Home » dog » Diabetic diets for dogs and cats: what to feed and what to avoid?

Diabetic diets for dogs and cats: what to feed and what to avoid?

Diabetes in dogs and cats: diet

The progress in practically every field of knowledge that has taken place in the last century is enormous and today it is difficult to imagine life without many technical amenities or everyday things.

Many of them really make our daily existence much easier, making it more comfortable, pleasant and in many respects healthier.

In recent years, the approach to companion animals has changed and the role they play with us in a common home environment has grown significantly.

Animals "typically production " focused on the production of food, which can then be sold by obtaining funds ceased to be only patients of veterinary clinics.

Our pets, dogs and cats have also become them, and although they do not generate profits and do not earn them, they fulfill a number of immeasurable roles for their owners, often being promoted to the role of full-fledged household members.

Such changes have forced society to have far-reaching consequences, for example in terms of feeding or limiting the reproduction of animals living in our farmyards.

Sterilization or castration has grown in importance in order to reduce unwanted litters or become commonplace, industrial pet food, so the owners could take care of proper nutrition without spending too much time or resources.

Of course, it also entailed a number of unfavorable phenomena, including obesity and overweight.

The occurrence of many diseases related to improper body weight and low mobility of our pets has also increased, the most common of which is diabetes.

It is she who, being one of the key civilization diseases, has become one of the most common endocrine disorders requiring intensive treatment.

However, it is impossible to control the proper blood sugar level without implementing an appropriate balanced diet to prevent sudden jumps glucose .

So what to feed diabetic dogs and cats?

In this article, I will try to explain what to choose and what to avoid in the diet of a sick pet.

  • What is diabetes?
  • Which animals are most at risk?
  • Diabetic diet for cats and dogs
    • Diet in non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus
    • Glycemic index
    • Sample table: products and their glycemic index
  • Commercial ready-made diabetic diets
  • Dietary supplements in diabetes
    • Zinc
    • Chrome
    • Other supplements and vitamins
  • Change of diet
  • Home diet in diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes (lat. diabetes melitus) is a common metabolic disease characterized by a state of hyperglycemia, i.e. elevated blood glucose levels due to absolute or relative insulin deficiency.

What is extremely important, it is the most common endocrine disease in small animals, affecting approx 1-2% of the entire population, which, considering the number of animals we keep, is a huge amount.

Insulin is produced by pancreatic islet beta cells (Langerhans) due to food intake and its level increases after each meal.

Responsible for the use of glucose by every cell of the body, facilitating its penetration into the interior, thus lowering the concentration of glucose in the serum.

Insulin secretion is stimulated not only as a result of an increase in glucose concentration, but also:

  • amino acids,
  • acetylcholine,
  • glucagon,
  • intestinal hormones, e.g. gastrin.

Insulin by facilitating the entry of glucose into cells, it supplies skeletal muscles, heart, adipose tissue, leukocytes, fibroblast cells, aorta and other tissues with readily available energy.

The correct level of insulin thus determines not only the proper metabolism of carbohydrates but also, which we must not forget, proteins and fats.

This is because a significant insulin deficiency affects the processes of gluconeogenesis and causes the mobilization of proteins and body fats.

The consequence will be fatty acid loading of the liver which can lead to fatty liver and the synthesis of ketone compounds (acetoacetic acid, acetone, beta-hydroxybutyric acid) and heavy ketoacidosis.

There are three types of diabetes:

  1. Insulin-dependent diabetes (type I) characterized by a lack of elevated insulin levels due to increased postprandial glucose levels, which corresponds to juvenile diabetes in humans.
  2. Non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (type II) at which, although the insulin level is normal, but the interactions between cell receptors and this hormone are disturbed, most often due to obesity.
  3. Type III diabetes that is, pre-diabetes or "potential diabetes " is defined in the case of normal or elevated insulin levels with the renal threshold not exceeded and an abnormal response to the glucose tolerance test.

Diabetes is a hormonal disruption hence an increase in other hormones can also cause it to be revealed

We are talking about diabetogenic hormones such as:

  • glucocorticosteroids,
  • thyroxine,
  • somatropin,
  • epinephrine.

They lead to insulin antagonism resulting in the stimulation of the process gluconeogenesis or increased insulin secretion.

Also progesterone that is, the hormone responsible for maintaining pregnancy by influencing the secretion of somatropin increases the risk of diabetes.

Which animals are most at risk?

West Highland White Terrier diabetes

Diabetes mellitus most often affects animals in middle and old age with the first symptoms noticeable in the range 7-9 years.

It is more common in bitches, obese animals and castrated males although it can happen in virtually any pet, regardless of gender or physiological predisposition.

