What dog food is best for diabetic dogs?

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from diabetes. Canine diabetes is caused by pancreatic dysfunction, which causes dogs to have little control over their sugar levels.

If left untreated, these fluctuating sugar levels can cause severe health issues and even be fatal. 

a cute Poodle laying on pink tile floor
A Poodle puppy with the sad eyes

The good news is you can help control canine diabetes through diet by providing your dog with the nutrition they need through their food.

Top 5 Picks for Best Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs in 2021

  Dog Food Recipes Our Rating
Best Overall Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs (All Life stages) Ketona Chicken Recipe Dog Food

  • 46% protein content with GMO-free chicken as the first ingredient
  • Only 5% digestible carbohydrate content and 0.5% sugars
  • Formulated without corn, soy, wheat, or potatoes
4.5
Best Budget Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Buffalo and Sweet Potato)

  • A well-balanced food featuring plenty of proteins from various sources 
  • Rich in fruits and vegetables as well as a variety of supplements
  • Grain-free dry dog food with no corn, wheat, or soy
4.5
Best Puppy Food for Diabetic Dogs Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Wet Canned 

  • Grain-free wet dog food packed with protein 
  • Designed by nutritionists and veterinarians 
  • Developed without any meat by-products, wheat, corn, soy, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
4.5
Best Adult Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs  Ketona Chicken Recipe Dog Food

  • 46% protein content with GMO-free chicken as the first ingredient
  • Only 5% digestible carbohydrate content and 0.5% sugars
  • Formulated without corn, soy, wheat, or potatoes
4.5
Best Senior Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs Acana Appalachian Ranch (Beef, Pork, Lamb, Bison, and Fish)

  • High-protein dry dog food with a low carbohydrate content of just 32%
  • Include a variety of wholesome vegetables and fruits
  • Coated with freeze-dried beef, lamb, and pork liver for added flavor
4.5

Best Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs (by Life Stage)

One of the things that will need to be looked at when your dog is diagnosed with diabetes is his diet. You’ll need to monitor his calorie intake carefully, opting for a low-carb, high fiber diet.

a puppy being shaved by a vet
A good puppy laying while a vet prepares for vaccination

Best Dog Food for Diabetic Puppies

While it’s unlikely that your dog will be diagnosed with diabetes at such a young age, certain breeds are more predisposed to developing canine diabetes.

You’ll want to provide these puppies with a tasty meal that is high in protein and low in carbs to set them up for long and healthy life in the future.

1. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Wet Canned (Turkey, Chicken Liver & Turkey Liver) 

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Broth
Type: Wet

Grain-free wet dog food packed with protein and specific nutritional supplements to support your dog’s growing needs.

This filler-free canned food is designed by nutritionists and veterinarians for well-balanced nutrition, focusing on building lean muscle. 

Pros:

  • Developed without any meat by-products, wheat, corn, soy, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or additives

Cons:

  • The food contains less mass per can than other foods in the same price range
  • Some dogs had loose stools while on this diet

CHECK PRICE HERE

Best Dog Food for Diabetic Adult Dogs

Kooikerhondje laying on the bed
Meet Cookie, a charming Kooikerhondje looking comfortable – Image source

It’s estimated that 1 in 100 dogs will have canine diabetes. Diet plays a vital role in controlling this disease, and as a result, many manufacturers have developed food specifically for diabetic dogs.

Here are some of the best dry dog food and wet food options for dogs with diabetes:

1. Ketona Chicken Recipe Dog Food

Ketona Ketonatural Dry Food for Adult Dogs

Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Chicken, Pea Protein, Ground Green Peas
Type: Dry

Scientifically formulated dry dog food with very low carbohydrate content and 46% protein with GMO-free chicken as the first ingredient.

This food is made in the USA and will not cause the insulin surge of other dry dog foods. 

