucose is released into the bloodstream.

Our recommendations for the best food for diabetic dogs should not take the place of food recommendations from your vet.

Calculating the Carbohydrate Percentage in Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs

Commercial diabetic dog foods commonly list the percentage of protein and fat on the label. However, the carbohydrate percentage may not be listed. That means you have to figure it out yourself.

What you need to do is add up the other percentages (fat, protein, moisture, etc.). Subtract that number from 100 to get the carbohydrate percentage.

It may also be possible to contact the food manufacturer to find out the percentage of carbohydrates.

best diabetic dog food

The Best Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs

Here are our top picks for the best dry dog food for diabetic dogs. These are just suggestions. You should talk to your dog’s vet before selecting an over the counter diabetic dog food.

#1 – Ketona Chicken Recipe Dry Food for Adult Dogs – Low Carb, High Protein, Grain-Free Dog Food

This high-protein food has 80% fewer carbohydrates than many other grain-free dog foods. The low carbohydrate levels make it our top pick for the best dog food for diabetic dogs.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • Less than 5% total digestible carbohydrate, less than 5% starch, and 0.5% sugars
  • More than 46% protein; made with non-GMO, antibiotic-free chicken
  • Made 100% in the USA using natural ingredients

Ingredients: Chicken, Pea Protein, Ground Green Peas, Oat Hulls (Source of Fiber), Chicken Fat, Flaxseed Meal, Phosphoric Acid, Gelatin, Chicken Liver Digest, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Pea Fiber, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Vitamine E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Oil, Citric Acid (Preservative), Ascorbic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid Supplement, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Iodine Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Lecithin, Mixed Tocopherols, Rosemary Extract

Customer Reviews: Some dogs don’t like the taste, but most dogs like the taste and owners report their dogs thriving on it. Dogs with diabetes, seizures, and allergies were all reported to have improved health after switching to this food.

Bottom Line: This food is on the expensive side, but you can feed less since it has fewer fillers. Most dogs thrive on this food, and the low carbohydrate level is perfect for diabetic dogs.

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#2 – ACANA Regionals Protein-Rich, Meat, Grain-Free, Adult Dry Dog Food

This grain-free dog food is chock-full of real meat ingredients along with vegetables, seeds, and fruit. Most of the ingredients come from real food rather than manufactured supplements.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • Uses meat, organs, cartilage, and bone, delivering the nutrients dogs need naturally
  • Ingredients are supplied by people we know and trust, from regional farms, ranches, and waters, and delivered to our kitchen fresh or raw
  • Grain-free, with no gluten, potato, or tapioca

Ingredients: Deboned beef, deboned pork, beef meal, whole red lentils, whole pinto beans, whole green peas, pork meal, beef fat, whole green lentils, whole chickpeas, whole yellow peas, deboned lamb, pollock oil, lentil fiber, natural pork flavor, beef tripe, beef liver, beef kidney, pork liver, pork kidney, beef cartilage, salt, mixed tocopherols (preservative), dried kelp, whole pumpkin, collard greens, carrots, whole apples, zinc proteinate, freeze-dried beef liver, freeze-dried pork liver, freeze-dried lamb liver, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin, vitamin A acetate, vitamin D3 supplement, chicory root, turmeric, sarsaparilla root, althea root, rose hips, juniper berries, dried lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried lactobacillus casei fermentation product

Customer Reviews: Many negative reviews revolve around the cost rather than the food itself. Some reviews mention dogs who don’t like the taste. Otherwise, most dogs love this food and thrive on it.

Bottom Line: This food is quite expensive, but it contains high-quality ingredients, and you may be able to feed less than you would of cheaper kibble.

