5 Best Dog Foods for Diabetic Dogs to Help Them Thrive 2019

As the owner of a diabetic dog, you have a lot to think about. Insulin doses, prescriptions, complications, blood sugar checks, and frequent vet appointments are just a few of the things you have to juggle.

One thing that will make your life easier while helping your dog live their best life, is finding the right food. While there is no one perfect food for all diabetic dogs, there is a perfect food for your diabetic dog out there.

Knowing how different aspects of dog foods affect blood sugars and digestion will help you find the best dog food for your pooch. And to make things easier, we’ve included a list of some of the best dog foods for diabetic dogs that are worth considering.

Why Do Dogs Develop Diabetes?

In humans, there are two main types of diabetes.

The most common type, type 2, develops when the body struggles to utilize insulin efficiently, leading to a build-up of glucose in the blood. This type of diabetes can often be treated with diet and exercise.

Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, develops when the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas leading to the body being unable to produce insulin. This leads to a build-up of glucose in the blood that can only be treated with life-long insulin injections.

Dogs develop diabetes for a host of different reasons. Most cases are thought to have an autoimmune component like type 1 diabetes in humans, while others result after pancreatitis and infections that damage insulin producing cells.

There is no evidence that obesity causes diabetes in dogs and there is no “type 2” diabetes in the canine population. While the root cause of diabetes in dogs differs between cases, all forms of diabetes in dogs require lifetime insulin injections to treat.

Is There One Best Food for Diabetic Dogs?

As a diabetic dog owner, you already know that your dog’s illness reacts differently under different situations. Changes in hormone levels, time of year, exercise routine, and insulin type all affect your dog’s blood sugar levels.

It is also true that this disease varies between dogs. Some dogs do well on high-protein diets while others require a lot of fiber and low-glycemic carbs.

Which food is best for your dog will depend on many factors and isn’t likely to be the same food that works for the next dog.

What to Consider When Choosing a New Food for Your Diabetic Dog

If you are currently struggling to keep your diabetic dog’s blood sugars under control with your current dog food and insulin regimen, it may be time to think about switching to a new food. Here are some things to consider.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are broken down in the body and converted directly to sugar in the blood. But different kinds of carbs will alter blood sugars in different ways.

Simple carbs, such as white rice, sucrose, and corn syrup will cause blood sugars to rise very quickly after the meal. Complex carbs, on the other hand, such as sorghum and barley, raise the blood sugar slowly over time, often making it easier to control.

Fiber is also a type of carb that tends to slow the rise of blood sugars. Insoluble fiber especially slows digestion and can help dogs avoid sugar spikes right after meals.

Protein

Protein does not directly affect blood sugar, but foods high in protein tend to have lower carb counts and may make your dog’s blood sugars easier to manage.

Most dogs do well on high protein diets and even diabetic dogs who are prone to kidney issues seem to tolerate protein just fine.

Fat

While high-fat diets mean slower digestion and therefore fewer blood sugar spikes, high-fat diets may not be appropriate for some diabetic dogs.

Diabetic dogs are at an increased risk of pancreatitis and high-fat diets increase this risk further. Talk to your vet about the optimal fat content for your dog’s diet.

Check the Label

Below is a useful table for things to look for in your diabetic dog’s new food. Discuss these items with your vet as well as any troubles you’ve been having in order to find the best food for your dog.

Good foods for diabetic dogs will include:

  • High protein – look for amounts above 18% and up to 50%. Most diabetic dogs do well on high protein diets, while others need more carbs and less protein.
  • Moderate fat – look for amounts between 9% and 20%. Thin dogs need higher amounts while dogs at risk for pancreatitis or Cushing’s disease should stay closer to 9%.
  • Low to Moderate Carbs – look for diets with higher levels of insoluble fiber or mixed fiber. This amount will not be shown on the label, so look for ingredients like bran and fiber that indicate high insoluble fiber content and guar gum and pectin to indicate higher soluble fiber.

Reviews of The Best Dog Foods for Diabetic Dogs

#1. Ketona Chicken Recipe Dry Food For Adult Dogs

Best Overall

Ketona Dry Dog Food
Score: (5/5)

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Low glycemic index with high-protein for the average diabetic dog.
Pros

Very high protein

Low in carbohydrates

Low glycemic index

Cons

Pricey

Contains chicken liver digest

We chose our number one pick of the best foods for diabetic dogs because of its low glycemic index rating and quality ingredients to keep your pup fit and healthy.