Pros:

  • Only 5% digestible carbohydrate content and 0.5% sugars
  • Formulated without corn, soy, wheat, or potatoes

Cons:

  • Quite expensive compared to other brands

CHECK PRICE HERE

2. Orijen Grain-Free

ORIJEN Grain-Free Dry

Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Fresh chicken meat, fresh turkey meat, fresh cage-free eggs
Type: Dry

Premium dog food featuring 20% carbohydrate content and 38% protein from fresh chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs.

Organs, cartilage, and bone offer additional nutritional value to this fruit and vegetable-rich formula.

Made in the USA, this a high-quality product from a trusted brand. 

Pros:

  • Contains no grain, tapioca, or plant protein concentrates

Cons:

  • A costly brand that can be difficult to find
  • Some pet owners complained their dog got sick on this diet

CHECK PRICE HERE

3. Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Buffalo and Sweet Potato)

Merrick Grain-Free Real Texas Dry Dog Food

Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Deboned Beef, Lamb Meal, Salmon Meal
Type: Dry

A well-balanced food featuring plenty of proteins from various protein sources, including beef, lamb, salmon, and 36% carbohydrate content.

This diet is also rich in fruits and vegetables and multiple supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, to boost your pet’s overall health.

Pros:

  • Grain-free dry dog food with no corn, wheat, or soy
  • Made with plenty of real, whole foods like sweet potatoes, peas, apples, and blueberries

Cons:

  • Some dogs got diarrhea on this diet

CHECK PRICE HERE

4. Nulo Adult (Salmon & Peas)

Nulo Freestyle Grain-Free Adult Dry Dog Food

Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal
Type: Dry

High-quality kibble with 30% protein, the majority of which comes from animal protein like salmon and turkey, which have plenty of amino acids for building lean muscle.

Features just 28% carbs and plenty of low-glycemic ingredients as well as advanced probiotics for digestive health. 

Pros:

  • Grain-free formula free from chicken and eggs for allergy-prone pooches
  • Includes Vitamin B6 and niacin from lamb for energy production

Cons:

  • This pet food comes with a high price tag

CHECK PRICE HERE

5. Hill’s Prescription Diet W/D

Hill's Prescription Diet w/d Multi-Benefit Digestive

Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Whole grain wheat, whole grain corn, powdered cellulose
Type: Dry

This prescription dog food is made specifically for dogs with digestive or weight-management problems or blood-sugar difficulties, such as diabetic pups.

You may need a prescription from your vet to buy this food.

Pros:

  • High levels of L-carnitine for boosting your pup’s metabolism
  • Acceptable fiber levels for keeping your dog fuller for longer 

Cons:

  • Protein only features as the fourth ingredient on the list

CHECK PRICE HERE

6. Wellness Core Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Dry

Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Whitefish, Chicken, Chicken Liver
Type: Wet

High-protein, low carbohydrate diet with 50% proteins and 8% carbs. Grain-free food with delicious fruits and vegetables and an assortment of proteins like chicken, whitefish, turkey, and salmon oil.

This food is fortified with omega fatty acids, antioxidants, glucosamine, probiotics, taurine, vitamins, and minerals.

Pros:

  • Includes specifically formulated mineral levels for better metabolic function
  • Natural recipe free from corn, soy, or wheat

Cons:

  • Some dogs simply didn’t like this food

CHECK PRICE HERE

7. Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe Natural Wet (Chicken)

Instinct Original Grain-Free Wet Canned Dog Food

Our Rating: 4
Top Ingredients: Beef, Venison, Beef Broth
Type: Wet

Grain-free canned dog food that offers an extremely low-carb option with just 6% carbohydrate content. Full of nutrient-rich ingredients, fruits and vegetables, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants.

Made with real beef and venison and offers a delicious loaf-like texture even the pickiest eater is sure to love.

Pros:

  • Contains natural sources of omega fatty acids for a shiny coat and healthy skin
  • Free of grain, potato, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meal, artificial colors, or preservatives

Cons:

  • It has quite a high-fat content which put some owners off

CHECK PRICE HERE

8. Taste of the Wild Southwest Canyon Canned Dog Food

Taste of the Wild Southwest Canyon High Protein

Our Rating: 4
Top Ingredients: Beef, beef broth, vegetable broth
Type: Wet

Low-carb canned dog food with 50% protein from beef, lamb, and even wild boar. This food has plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and only 20% carbohydrate content.

