Insulin is only one component for good diabetes control. Diet is also very important. A diet must provide for all of your dog’s nutritional needs and should minimize fluctuations in glucose concentrations. The essential features of the diet should be:
- Consistent from day to day (to prevent unnecessary alterations in insulin requirement).
- High in complex carbohydrates and fiber so that glucose is released in a steady fashion from the gut.
- Given so that glucose absorption from the gut coincides with peak action of administered insulin.
- Of the correct caloric value to help the dog achieve optimal weight.
The ideal diet for your dog should contain restricted fat, increased complex carbohydrates and increased fiber, and should be chosen to suit both you and your diabetic dog. There are a number of prescription diets that have been specially formulated for the management of diabetic dogs. These can be particularly useful for achieving weight loss in obese dogs. However, most diabetic dogs can be managed on a carefully controlled program using their normal diet. Control on a non-prescription diet is much easier if a complete, moist food is being fed.
Clean drinking water should be available at all times. A reduction in excessive water consumption indicates successful management of diabetes mellitus.
Importance of an ideal body weight
In dogs that are underweight or overweight, it is desirable that the ideal body weight is reached by gradual weight gain or loss, respectively.
In underweight dogs, very calorie-dense diets should be avoided, especially those that are high in soluble carbohydrates.
Obesity contributes to insulin resistance. Overweight dogs should lose weight in a gradual, controlled fashion. Weight loss in obese animals decreases the insulin requirement. Diets designed to promote weight loss are high-fiber diets and are suitable for feeding to diabetic pets.
Obesity in diabetic dogs
Diabetic dogs are most effectively controlled when they are at their ideal body weight. Dogs that are very overweight (obese) may have insulin resistance, meaning that insulin therapy is less effective and higher doses are required.
Weight loss should be gradual. Overweight dogs should be fed two-thirds of the recommended daily allowance of a suitable diet until they have reached their ideal body weight. Your veterinarian or veterinary technician will help you calculate the ideal body weight and food requirements for your diabetic dog and monitor its weight loss.
Complete prescription diets for diabetic dogs are available from your veterinarian. Your veterinarian or veterinary technician will advise you on the correct type of diet to meet your dog's specific needs.
Prescription diets available
For information about complete diets available for dogs with diabetes mellitus, see the following websites:
Things to consider about nutrition
Some factors that need to be taken into consideration are:
- Will your dog eat the food? Some dogs can be fussy eaters. You may have difficulty trying to convince your dog to eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet. Don't worry—your dog can also be stabilized on its usual food, although it will need the same food every day and the insulin dose may be slightly higher.
- Is your dog underweight?
A diet high in fiber is not suitable, as it may cause further weight loss. Fiber may have to be restricted and additional supplements given until the ideal body weight is reached. If your dog is underweight, your veterinarian will advise you on a diet to help your dog regain its normal weight.
Timing of meals
Your veterinarian will advise you on the proper feeding of your dog. In general, meals should be timed so that the presence of food in the gastrointestinal tract coincides with the peak action of the administered insulin. This will minimize fluctuations in blood glucose concentrations and thus episodes of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.
- Dogs administered insulin once daily
- The first meal (two-thirds of the daily amount) is given prior to the morning insulin injection. This allows you to see that your dog is feeling well and eating normally before the insulin is administered.
- The second meal (the remainder of the daily amount) is usually given about 6–8 hours later.
- Dogs administered insulin twice daily
It has to be ensured that there is not a hypoglycemic episode during the night. Ideally, the daily ration should be divided into 4 small meals but this is usually not feasible. Therefore, it is suggested to feed two meals of approximately equal size spread as evenly as possible throughout the day.
- The first meal (eg, 1/2 of the daily ration) is given just before the morning insulin injection. This allows you to see that the dog is feeling well and eating normally before the insulin is given.
- The second meal (the remainder of the daily ration) is usually given about 10–12 hours later, prior to the second insulin injection.