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Insulin therapy provides the mainstay of management for most diabetic patients, but management of other factors such as diet and exercise can influence glycemic control.

Dietary Control

Since almost all diabetic dogs have insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), dietary management will not remove the requirement for insulin. The aim of dietary change is to improve glycemic regulation.

A diet must provide all the nutritional needs of patients and should minimize postprandial fluctuation 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 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 take diabetes weight to optimal weight.
  • Fat-restricted.

The ideal diet for a diabetic patient should contain restricted fat, increased complex carbohydrates, and increased fiber and should be chosen to suit both the owner and the diabetic dog. There are a number of prescription diets that have been specially formulated for the management of diabetic patients. These can be particularly useful for achieving weight loss in obese patients. However, most diabetic dogs can be stabilized on a carefully controlled program using their normal diet. Stabilization 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 animals, 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 dogs.

More information

See Feeding schedule for specific information about dietary control in diabetic dogs.

The following pet food companies produce balanced diets formulated for diabetic dogs. For more information, click on each company name to reach its website.