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#3 – ORIJEN High-Protein, Grain-Free, Premium Quality Meat, Dry Dog Food

Orijen promotes its food as being biologically appropriate for dogs. It’s made of 2/3 fresh or raw regional ingredients and made in the United States.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • 85% quality animal ingredients
  • Fresh Regional Ingredients are supplied by people we know and trust, and are delivered to our kitchen fresh or raw, in their most natural and nourishing form
  • Using fresh and raw animal ingredients, including meat, organs, cartilage, and bone, ORIJEN is the Biologically Appropriate, grain-free diet that dogs have evolved to eat

Ingredients: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, Atlantic flounder, cage-free eggs, whole Atlantic mackerel, chicken liver, turkey liver, chicken heart, turkey heart, whole Atlantic herring, dehydrated chicken, dehydrated turkey, dehydrated mackerel, dehydrated chicken liver, dehydrated egg, whole red lentils, whole pinto beans, whole green peas, chicken necks, chicken kidney, whole green lentils, whole navy beans, whole chickpeas, lentil fiber, chicken fat, natural chicken flavor, pollock oil, ground chicken bone, chicken cartilage, turkey cartilage, mixed tocopherols (preservative), whole pumpkin, whole butternut squash, freeze-dried chicken liver, dried kelp, zinc proteinate, kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, whole carrots, whole apples, whole pears, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, thiamine mononitrate, D-calcium pantothenate, copper proteinate, chicory root, turmeric, sarsaparilla root, althea root, rosehips, juniper berries, dried lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried lactobacillus casei fermentation product

Customer Reviews: Some dogs experience diarrhea after eating this food, and some don’t like the taste. However, most dogs saw improved health and vitality after switching to this food.

Bottom Line: This is a high-quality food with a high price tag. As long as it doesn’t upset your dog’s stomach, it has some of the best ingredients around.

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#4 – Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food Recipes

This food contains more than just high protein levels. It also has high levels of omega-2 for a healthy skin and coat as well as leading levels of glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • Industry-leading levels of omega-3, glucosamine, and chondroitin
  • High in protein
  • Made in the USA

Ingredients: Deboned Buffalo, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Deboned Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Peas, Pea Protein, Potato Protein, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Whitefish Meal, Salmon Meal, Natural Flavor, Tapioca, Flaxseed, Sunflower Oil, Organic Dried Alfalfa Meal, Salt, Apples, Blueberries, Choline Chloride, Salmon Oil, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate), Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product

Customer Reviews: Most of the complaints are about shipping problems from Amazon, including bags of moldy food that probably weren’t stored properly at the warehouse. Otherwise, most dogs love this food and thrive on it, even if they previously had allergies or diarrhea.

Bottom Line: Assuming you don’t get a bad bag, there is a good chance your dog will thrive on this food.

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#5 – NUTRISCA Potato-Free Dry Dog Food for All Life Stages

Unlike some other grain-free dog foods, this one doesn’t use potatoes for carbohydrates. Potatoes are high in carbohydrates, so it’s good to find a food for diabetic dogs without potatoes.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • Real chicken is the first ingredient; includes peas, chickpeas, fruits, and vegetables
  • No grains, potatoes, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Contains antioxidants and omega fatty acids

Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, peas, chickpeas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), pea starch, pea protein, menhaden fish meal, natural flavors, salmon oil, dried tomato pomace, dried carrots, dried apples, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried apricots, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, cobalt proteinate, sodium selenite), vitamins (choline chloride, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin supplement, folic acid, vitamin B12 supplement), rosemary extract

Customer Reviews: While some dogs get diarrhea after eating this food, most dogs thrive on it. Dogs with food allergies or recurring yeast infections saw improved symptoms.

Bottom Line: This food is more reasonably priced than some of the others on our list, so it may be a good place for you to start.

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diabetic dog treats

Diabetic Treats for Dogs

Can you still give your diabetic dog treats? The answer is yes, but you must be careful. Most biscuit-type treats, and many other treat types, are high in carbohydrates. That means they can lead to blood sugar spikes.

The two best types of treats for diabetic dogs are vegetables and freeze-dried meat.