Among dogs, the most common diseases are:

  • miniature schnauzers,
  • poodles,
  • Polish Lowland Sheepdogs,
  • samoyeds,
  • dogs of the terrier group.

In cats, these are the majority of diabetic patients sterilized, most often the male sex, not very active, obese and as a rule not leaving the house.

Diabetes, with its various symptoms, is not a disease that immediately leads to death, because serious complications usually do not develop overnight (the exception may be here diabetic cataract, which can arise in extreme cases within a few days, or condition ketoacidosis).

Nevertheless, if left untreated, it leads to very serious consequences, therefore it must not be underestimated.

It is a condition that requires a lot of attention from its owner and frequent blood sugar checks- glycemia, not to mention the constant administration of insulin to the animal, and that for life.

Treatment must not be discontinued for a while as it will result in a very strong increase in blood glucose levels and serious systemic consequences in the form of ketoacidosis.

So the mainstay of treatment remains insulin therapy in combination with proper nutrition. It is impossible to effectively control the sugar level by administering only insulin without proper dietary rigor.

Diabetic diet for cats and dogs

What to feed diabetic animals?

In human diabetology, food ration compositions and nutritional recommendations for diabetics have been precisely defined, while in veterinary medicine there are some discrepancies and many question marks.

So far we do not have precise, undoubtedly optimal diets even for basic nutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

So, do we really not know how to feed sick animals and do we act a bit in the dark, or maybe we duplicate human recommendations??

Definitely not, we know the nutritional recommendations exactly and thanks to this we know what to administer and thus we can supplement the treatment with insulin preparations.

Nutrition for diabetes is essential in the maintenance of normoglycemia and must never be overlooked.

Diet in non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus

I mentioned Fr non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus that is type II, in which the disorders involve the interaction of glucose cell receptors a often insulin levels are right.

Glucose molecules cannot enter the cells, which is often caused by overweight or obesity. The easiest and most effective way to treat such animals will be a diet aimed at maintaining an optimal body weight.

The loss of a few unnecessary kilograms will lead to the disappearance of disturbances at the level of the cell membrane and thus determine the correct level of glucose.
In this case, giving insulin without losing weight may turn out to be completely ineffective.
In theory, the diet of each sick individual should contain all the necessary nutrients, and each meal should have a relatively similar composition.

It is also extremely important regularity of meals, which, if possible, should be administered at regular times of the day.

Every caregiver of a sick animal should know perfectly well when to give the person something to eat, especially in the context of insulin administered and its peak effect.

Due to the time of insulin administration and its peak effect (different for each insulin), the first meal, approx 50% recommended daily amount, should be eaten within 2 hours after the morning dose of insulin, the next one around 6 hours later.

Many doctors recommend a different order, i.e. first we feed the animal and then we administer insulin. It is unacceptable for the animal to be injected with insulin and not eat, as this may result in very serious complications, including severe life-threatening hypoglycaemia.

So we must carefully check whether the animal has taken the given food from the bowl and not just limit ourselves to its successive pouring.

So the easiest way to feed diabetics is to eat it, ready-made commercial diet, moist with low carbohydrate content or dry with reduced carbohydrate content.

However, they are contraindicated semi-moist food or semi-dry because of the content disaccharides and propylene glycol.

These ingredients make it extremely difficult to maintain a stable blood sugar level.

Glycemic index

What is the glycemic index and what to avoid in a diabetic diet?

The concept is closely related to the amount of sugar in the diet glycemic index.

Glycemic index (IG) is the area under the glycemic response curve.

It is measured in time 2 hours after eating 50 g of digestible sugars present in the product and determined by the ratio to the glycemic response obtained from the same amount of carbohydrate derived from the reference glucose (IG 100). What is important for us - the lower IG, the lower the rise in glucose after a meal.

Generally, we should make a choice when feeding animals suffering from diabetes ingredients with low GI.

The amount of GI depends on many factors, such as the amount and type of carbohydrates eaten or the method of food processing and the degree of its fragmentation.

Tables specifying the exact IG values ​​can be found widely on the Internet and it is worth using them.

Sample table: products and their glycemic index

Product Glycemic index
Sweet corn54
Buckwheat porridge cooked53
Canned green peas50
Basmati rice50
Sweet potatoes50
Oat flakes50
Pink beans40
Lean meat35
Raw carrotsthirty
Whole milk 3%27
Green vegetables, tomatoes, eggplants, and zucchiniunder 15
Sample table containing low GI products

It is related to the concept of the glycemic index glycemic load (ŁG) which is a numerical value that takes into account the quantity and quality of sugars in the food

In general, the higher the glycemic load, the higher the increase in glucose after a meal.

