One of the best ways to help control your dog’s diabetes, apart from checking their blood sugar levels and giving them insulin, is through their diet. But how can you know which foods are best for diabetic dogs? We’ve compiled 10 of the best diabetic dog foods, so you can choose the one that’s best for your dog and your budget.
Our Top Picks
- 1Ketona Chicken Recipe Dry Food for Adult Dogs - Low Carb, High Protein, Grain-Free Dog Food
- 2Merrick Grain Free with Real Meat + Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food
- 3ORIJEN Dry Dog Food, Grain Free, High Protein, Fresh and Raw Animal Ingredients
- 4Acana Grain Free Adult Dog Food, High Protein, Made with Real Meat
- 5Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food
- 6Nulo Adult Grain Free Dog Food: All Natural Dry Pet Food for Large and Small Breed Dogs
- 7Dogswell NUTRISCA Premium Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Salmon & Chickpea Recipe
- 8Dogswell NUTRISCA Premium Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Salmon & Chickpea Recipe
- 9ROYAL CANIN Glycobalance Dry Dog Food
- 10HILL'S PRESCRIPTION DIET w/d Multi-Benefit Digestive/Weight/Glucose/Urinary Management
Important Considerations When Choosing Foods for Diabetic Dogs
So, how can you choose the right food for your pup? Here are some things to look for and think about while you’re looking at different diabetic dog foods.
Real Meat as the First Ingredient
Dogs are descended from wolves, who eat primarily meat. Dogs, in turn, were built to digest mostly meat. Dog food shouldn’t have grains, vegetables, or meat by-products as the first ingredient. Look for real meat (ideally whole meat) as the primary ingredient.
Low in Carbs
Carbohydrates are digested much faster than fat and protein, which can cause dangerous spikes in your dog’s blood sugar levels. The lower the carb percentage, the less your dog’s blood sugar will fluctuate.
Grains like brown rice are a common source of carbs, so grain-free diets tend to be best for diabetic dogs. Always ask your vet before switching your dog to a grain-free diet.
High in Protein
For a food to be low in carbs, it must be high in protein. Since dogs digest protein slower than carbs, high levels of protein help keep your dog full longer while maintaining a steadier blood sugar level.
High Fiber Content
There are two different types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both are important in managing diabetes. Soluble fiber attracts moisture and helps slow down digestion. Slowing down your dog’s digestion also slows down the digestion of carbs, reducing blood sugar fluctuations.
Insoluble fibers, on the other hand, add bulk to your dog’s stool and help them feel fuller longer. Everybody has a hard time ignoring pleading puppy eyes, so high-fiber foods can help prevent your dog from begging for more food.
Low Glycemic Index
Low-glycemic foods help release glucose into your dog’s bloodstream at a slower rate than foods that are higher on the glycemic index. That helps limit fluctuations in your dog’s blood sugar levels.
Low to Moderate Fat
Dogs need a certain level of fat in their diet for a healthy skin and coat. However, too much fat can lead to obesity, which causes many of the same health problems in dogs as people. If your dog is already overweight, a low fat diet may help with weight loss.
Avoid Animal By-Products and Unidentified Meat Meals
Animal by-products and meat meals that don’t list a specific animal they come from can include things like feathers, beaks, hooves, and horns. All these animal parts are made of keratin, the same substance that your hair and nails are made from.
As you can imagine, those parts aren’t very nutritious. Look for whole meats or meat meals where the animal is identified (for example, chicken meal is acceptable, while you should avoid poultry meal).
Look for Additional Nutrients
While all dog foods are required to provide a bare minimum level of nutrients, your dog needs more than that to be truly healthy. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids help your dog have a healthy skin and coat. Glucosamine and chondroitin help prevent and manage joint pain, while antioxidants are good for overall health and probiotics help improve digestion.