Appropriate for all life stages, this tasty food is created to boost energy levels and build a shiny coat.

Pros:

  • Features no grain, corn, wheat, fillers or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Includes nutrient-rich, highly digestible ingredients with prebiotic fiber such as sweet potatoes, blueberries, and raspberries

Cons:

  • Some owners reported this food gave their pup flatulence

CHECK PRICE HERE

9. Royal Canin Glycobalance Dry Dog Food

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Glycobalance Formula

Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Chicken By-Product Meal, Barley
Type: Wet

Scientifically formulated veterinary-approved dry dog food for diabetic dogs with a high protein and fiber content but low in fat and calories.

The reduced starch and high protein content help diabetic dogs maintain muscle mass without causing unnecessary spikes in blood sugar. This food contains a specific blend of Vitamin E, A, B, and D. 

Pros:

  • High fiber content allows for better glucose absorption and utilization

Cons:

  • Contains unspecified by-product meal as the second ingredient
  • It contains wheat and gluten as two of its first five ingredients

CHECK PRICE HERE

Best Dog Food for Diabetic Senior Dogs

a senior Beagle sitting on a soft cushion
Meet Mendel, a lovable senior Beagle sitting – Image source

Many pups develop severe diabetes as they get older.

While there is nothing you can do to cure your dog of diabetes, you can help prolong your dog’s life expectancy by providing them with a diet that keeps their blood glucose levels in check.

1. Acana Heritage Dry Dog Food (Red Meat)

ACANA Red Meat Formula Grain-Free

Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Deboned Beef, Deboned Pork, Beef Meal
Type: Dry

Leading dry dog food for diabetic dogs featuring 60% meat ingredients and 40% real fruits, vegetables, and botanicals.

This food features one of the best essential fatty acid ratios on the market at 1:3.

Also, it includes other necessary supplements such as glucosamine to help build healthy joints and DHA and EPA for brain health.

Pros:

  • It contains 100 million CFUs of probiotics for digestibility, as well as plenty of calcium and phosphorus for healthy bones and teeth
  • Nutrient-dense, high-protein recipe featuring raw beef and pork while each kibble is also coated in freeze-dried beef, lamb, and pork liver for flavor

Cons:

  • Some dogs simply refused to eat this food

CHECK PRICE HERE

2. Acana Appalachian Ranch (Beef, Pork, Lamb, Bison, and Fish)

ACANA Appalachian Ranch Grain-Free

Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Deboned beef, deboned pork, deboned lamb
Type: Dry

High-quality, high-protein dry dog food with a low carbohydrate content of just 32%.

This dog food is packed with real meat proteins from beef, pork, catfish, bison, and lamb.

Also including a variety of wholesome vegetables and fruits, such as pumpkin, collard greens, butternut squash, carrots, apples, and pears.

Each kibble piece is also coated with freeze-dried beef, lamb, and pork liver for added flavor.

Pros:

  • Includes added vitamins, minerals, and probiotics
  • Free from any corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives

Cons:

  • Some pet owners complained their dogs seemed to be allergic to the food

CHECK PRICE HERE

Diabetes & Your Dog’s Diet

a diabetic dog looking at a bowl with broccoli and risotto
Meet Marley, a diabetic dog with a balanced meal to regulate his sugar – Image source

Diabetes affects dogs in much the same way as it affects humans.

The pancreas is supposed to produce enough insulin to process the glucose released when the body starts to breakdown fats, protein, and sugars do not respond in the way it is meant to.

This means that the body cannot process the glucose properly.

Type 1 diabetes is the most common form of canine diabetes and is essentially an auto-immune disease that stops the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas from working.

A genetic link often causes this disease, meaning that certain breeds may be predisposed to diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes, which is less common, is more often caused by diet and can be linked to obesity in canines.