So, as we can see in the case of diabetes, the most important role is probably carbohydrates in the diet.

Those from the group of simple sugars are easily and quickly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract causing large fluctuations in blood glucose, while complex carbohydrates reduce this danger.

Complex sugars must be metabolized, broken down into shorter fragments, which requires the body time and the involvement of certain metabolic processes, but at the same time it does not cause a rapid jump in glucose.

So let's exclude these products from the diet of our pets simple sugars such as semi-wet (semi-moist) food, and choose dry or wet food that do not cause such significant jumps.

Ready balanced dry foods with a low water content are characterized by a high content starch being polysaccharide.

Before it is absorbed, it undergoes a slow digestive process, which minimizes the risk hyperglycemia.

Starch can come from various sources, but the most important thing is that it should have the lowest glycemic index.

They best meet such features barley and sorghum and they are recommended in the nutrition of diabetic animals.

This should be avoided rice, especially the white character high glycemic index.

It is also complex carbohydrates food fiber, which plays a beneficial role in diabetic animals.

First of all, it extends the time of food passing through the digestive tract, i.e. intestinal transit, which results in a longer, gradual absorption of carbohydrates.

Secondly, it reduces the concentration of energy in the diet, which is also extremely beneficial.

The addition of fiber to the ready-made diet, e.g. in the form of rye, barley or wheat bran reduces the increase in glucose after a meal.

In diabetes, we do not always have an optimal situation characterized by a lack of glucose fluctuations, and very often glucose spikes are not prevented despite the treatment.

Scientists are not entirely unanimous about the type of fiber.

Some argue that soluble fiber is better, and others argue that insoluble fiber is superior.

As we would not think, it is important to increase the amount of fiber and perhaps its type is of less importance.

Foods containing dietary fiber are also used in the nutrition of sick cats, the metabolism of which is based mainly on proteins from small hunted animals.

The high effectiveness of the diet with the content has been proven cellulose row 12-14% NS. m. Increasingly, however, it is recommended to feed Fr low carbohydrate content and high protein content.

Feeding with this kind of karma even allows for in some cases stopping insulin treatment.

So we generally use food for cats low carbohydrate and high-protein.

The most important thing here is the low sugar content, which should not exceed 15% dry weight.

Such nutrition, unlike dogs, increases the chances of remission or even recovery, and certainly extends the life of cats.

By the way: dogs' diabetes cannot be cured definitively, in cats it is possible which is associated with the cessation of insulin injection.

We refrain from using food high-fat because it is not fat but protein "replaces " in a way carbohydrates in cats (in cats we have a low activity of enzymes digesting sugars, which are produced from protein, i.e. eaten meat).

Commercial ready-made diabetic diets

Ready food for dogs and cats with diabetes

There is a widespread belief in the nutrition of diabetic dogs and cats that the best way to feed them and control glucose spikes is through ready-made commercial feeds.

Undoubtedly, their advantage is the constant composition, the content of nutrients is strictly controlled.

Thanks to this, we can be sure that at a certain time we give our pets a known amount of energy and other nutrients.

In most cases, such nutrition is actually beneficial, but not always.

Sometimes we have to be very inventive, have a lot of knowledge and our own time to prepare a meal on our own.

Also, not all animals will tolerate ready-made food well.

I omit financial issues here and the fact that not everyone can afford to buy commercial veterinary food.

And the market, seeing the problem of diabetes and more and more new cases, meets the expectations of the owners and offers a really large selection of specialty foods.

So we see how extremely important it is to approach each case individually, and not to treat diabetes in a standard and schematic way.

As I wrote before, obese and overweight animals should be slimmed down which is undoubtedly not an easy process.

It requires a lot of self-denial, patience and consistency of the owner, and must also be carried out gradually.

Loss 1% body weight according to the current recommendations is the most correct and recommended, and above all, safe for the animal.

It is not about losing weight that it is fast, but effective, durable and safe for the patient.

We use feeds with a lower concentration of energy or higher dietary fiber.

Of course, everything is reasonably possible, a dog or a cat is not a ruminant and will not live long on green plants alone.

Additionally, too much fiber content may result in reluctance to eat, increased amount of stool and even diarrhea.

You can also reduce the fat content of your diet, which is in line with a diabetic diet.

Dietary supplements in diabetes

Dietary supplements for dogs and cats

When using nutrition in the treatment of diabetes, it is impossible to forget about the variety dietary supplements.

Originally, dietary supplements were used in human dietetics where their beneficial effects were proven and from where they were adapted to veterinary medicine.

Certain dietary components may have a positive effect on blood glucose control.


The ingredients that have a positive effect on the level of glucose in the blood belong to the ingredients zinc, which in low doses stimulates the release of insulin, and in high doses inhibits this process.