Avoid Artificial Ingredients
Dogs don’t care what color their food is, and other artificial ingredients add nothing of value, while they can create the potential for allergic reactions. Look for all-natural foods without artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Made in a Country with High Safety Standards
Sadly, not all countries have the same safety standards when it comes to pet food. Many pet food recalls have been linked to certain countries with lower safety standards. Look for food made in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, or New Zealand to reduce the likelihood of receiving contaminated food.
Every food has a different calorie content. Always follow the feeding guidelines on the package of dog food, and ask your vet if you have any questions about how much to feed your dog. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which is an especially big concern for a dog with diabetes.
How to Calculate the Carb Percentage in Dog Food
Unfortunately, most dog foods don’t list the carb percentage with the rest of the guaranteed analysis of the ingredients. The best thing to do is to subtract the protein, fat, moisture, and fiber percentages from 100% to get the estimated carb percentage.
The Best Diabetic Dog Food
1. Ketona Chicken Recipe Dry Food for Adult Dogs - Low Carb, High Protein, Grain-Free Dog Food
Carb Percentage: Less than 5%
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, pea protein, ground green peas, oat hulls (source of fiber), chicken fat
Customer Reviews:Complaints range from dogs not liking the taste to those having diarrhea to a few having dry skin or fur loss. However, those complaints are far outweighed by people saying their dog’s diabetes is under better control after switching to this food, and some require less insulin than before switching to this food.
Our Take: While some dogs may have a poor reaction to this food, most dogs, especially those with diabetes, tend to do really well on it, making it an excellent choice for diabetic dogs.
2. Merrick Grain Free with Real Meat + Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food
Carb Percentage: 36.5%
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned beef, lamb meal, salmon meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes
Customer Reviews:Merrick seems to have some quality control issues, with reports of dogs who have been on the food for a long time suddenly getting sick after opening a new bag. The other biggest complaint is that the new bags are not resealable. Most dogs enjoy the taste of this food and are thriving, though, with many people saying this food is worth the cost.
Our Take: While there is a chance you could get a bad bag, this is an overall high-quality food that’s high in protein and low in carbs.
3. ORIJEN Dry Dog Food, Grain Free, High Protein, Fresh and Raw Animal Ingredients
Carb Percentage: 19%
First 5 Ingredients: Whole Atlantic mackerel, whole Atlantic herring, monkfish, Acadian redfish, flounder
Customer Reviews: Like any food, some dogs didn’t like the taste or experienced digestive upset. However, most dogs love the taste of this food and are thriving, even experiencing improved allergy symptoms, healthier skin, and fewer stinky farts.
Our Take: This is a premium dog food with a price to match, and there is a chance your dog may not digest this food well. All in all, this is one of the top-tier foods for diabetic dogs.
4. Acana Grain Free Adult Dog Food, High Protein, Made with Real Meat
Carb Percentage: 29%
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, chicken meal, whole green peas, whole red lentils
Customer Reviews: As with other foods, some dogs had diarrhea after eating this food or just didn’t like the taste. Most dogs love the taste, though, and some dogs experienced firmer stools and improved allergy symptoms.
Our Take: This food is a good mix of quality ingredients and good value. Most dogs do well on it.
5. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food
Carb Percentage: 34%
First 5 Ingredients: Duck, lamb meal (source of glucosamine), chicken meal (source of chondroitin sulfate), chickpeas, peas
Customer Reviews: Complaints range from sick dogs to those who didn’t like the taste to people who didn’t like the price. Generally, dogs absolutely love the taste of this food and are doing well on it, even experiencing fewer allergy symptoms.
Our Take: This is a good food with a fairly low carb percentage. Many diabetic dogs may do well on this food.
6. Nulo Adult Grain Free Dog Food: All Natural Dry Pet Food for Large and Small Breed Dogs
Carb Percentage: 39.5%
First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, turkey meal, salmon meal, yellow peas, chickpeas
Customer Reviews: Some dogs had stomach or skin reactions after switching to this food. Generally, though, dogs do well on this food, including those with diabetes or allergies.