Most vegetables are safe for dogs (apart from onions and garlic). However, you should avoid giving your dog vegetables that are high in carbohydrates. That includes potatoes, corn, and sweet potatoes.

Single-ingredient freeze-dried meats don’t contain any carbohydrates and are great treats for diabetic dogs. A few types of freeze-dried treats you might see include:

No matter which treat type you give your dog, it’s still important to limit the number of treats. Too many dog treats can lead to obesity, which can worsen diabetes. Many dogs with diabetes should be on reduced-calorie diets, and you need to factor treats into that.

Things to Consider When Picking Diabetic Dog Food

There are a whole lot of factors you need to consider when picking the best food for your diabetic dog. Here are some of the things you need to consider when choosing diabetic dog food.

Made in a Country with High Safety and Quality Standards

Not every country has the same high safety and quality standards. With any dog food, it’s important to find one made in:

  • USA
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Germany
  • England
  • France

This is especially important for diabetic dogs since they have such specific needs and health issues.

Food from China, in particular, seems especially prone to recalls and may pose hazards to your diabetic dog.

Avoid Unidentified Meat Meals or Byproducts

You should avoid byproducts of any kind in your dog’s food. What are byproducts? They’re the pieces of animals that humans don’t want to eat, like hooves, beaks, and horns.  There is little nutritional value in these ingredients, so it’s best to avoid them.

Meat meals include ground-up bones, tendons, and ligaments. These ingredients still have some nutritional value. However, the food should tell you exactly what animal the meal comes from.

For example, avoid foods listing “meat meal” or “poultry meal” in favor of one that lists “chicken meal” or “turkey meal.”

Even though it’s often more expensive, whole meat ingredients (like deboned chicken) usually provide the best nutrition.

Look for High-Fiber Ingredients

Fiber has two important functions that are crucial for diabetic dogs.

First, fiber expands in your dog’s gut, which helps them feel fuller longer. Secondly, it slows down how quickly glucose is released into your dog’s blood. This helps prevent sugar spikes.

Ingredients that are high in fiber include:

  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potato
  • Oats
  • Leafy greens

Low in Carbohydrates

When carbohydrates are digested, they turn into glucose. Your diabetic dog doesn’t produce enough insulin to break down glucose. That means that the lower the level of carbohydrates in your dog’s food, the better.

However, there are two different types of carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and contain important nutrients. Ingredients that contain complex carbohydrates include peas, sweet potatoes, and brown rice.

Simple carbohydrates break down quickly and contain a lot of sugar. This excess sugar leads to blood sugar spikes. Simple carbohydrates include filler ingredients like soy and corn.

Focus on Portion Control

More than half of all pet dogs in the United States are overweight. Obesity causes many of the same health problems in dogs as it does in people. Diabetes may worsen or complicate these health conditions.

You should be able to feel (but not see) your dog’s ribs. If your dog is already overweight, you need to talk to your vet about how to help them lose weight. If your diabetic dog is not already overweight, you want to focus on portion control to maintain a healthy weight.

Don’t forget to factor in treats when calculating how much to feed your dog. Many people give their dog an appropriate amount of food but add too many additional calories with treats.

Avoid Artificial Additives

Artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives may be used to make cheap food taste better. However, these ingredients are unnecessary and may cause food allergies. Look for high-quality foods that don’t rely on artificial additives to entice your dog to eat them.

Find Food with all the Nutrition Your Dog Needs

Most commercial dog foods contain the most basic nutrition your dog needs. However, you probably don’t want to give your diabetic dog food with the barest minimum of nutrition.

Look for foods that contain at least some of the following:

  • Antioxidant-rich foods for immune health
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health
  • Probiotics for digestive health

You should also look for foods that use natural ingredients to provide vitamins and minerals. Some dog food companies just spray a vitamin mixture on the kibble instead of using healthy ingredients that provide vitamins naturally.