Chrome in combination with nicotinic acid, glutamine, glycine and cysteine, deserves to be called a glucose tolerance factor by promoting higher tolerance and absorption of sugars by target cells.

Chromium is an element that takes part in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Chromium deficiency may result in the development of insulin resistance as it allows glucose to penetrate into target cells.

Nutritional experiments have been carried out to confirm its practical effectiveness.

Others, in turn, proved the lack of effectiveness, at the same time indicating the high safety of using this element.

In many countries, e.g. There are supplements available in the USA that contain chromium picolinate intended for use in dogs.

They are considered safe, with no side effects and many owners use them believing in their effectiveness.

Other supplements and vitamins

A large group of supplements has an indirect effect of counteracting obesity (eg. L- carnitine), slowing down the aging process of the body (e.g. fish oil and short chain fatty acids), and still others affect the metabolism by improving various processes (e.g. omega 3 fatty acids).

It is worth remembering that oxidative stress adversely affects glucose metabolism and may contribute to complications in the course of the disease.

Additionally, reducing fat in a diabetic's diet often results in a reduction in the amount vitamin E and AND available in food and thus may result in their deficiency.

Therefore, we should strive to supplement these vitamins.

Remember that individual antioxidant compounds work together in the fight against damage caused by free radicals, and therefore it is recommended to use their combinations.

So let's supplement the diet of diabetics with:

  • vitamin E,
  • vitamin A and
  • vitamin C,
  • taurine,
  • lutein.

It may be helpful to draw from nature and use natural, herbal preparations that normalize the level of sugar, as exemplified by white mulberry plant preparations if cracked cucumber.

It is worth using them as supportive therapies, of course not forgetting about the main treatment.

Change of diet

Change of diet

As in any case, the change of diet should be gradual and slow, which minimizes the risk of gastrointestinal disorders.

In addition, it allows animals to get used to the new food and eagerly eat it.

Finally, a bit of application should also be mentioned simple sugars, which I wrote are not generally recommended due to the rapid increase in blood glucose levels.

However, there are situations when we need to quickly increase the level of glucose in the body.

Diabetes mellitus is a disease characterized by hyperglycemia but we always have to take into account the opposite situation when there is a sudden drop in sugar.

Hypoglycemia is an extremely dangerous condition that is life-threatening and manifests itself with rapidly increasing symptoms:

  • increased reflexes,
  • convulsions,
  • dilated pupils,
  • pale, cold and moist mucous membranes,
  • hypoglycemic coma.

It is then that we should absolutely give the dog or cat easily available carbohydrates in the form of honey or plain sugar dissolved in water, which will quickly raise dangerously low blood glucose levels. Remember that whenever we have doubts whether our client is hypoglycaemic or not, the lesser evil is the administration of glucose even if it causes a state of hyperglycaemia.

Home diet in diabetes

Home Diabetic Diet

Finally, it is worth writing a bit about self-preparation of meals at home by the owner.

As with any disease, specialized nutrition requires a lot of knowledge, effort and self-denial of the owner, and may be associated with greater costs.

However, to meet the group of dog and cat owners who are against the use of ready-made commercial foods, who consider them to be "not healthy ", I would like to propose an example of a food composed of commonly available ingredients.

Well, animals suffering from diabetes can be fed using:

  • boiled poultry meat (Turkey, chicken) in an amount 1/3 of the dose,
  • boiled rice in an amount 1/3,
  • cooked vegetables in the same proportion.

However, we should choose brown or wild rice, while avoiding the white one due to the high glycemic index (GI at the level of 60-70).

A better source of carbohydrates seems to be, however wheat, corn or less available sorghum.

You can also use cooked, warm potatoes or groats.

Always choose low GI ingredients that won't raise your blood sugar too much after a meal.


A proper diet supports the treatment of diabetes

In short, companion animal diabetes has undoubtedly become one of the most common civilization diseases, whose frequency of occurrence, as in humans, definitely grows.

There is also no indication that this trend will change in the coming years

Hence, knowledge of proper nutrition seems to be extremely useful in practice.

It is good to know what to avoid and what to use and modify the diet of sick animals to make it easier to control the level of glycemia.

Sometimes adequate nutrition can even lead to complete recovery which may be the case with u felids.

So let's use everything that can make the illness more comfortable and the glucose level easier to stabilize.

Thus, also life-threatening situations, which undoubtedly is hypoglycemia, will not occur and our animals will stay with us in good health longer, which I sincerely wish you all.

You want to learn more about the diabetic diet in your cat and dog? Post a comment under the article, I will write back as soon as possible.

Sources used >>

Leave Your Comment