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Feeding schedule for diabetic dogs

Good glycemic control is dependent upon a controlled and consistent dietary intake. It is important to achieve and then maintain a normal body weight, because this is a strong indicator of good diabetic control. The dietary requirements of a diabetic dog are highly variable—diet must be individually tailored for each dog.

Body weight is a major factor in diet selections. Obese dogs require reduced caloric intake, either through feeding a calorie-restricted diet or by feeding a reduced quantity of the normal diet. Increasing physical activity will also be beneficial in obese dogs. Conversely, underweight dogs may require calorie-rich diets such as pediatric or convalescent diets.

Another important consideration is the presence of concurrent disease, for example, renal failure or pancreatitis. It may be that the dietary management for these associated problems is more critical than a specific "diabetic" diet.

Dogs tend to gobble their food. Traditionally, the dog’s daily food intake should be divided into 2 meals. The first meal is given around the time of the morning insulin injection, and the second meal is given approximately 7.5 hours (6 to 10 hours) later, at the time of peak insulin activity. Fiber-rich diets have been shown to slow the postprandial glucose surge in dogs, which consequently improves glycemic control.

Timing of meals

Meals should be timed so that the absorption of glucose from 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.

1. Dogs administered insulin once daily

  • The first meal (eg, 2/3 of the daily ration) is given prior to the morning insulin injection. This allows the owner to see that the dog is feeling well and eating normally before the insulin is administered.
  • The second meal (the remainder of the daily ration) is usually given about 6–8 hours later.

2. 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.
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