Look for Food with a Low Glycemic Index and Low Fat

Diabetic dogs need food with a low glycemic index. What’s that? The glycemic index refers to how quickly food is converted into glucose. The higher the number, the faster this happens.

Since diabetic dogs have trouble processing glucose, you want a food that converts carbohydrates to glucose slowly. Look for foods with a low glycemic index.

There are two different reasons you should avoid high-fat levels in your diabetic dog’s food.

First, fat contains higher levels of glucose than protein. As we’ve already discussed, you don’t want your diabetic dog to deal with too much glucose.

Secondly, high-fat levels provide your dog with calories that don’t help them feel full. Nobody wants to see their dog acting like they’re starving to death. Excess levels of fat in the diet can also cause obesity.

diabetic dog symptoms

Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs

Not sure if your dog has diabetes? Here are some common symptoms:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Change in appetite
  • Fruity breath
  • Fatigue
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Cataracts
  • Depression
  • Chronic yeast or skin infections

Dogs tend to hide their symptoms, so if you notice any symptoms, you should contact your vet right away.

Treating Diabetes in Dogs

You treat diabetes in dogs similar to how you treat it in humans. Typically, you need to do regular blood sugar testing and give insulin injections. That’s in addition to closely regulating your dog’s diet to prevent blood sugar spikes.

Your vet may also suggest that you give your diabetic dog plenty of exercise to keep them healthy.

Complications of Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes in dogs can cause lots of complications, especially if it’s untreated. Some serious complications of diabetes include:

  • Cataracts, which can cause blindness
  • Urinary tract infections caused by excess sugar in the urine
  • Diabetic retinopathy is another condition that can cause blindness
  • Insulin overdose. Giving your dog too much insulin can cause their blood sugar to drop dangerously low. That can lead to seizures, brain damage, or even death.

These are only a few of the potentially serious complications diabetes in dogs can cause. That’s why it’s so important to carefully manage your dog’s diabetes. That includes giving them an appropriate diabetic dog food.

German Shepherd

Dog Breeds Prone to Diabetes

While any dog can develop diabetes, some dog breeds are more prone to it than others. Dog breeds that are more prone to diabetes include:

  • Beagle
  • Bichon Frise
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Dachshund
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Fox Terrier
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Keeshond
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Pomeranian
  • Poodle
  • Puli
  • Samoyed
  • Schnauzer

In general, female dogs (especially if they are overweight and/or intact) are more likely than males (especially skinny ones) to develop diabetes.

The Costs Involved with Diabetes in Dogs

While diabetes is treatable, it is a lifelong disease, and the costs involved in treating it can add up. Here are some of the costs involved in treating diabetes in dogs:

  • Insulin injections are usually given twice a day and may cost $30-$150 per month
  • Syringes are required for the injections and cost around $10-$20 a month
  • A glucose monitor helps you track your dog’s blood sugar levels. You should only need to buy one, at a cost of around $20-$150
  • Lancets and test strips are disposable items used with the glucose monitor to check your dog’s blood sugar. Plan on around $5-$20 per month.
  • Diabetic dog food may cost around 10-20% more than regular dog food
  • Vet visits will probably increase in frequency so the vet can monitor your dog’s condition. Costs vary by vet clinic but may cost hundreds of dollars per year.

raw dog food

Are there Homemade Diets for Diabetic Dogs?

It’s understandable if you’d rather cook for your diabetic dog than feed them commercial dog food. However, creating a nutritionally complete homemade diabetic dog food is tricky even for healthy dogs. Nailing a complete nutritional profile for a diabetic dog is incredibly difficult.

If you really prefer to cook for your dog, talk to your vet about recipes that will provide your dog with all the nutrition they need.

More Care Tips for Diabetic Dogs

We wanted to provide you with a few more care tips for diabetic dogs.

First, you should feed your dog on a regular, consistent schedule. Take your vet’s suggestion, but it will usually be twice a day before you give their insulin injections. Try to feed your dog at the same time every day to reduce blood sugar fluctuation.