In this case, the body produces too much insulin, so much so that the cells no longer recognize its purpose. 

Unfortunately, once your dog has diabetes, there is no cure; however, your dog can still lead a long and healthy life through careful management of the disease. 

Breeds That May Be Predisposed to Diabetes

Due to the genetic link in diabetes, some breeds are more disposed to developing diabetes than others.

If you have a dog that belongs to one of these breeds, be sure to watch them closely for any signs of the disease and manage their diet appropriately:

  • Samoyeds
  • Keeshonds
  • Dachshunds
  • Poodles
  • German Shepherds
  • Dobermans
  • Schnauzers
  • Pulis
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Pomeranians
  • Fox Terriers
  • Beagles
  • Bichon Frise

Also, female dogs are more susceptible to the disease, significantly overweight pups. Spaying can help to reduce these risks.

How to Calculate the Carbohydrate Percentage of Your Dog’s Food

It can be challenging to determine exactly how much carbohydrate content each dog food has, as this is often not readily displayed on the packaging. 

There is, however, a way to calculate this content. First, you need to add up the recorded fat, protein, moisture, and ash content and then subtract this figure from 100%.

The remaining figure will represent the total amount of carbs in your dog’s food. If the ash figure isn’t listed in the guaranteed analysis, you can bank on around 5 to 8% of most foods.

Dog Diabetes Symptoms: Potential Red Flags 

a Rottie squeezing itself in an arm chair
Meet Charlie, a Rottweiler looking for a comfortable spot – Image source

The symptoms of diabetes can be relatively easy to miss, especially in the early stages.

Some of the most common symptoms include increased urination, increased thirst, appetite changes, unexpected weight loss, fruity breath, and fatigue. 

More severe symptoms that your dog might display include depression, ongoing skin or yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and cataracts.

Any dog showing the above signs should be taken to the vet immediately for a check-up.

Complications of the Early and Final Stages of Dog Diabetes

If not managed correctly, diabetes can cause several complications for your pet. The most common ailment that diabetic dogs face is the development of cataracts.

These cataracts can lead to partial or complete blindness; however, sometimes, your dog’s sight may be able to be restored through surgery.

Another diabetic disease that affects your dog’s eyesight is Diabetic Retinopathy. This disease is triggered by changes in the blood vessels that supply blood to the eyes. 

Dogs with diabetes can also develop seizures which can lead to brain damage.

These seizures are often caused by an insulin overdose when too much insulin is provided to a pet, causing blood sugar levels to plummet. 

Finally, diabetic pets also suffer from frequent urinary tract infections because of the high levels of sugar in the urine. 

Other expected consequences of diabetes in dogs include leg weakness, high blood pressure, and low blood calcium levels.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is also common in the final stages of canine diabetes and is a complication of untreated hyperglycemia.

This happens when your dog starts to use its emergency stores, leading to heart failure or brain swelling. 

Best Food for Diabetic Dogs Buying Guide

a Poodle posing with raw meat, veggies, and fruits
A Poodle laying with a sample healthy portion

Diet can be both a cause and a treatment of canine diabetes; therefore, it’s always necessary to be acutely aware of what you are feeding your pet. 

Types of Diets for Canine Diabetes: Which food Is best for your diabetic dog?

There are various types of diets you can feed your dog, including dry dog food, canned or wet dog food, and raw food.

Dry dog food is the easiest, most affordable option for your dog; however, many dry kibble options are loaded with extra carbohydrates and cheap quality fillers. 

Kibbles may also not be supplying your dog with adequate moisture levels, which can lead to increased thirst, one of the early symptoms of diabetes.

While wet dog food provides these increased moisture levels, canned food also tends to contain lots of added preservatives to ensure longer shelf life. 

Some pet owners like a raw diet for their dog that mimics what your pup’s canine ancestors would have consumed in the wild.

Raw food diets are typically very high in meat-based protein and low in carbohydrates and low-fat content. This can make them an excellent option for diabetic dogs. However, they can be expensive.