While there is no one best food for all diabetic dogs, this formula is probably a good choice for most. The low glycemic rating means it won’t spike sugars after your dog eats and can help stabilize blood sugars over the course of the day.

This food comes with an impressive 46% protein, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for carbohydrates. This is a great food choice for diabetic dogs who do well on low-carb diets.

Chicken is the first ingredient and that along with peas adds to the high protein levels. This food also contains pea fiber and oat hulls which up the insoluble fiber levels to help slow glucose absorption into the body.

This formula does contain 16% fat which may be too high for dogs with a history of pancreatitis or high lipid count. It also contains chicken liver digest which is a low-quality ingredient often made with chemical additives.

But overall the focus on high-protein and low glycemic index in this food make it a great choice for the average diabetic dog.

#2. ORIJEN Dry Dog Food, Original, Biologically Appropriate & Grain Free

Best High-Protein

Orijen Original Dry Dog Food
Score: (5/5)

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High-protein, low-carb for diabetic dogs who do best on protein-based diets.
Pros

High in animal-sourced ingredients

High protein

Low carb

Cons

Pricey

We’ve included Orijen’s original formula dog food on our list as another great choice for diabetic dogs who do well on high-protein, low-carb diets.

Orijen offers a range of products with different flavors and made for different ages and sizes of dogs. For this reason, we consider Orijen one of the best diabetic dog food brands.

This food has slightly less protein than our first choice at 38% and, as expected, a slightly higher carb content. But the carbs that the recipe does contain are all low glycemic index legumes and other vegetables, making this a great food for stabilizing blood sugars after meals.

Like our first choice, this food has a moderately high-fat level at 18% and may not be a good choice for dogs that struggle with pancreatic issues, Chrone’s disease, or struggle to lose weight.

One of the best things about this food is the ingredients list. The first fifteen ingredients come from animal sources, which is a quality you won’t find in many dog foods.

This food is slightly less expensive than our first choice but still pricey. However, for the quality ingredients and low carb content, it is absolutely worth it to help your dog achieve better blood sugars and a brighter outlook.

#3. Nutro Ultra Weight Management Adult Dry Dog Food

Best for Fat Sensitivities

Nutro Ultra Weight Management
Score: (5/5)

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Low-fat, high-fiber food for diabetic dogs with pancreatitis or other fat sensitivities.
Pros

Low-fat for sensitive dogs

Quality ingredients

Whole grain carbs

Cons

Higher in plant ingredients

Low protein content

We included our third choice on this list as a great option for diabetic dogs who suffer from chronic pancreatitis, Chrone’s disease, high lipid levels, or struggle to lose weight. Nutro’s healthy weight food is a great diet food option that won’t send blood sugars spiraling out of control.

This food contains a respectable 23% protein and only 10% fat, making it a great option for those fat sensitive dogs. In fact, we consider it one of the best dry dog foods for diabetic dogs that suffer from pancreatitis.

This food is higher in carbs than our first two choices and a good option for dogs that do well on carb-heavy diets or those that experience low blood sugars following meals or activity. Many of the carbohydrate ingredients are whole grains with lower glycemic indexes, so this food is still unlikely to spike your dog’s blood sugar.

This food does still contain quality animal proteins with chicken and chicken meal as the first two ingredients, and lamb meal included in the recipe as well.

This diet is also more moderately priced than our previous choices, making it a great option for owners on a budget.

#4. Hill’s Ideal Balance Adult Natural Dry Dog Food Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe

Best High-Carb

Hill’s Ideal Balance Adult Dry
Score: (4/5)

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Moderate-protein, complex-carb food for diabetic dogs who do best on carb-based diets.
Pros

High in fiber

Chicken is the first ingredient

Affordable

Cons

Low in animal-sourced protein

Lower quality ingredients

Lower quality proteins

Our number four pick is another great choice for diabetic dogs who do better on a moderately carb-heavy diet. Hill’s Ideal Balance is lower a protein food with whole grains and fiber to steady blood sugars.