Secondly, try to avoid changing your dog’s diet. Once you’ve found the right diabetic dog food, try not to change it. Switching foods can cause unusual fluctuations in your dog’s blood sugar levels.

Third, don’t forget to factor treats into your dog’s diet. Avoid treats that are high in carbohydrates. Don’t forget to factor treat calories into your dog’s daily diet to prevent obesity.

Dog Blood Glucose Testing

One of the trickiest parts of having a diabetic dog may be regular blood glucose testing. Monitoring your dog’s blood glucose levels is a crucial part of maintaining the health of your diabetic dog. While the process is relatively simple, your dog may not make it easy.

Unless your vet says otherwise, you’ll need to get a sample of blood from your dog’s ear flap for testing.

When your dog is calm, warm up their ear flap to encourage blood flow. Then, use a lancet to make a small cut in a clean, hairless portion of your dog’s ear. Collect the blood with a glucose test strip and insert it into the monitor. Apply pressure to your dog’s ear with a cotton ball to stop the bleeding.

Your dog’s blood sugar level should be between 100–250 mg/dL depending on their size. You may need to adjust how much insulin you give your dog based on their blood sugar levels.

switching dog food

Best Food for Diabetic Dogs FAQ

We know this is a long article, so we’ve compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions.

How Often Should I Feed my Diabetic Dog?

Unless your vet tells you otherwise, you should feed your diabetic dog twice a day. Do your best to feed your dog at the same time every day. That will help reduce blood sugar fluctuations.

What is Diabetic Dog Food?

Diabetic dog food may be a prescription food, one formulated specifically for dogs with diabetes, or a premium dog food that meets certain requirements.

Diabetic dog food should be high in protein and fiber and low in carbohydrates and fat.

Is there a Connection between Dry Dog Food and Diabetes?

No studies have proven a link between dry dog food and diabetes. However, it is thought that the high carbohydrate levels in some dog foods contribute to the development of diabetes. Anecdotally, dogs that eat an ancestral diet consisting primarily of meat are less likely to develop diabetes.

Without scientific studies, it’s up to you to do your research to determine what food is best for your dog. You should also discuss your dog’s diet with their vet.

Why is my Diabetic Dog Losing Weight?

Diabetic dogs don’t produce enough insulin to convert glucose into a usable source of energy. That means your dog must get energy from fat and muscle. That leads to weight loss.

If your diabetic dog is losing weight (and you haven’t changed their diet or exercise), you should contact your vet. Your dog’s diabetes may not be well-controlled.

On the other hand, if your dog is overweight, your vet may recommend that they lose some weight. Intentional weight loss is not a concern like unintentional weight loss.

Why Won’t My Diabetic Dog Drink or Eat?

There are many reasons your diabetic dog might stop eating or drinking.

The simplest possibility is just that your dog doesn’t like the flavor of food you’re feeding them. Try adding broth (no salt added) to their kibble to see if they eat it.

Dogs also stop eating when they don’t feel good. There are a lot of illnesses that could cause a dog to stop eating. Two are specific to diabetic dogs:

  • Ketoacidosis is the result of your dog’s body not having enough insulin to convert glucose into energy. Your dog’s body will start breaking down fat instead, which releases ketones. That leads to reduced appetite.
  • Gastroparesis is the delayed emptying of your dog’s stomach. It can be caused by neurological damage caused by diabetes. Your dog will feel full because their stomach contents aren’t moving into their intestines.

If your diabetic dog stops eating or drinking for more than a day, you should contact your vet immediately. They could be suffering from something serious and potentially dangerous.

Wrapping Up the Best Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs

We’ve done our best to provide you with all the information you need about diabetes in dogs and the best food for diabetic dogs. However, you should still talk to your vet to make sure you know how to care for your diabetic dog.

Hopefully, you can find a great choice for your dog from our list of the best dog food for diabetic dogs.

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Best Low Fat Dog Food for Large Breeds

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