Finally, several prescription diets have been developed specifically for dogs with diabetes. They’re costly, challenging to find, and it has to be prescribed by your vet.

They might also not be essential unless your dog has developed a severe case of the disease.

Things to look for when selecting food for diabetic dogs: What is diabetic dog food?

Two dog bone bowl with bone kibbles
Two filled dog bone-shaped bones

Dog foods best for diabetic dogs have a 20-25% carbohydrate content and have a low glycemic index, which means that they don’t cause blood sugar levels to spike. 

On that note, you’ll want to try and avoid foods that list a carbohydrate as their main ingredient. Low-glycemic foods or those with a low carb content release glucose in a slow, steady manner.

Low-glycemic ingredients, like legumes and whole grains, help prevent blood sugar spikes while high-glycemic foods like white rice and potatoes cause them.

Foods that are also high in fiber help control glucose levels by allowing for a slow release of sugars. 

The best diet for any dog is one with a real meat protein source as the first ingredient.

While meat-based meals like chicken meals or fish meals are okay, avoid foods that contain meat byproducts or unidentified meat sources.

These byproducts can contain protein from unsavory or potentially dangerous sources.

When looking for the best dog food for your diabetic dog, don’t only go for foods you know that have spent a lot of money on branding and advertising fees.

Select a food that is manufactured in a country with high safety controls

The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom all have stringent safety guidelines for the manufacturing of pet food.

Modern dog foods are made to include plenty of vitamins and minerals and antioxidant-rich ingredients to help your dog build a healthy immune system.

Supplements like chondroitin or glucosamine are occasionally added to food to assist with joint health, while probiotic supplements help digestion. 

Other things that are best avoided include any artificial flavorings, colorants, and preservatives.

While these ingredients can help make dog food look and taste more appealing, they can also trigger food allergies and other health issues.

To grain or not to grain: Do diabetic dogs need grain-free food?

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. Whole carbohydrates that are naturally high in fiber are the best choice for your diabetic dog.

Soluble fibers that aid in slowing down digestion include bran, lentils, seeds, peas, beans, nuts, barley, and seeds. 

Insoluble fibers like those in wheat, whole grains like brown rice, and veggies can make your dog feel full, helping to control hunger while adding bulk to stool and assisting the body with removing waste.

Both types of fiber are essential components of your dog’s diet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

a senior Black Labrador close-up shot
A portrait of a senior Black Labrador laying down

How often should you feed your diabetic dog?

It’s essential to stick to a regular feeding schedule when managing canine diabetes. This will help to keep your pup’s blood sugar levels stable.

Your vet can help provide you with an optimal feeding schedule, but a twice-daily plan is sufficient for most dogs. 

You will want to keep this consistent schedule day to day, monitoring the specific time your dog eats and administering your dog’s insulin immediately after feeding. 

Portion control is essential to control diabetes as you don’t want abnormal glucose levels to accumulate in your dog’s system.

Dogs should be provided with an equal number of calories to what they expend daily.

How Is Canine Diabetes Treated? 

Most dogs with diabetes will require regular insulin shots to control their glucose levels. These can either be done at the vet, or your vet will show you how to give your pet injections at home.

Exercise and regular activity is also encouraged, especially in the case of overweight, diabetic dog. 

Are Homemade Diets a Good Idea for Diabetic Dogs? 

Balancing the specific nutritional content of diabetic dog food in a homemade recipe can be extremely difficult.

It’s unlikely that you will get this special balance right with homemade dog food, and you could end up doing more harm than good for your pup. 

As a result, your dog could develop specific long-term health problems due to deficiencies in his diet.

This is because unbalanced food can cause your dog’s blood sugar levels to swing wildly, making it difficult to administer the correct dosage of insulin your dog needs. 

Should I give diabetic treats to dogs?

Diabetic dogs can have treats, but since snacks make up a large portion of your dog’s daily caloric intake, they need to be given with care.