This food only has 19% protein with around 16% fat making it a good choice for diabetic dogs that do better on high carb foods than high protein foods. Ingredients like barley and whole grain oats lower the overall glycemic index while dried beet pulp adds soluble and insoluble fiber.

The first ingredient in the food is chicken, which adds a boost of animal-sourced protein that your carnivore companion will appreciate.

Hill’s Ideal Balance is a great choice for dogs on fast or intermediate acting insulins that rely on a slight spike in blood sugars after injections. If you’re not sure how your dog’s insulin may react to such a carb heavy food, talk to your vet.

An added bonus of this food is the price tag. It is the lowest priced food on our list and a great choice for owners already spending an arm and a leg on insulin.

#5. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Wet Dog Food, Turkey & Chicken Grill, 12.5 Ounce Can

Best Canned Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Canned Food
Score: (4/5)

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High-protein canned diet for diabetic dogs who are picky eaters.
Pros

Palatable

High protein

High soluble fiber

Cons

Low insoluble fiber

Higher glycemic index than dry kibble

Quickly absorbed

In general, dry dog food is better for diabetics than canned due to the high digestibility and easy absorption of canned food, which often leads to quick rises in blood sugar. However, one of the most important pieces in treating a diabetic dog is getting them to eat consistent, full meals.

If your dog struggles to finish meals or doesn’t like the taste of most kibble, Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness canned food is a good choice for you. Wet food is much more palatable than dry and this food is no exception.

What makes this particular wet food one of the best canned dog foods for diabetic dogs is the high protein content. Because wet food is digested so much faster, it is important to find one that is low in carbs to help reduce blood sugar spikes.

This food also contains ingredients like guar gum that add to the overall level of soluble fiber. It does not, however, contain a lot of insoluble fiber which may affect blood sugar levels in some dogs, while others will react more positively because of this.

For picky eaters who struggle with spiking sugars after meals, it is best to mix a small amount of this food with their normal diet instead of feeding it straight.

What is the Best Dog Food for Diabetic Dogs?

After looking through many diabetic dog food reviews and studying ingredients lists, we have named Ketona’s dry adult dog food as the best dog food for diabetic dogs. This food’s super-high protein content and low glycemic index make it a great choice for keeping your dog’s blood sugars stable.

While the fat content of this food isn’t a great choice for diabetics with certain complications, the average diabetic dog who does well on high-protein diets is sure to thrive on this food. In addition to the diabetic advantages, this food is high in animal-sourced protein and fiber.

If your dog does better on lower fat foods or higher carb foods, we’ve found the best choices for those groups in our list above as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Since carbs cause blood sugar to rise, should I feed an all-protein diet instead?
While it is true that carbs are made into sugar in the body, there are other factors that affect blood sugar, including hormones, stress, and even fat in the diet. For all diabetic dogs, eating the same amount of the same food at each meal is the most important factor in their treatment.
Are there dog foods that diabetic dogs should not eat?
While the best dog food for a diabetic dog will differ for each individual, there are certain ingredients that make a food absolutely a bad choice for diabetics. Any food with added sugar (corn syrup, sucrose, etc.) or simple carbs like white rice should be avoided.
Should I give my dog insulin before or after they eat?
This is a great question to discuss with your vet, but in general, it is best to give insulin after your dog finishes eating just in case they don’t eat the full meal and you need to decrease the dose to compensate.

Summed Up: The Best Dog Foods for Diabetic Dogs

Ketona Dry Dog FoodOrijen Original Dry Dog FoodNutro Ultra Weight ManagementHill’s Ideal Balance Adult DryBlue Buffalo Wilderness Canned Food
Features for Diabetic DogsLow glycemic index, low-carb, high-proteinHigh in animal-sourced protein, low-carbLow-fat, average carb and protein with mixed fiberLower-protein with soluble fiber and complex carbsHigh-protein, highly-palatable wet food
Ingredient Quality5/55/54.5/54/54.5/5
Price$$$$$$$$$$$$

Sources

  1. CJ Puotinen. “Managing Diabetes in Dogs” wholedogjournal.com, 16 April 2012, updated 4 Jan 2019.
  2. Various. “Diabetes in Dogs” petmd.com.
  3. CJ Puotinen. “Help Manage Your Dog’s Diabetes Through Proper Diet” wholedogjournal.com, 17 May 2012.
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