Our Take: This food is a decent choice of foods for diabetic dogs. It’s a little high in carbs compared to some of the other foods on our list, but several owners of diabetic dogs reported their dogs doing well on it.
7. Dogswell NUTRISCA Premium Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Salmon & Chickpea Recipe
Carb Percentage: 38%
First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, menhaden fish meal, peas, chickpeas, salmon meal
Customer Reviews: This food seems to have some quality control issues, with people receiving food that stinks, made their dog sick, or arrived in a torn bag. For the most part, though, dogs do well on this food and enjoy the taste.
Our Take: This is a pretty good budget-friendly grain-free dry dog food that many diabetic dogs may do well on and enjoy.
8. Instinct Original Grain Free Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food
Carb Percentage: 30.5%
First 5 Ingredients: Beef, chicken meal, white fish meal (Pacific whiting, Pacific sole, Pacific rockfish), peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid)
Customer Reviews: Like any food, some dogs had diarrhea or didn’t like the flavor of this food. However, most dogs love this food, and many people reported that their dogs showed improvement in allergy symptoms.
Our Take: With a relatively low carb amount and the benefits of freeze-dried raw with the convenience of kibble, this is a good choice of foods for diabetic dogs.
9. ROYAL CANIN Glycobalance Dry Dog Food
Carb Percentage: 35%
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken by-product meal, barley, corn gluten meal, powdered cellulose, wheat gluten
Customer Reviews: The main complaints have been about the price, while another person called it a “disgusting mess.” For the most part, though, diabetic dogs do really well on this food.
Our Take: The ingredients of this food aren’t that great. However, if your vet recommends it, it may be a good choice for your diabetic dog.
10. HILL'S PRESCRIPTION DIET w/d Multi-Benefit Digestive/Weight/Glucose/Urinary Management
Carb Percentage: 45.1%
First 5 Ingredients: Ground whole grain corn, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal, soybean mill run, powdered cellulose (source of fiber)
Customer Reviews: The formula of this food changed last year, and there are a lot of complaints about dogs who started having issues after the formula change. Some dogs didn’t like the taste, and others got sick, including one who died from pancreatitis. On the other hand, some dogs did well on this food and experienced lower blood glucose levels.
Our Take: Have a frank talk with your veterinarian before feeding this to your dog. The ingredients are not that great, it’s pretty high in carbs, and some dogs got very sick after eating it. Still, if your vet believes this is the best choice for your dog, it may be worth a try.
What Is Diabetes in Dogs?
To understand diabetes in dogs, you need to understand the digestive system. When your dog eats something, their body breaks it down into fats, proteins, and glucose (sugar). Then, your dog’s pancreas releases a hormone called insulin, which helps your dog’s body process the glucose.
There are two different types of diabetes, both of which cause problem’s regulating blood sugar levels:
Symptoms of Diabetic Dogs
Dogs with diabetes may show the following symptoms:
If your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, you should get them checked out by their vet.
Canine Diabetes Treatment
Generally, diabetes is treated by regularly checking your dog’s blood sugar levels and giving them insulin injections. However, changing your dog’s diet can also help regulate their blood sugar levels, resulting in the need for less insulin.
Canine Diabetes and Diet
Your dog’s diet may impact how well-managed their diabetes is. Feeding them food or treats that are too high in carbohydrates can cause sugar spikes and make it harder to manage their blood sugar levels, which can lead to diabetes complications.
As you are changing your dog’s food, don’t forget diabetic dog treats. Treats can impact your pup’s blood sugar levels almost as much as their regular diet.
Types of Diabetic Dog Food :
Are Homemade Diets Good Diabetic Dog Foods?
Some people love cooking for their dogs. When it comes to diabetic dogs, their nutritional needs are more specific than healthier dogs. If you want to try a homemade diet for your dog, talk to your vet or a veterinary nutritionist to come up with a meal plan your diabetic dog will thrive on.