High-calorie or sugary treats will undo all the other hard work you’re doing to keep your dog’s diabetes under control.

Limit treats to those that are protein-based, such as lean chicken or chunks of steak. You can also find some great organic dog treats on the market that has been specifically crafted for diabetic dogs.

What are Tips for Managing Diabetes in Dogs Using Diet?

While you’ll want to provide your diabetic dog with the right food, try and avoid switching food unnecessarily.

Significant, irregular changes in your dog’s diet can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate unpredictably, which can put your dog’s health at risk. 

Managing your dog’s diabetes can be difficult, but keeping a regular daily journal can make it easier.

Your dog’s diet journal should include a daily log of any food your dog gets, including treats, chews, table scraps, and food used to administer medicine. 

This will help you control your dog’s insulin levels better while providing your vet with a recorded history of what is happening at home.

You also need to make sure you are providing your dog with daily exercise and frequent walks.

And because of the high fiber content in your dog’s diet, they will have increased fecal bulk, which means more trips to the bathroom.

Ensure your dog always has enough water on hand and a place where they can quickly relieve themselves.

How to Prevent Diabetes in Dogs? 

Obesity is a significant risk factor when it comes to your dog developing diabetes, thus maintaining your dog’s body weight at optimum levels through diet and exercise is essential.

This doesn’t mean cutting out fat from your dog’s diet altogether.

Healthy fats can help with the absorption of nutrients, but you’ll want to keep an eye on how much fat and calories your pup consumes

Too much fat in the diet can cause the pancreas to inflame in a condition known as pancreatitis.

This inflammation can directly result in insulin production in the pancreas, leading to the development of canine diabetes. 

Dog Diabetes Cost: How Much Will This Illness Set You Back?

Treating a diabetic dog can be a costly affair.

You will need to take into consideration the costs of insulin medications, syringes, a glucose monitor, diabetic dog food, and of course, frequent visits to the vet. 

Most dogs will require insulin injections twice a day, which is likely to be the primary cost consideration.

These injections can set you back between $30 and $150 a month, with the severity of your dog’s disease and the size of your dog having an impact on the final price. 

You may find getting insulin from your local pharmacy rather than the vet is more affordable, while some retail outlets also sell quality insulin at reduced prices.

Once you have your dog’s insulin, you also need to administer it, your dog’s size, which means spending between $10 and $20 a month on syringes. 

Before administering the insulin, you also need to regularly check your dog’s blood sugar levels through the use of a glucose monitor. These vary in price greatly and can set you back anything between $20 and $150. 

Alongside the glucose monitor, you’ll need to keep supplies of disposable lancets and testing strips. For these, you are also looking at between $5 and $20 per month. 

As you can see above, diabetic dog food is also not cheap.

Some of these dog foods cost twice as much as regular dog foods, although on average, you’re probably looking at paying around 10-20% more on diabetic food when compared to standard dog food.

The most expensive part of managing your dog’s diabetes will be regular vet checkups.

The cost of these visits can vary greatly; however, you can reduce your fees by investing in adequate pet insurance when your dog is still a puppy. 

If Your Dog is diabetic, Talk to Your Vet Before Choosing a Dog Food

a Dachshund being checked-up by a vet while owner holds it
A Dachshund at a vet clinic having a check-up

As a severe medical condition, it’s always advisable to work closely with your vet when choosing food for a diabetic dog.

If your dog is a severe diabetic, your veterinarian may opt to give him or her a prescription diet; however, most dogs will be OK with high-quality, regular dog food from off-the-shelf dog food brands. 

Do you have a diabetic dog at home? What are you feeding him?

Do let us know in the comments below what you have found to be the best dog food for your diabetic dog and any other tips and tricks you have for managing canine diabetes.

Further Reading: Other dog foods for pups with health problems

  • Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach
  • Best Dog Food for Allergies
  • Best Dog Food for Diarrhea
  • Best Dog Food for Picky Eaters
  • Best Dog Food for Weight Loss

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