It may surprise you to learn that just like humans, dogs can develop diabetes, a metabolic disorder that affects their ability to regulate blood sugar levels. Diabetes in dogs can be managed with proper care and veterinary attention, and one crucial aspect of management is their diet. In this blog, we will explore what diabetes is, its types, and how diet plays a vital role in managing this condition in dogs. Plus, we will dive into whether Wild Earth is an appropriate diet for dogs with diabetes!
What is Diabetes?
When a dog eats, there is an influx of glucose into the body. Typically, the body responds by producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar levels by facilitating the uptake of glucose into cells for energy. Put more simply, insulin moves glucose into the cells.
For a dog with diabetes mellitus, there is either inadequate insulin production or a poor response to insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia).
Types of Diabetes in Dogs
There are two primary types of diabetes that can affect dogs, which are appropriately termed Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes (Insulin-Dependent Diabetes)
This type is characterized by insufficient insulin production by the pancreas. Typically, the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are destroyed by either an immune and/or genetic disease, or even recurrent pancreatitis.
Type 1 diabetes is more commonly seen in dogs than cats. These dogs typically require lifelong insulin therapy to manage their condition.
Type 2 Diabetes (Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes)
In type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells become resistant to insulin, making it difficult for glucose to enter the cells. Chronic diseases such as obesity, cancer, pancreatitis, and Cushings can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is more common in cats than dogs, and obesity is a major contributor to insulin resistance. While some dogs with type 2 diabetes may require insulin injections, others can manage their condition with diet and oral medications.
Signs of Diabetes in Dogs
Recognizing the signs of diabetes in dogs is essential for early diagnosis and effective management of the condition. If you observe any of these symptoms in your furry friend, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian promptly.
- Increased Thirst (Polydipsia): One of the earliest and most noticeable signs of diabetes in dogs is excessive thirst. If your dog suddenly starts drinking more water than usual or continuously seeks out water sources, it could be a sign of diabetes.
- Frequent Urination (Polyuria): Increased water intake often leads to frequent urination. If your dog is having accidents indoors or needs to go outside more frequently to urinate, it’s a cause for concern.
- Increased Hunger (Polyphagia): Dogs with diabetes may have an insatiable appetite, despite eating regular meals. They may act as if they’re always hungry and beg for food more frequently.
- Unintentional Weight Loss: Despite an increase in appetite, diabetic dogs may lose weight. This is because their cells cannot effectively use the glucose from their food for energy, causing them to break down fat and muscle for fuel.
- Diminished Activity: Diabetes can lead to a lack of energy in dogs. If your usually active dog becomes lethargic, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue, including diabetes.
- Cloudy Eyes (Cataracts): Untreated diabetes can lead to the development of cataracts in dogs. If you notice a cloudiness or bluish tint in your dog’s eyes, especially if it affects their vision, consult a veterinarian promptly.
- Recurrent Infections: Diabetic dogs are more prone to urinary tract infections, skin infections, and other bacterial or fungal infections due to the presence of excess sugar in their urine and weakened immune systems.
- Unpleasant Breath Odor: Some diabetic dogs develop a fruity or sweet-smelling breath odor. This occurs due to the presence of ketones, which are produced when the body breaks down fat for energy.
- Change in Gait or Weakness: Advanced diabetes can lead to diabetic neuropathy, a condition that affects the nerves and can result in a change in gait, weakness in the hind legs, or difficulty walking.
If your dog is experiencing any of these clinical signs, it is important to consult a veterinarian immediately. Early intervention is crucial and can improve your dog’s quality of life for years to come.
Dietary Considerations for Dogs with Diabetes
Now that we know what diabetes is and the signs to watch out for, let’s dive into how important a carefully planned diet is for managing diabetes in dogs.
The main goals of a diabetic dog’s diet are to regulate blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy weight, and ensure overall well-being. Your veterinarian may recommend a therapeutic diet specifically formulated for dogs with diabetes since their needs are different. Here are some dietary considerations for dogs with diabetes:
- Consistent Feeding Schedule: Establish a regular feeding schedule, with set meal times and portions. This helps synchronize insulin administration with meals and keeps blood sugar levels more stable.
- High-Quality Protein: Choose dog food with high-quality protein sources. Protein helps maintain muscle mass and provides a steady source of energy.
- Complex Carbohydrates: Opt for a food containing complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, like sweet potatoes, lentils, and brown rice. These carbohydrates release glucose gradually, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar.
- Higher Fiber: A moderate amount of dietary fiber can help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose.
- Lower Fat: Managing weight is essential for diabetic dogs, as obesity can exacerbate the condition. Choose low-fat dog food to help maintain a healthy body weight.
- Avoid Sugary Treats: Limit or completely avoid sugary treats and snacks, as they can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.
- Appropriate Energy Content: Make sure your dog’s daily calorie needs are being met. If your pet needs to lose weight, it is important to keep in mind not to decrease the amount of calories fed until their diabetes is well-controlled.
- Available Water: Ensure your dog has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Proper hydration is crucial.
- Consult with a Veterinarian: Work closely with your veterinarian to determine the best diet plan for your diabetic dog. They can recommend a specific commercial dog food or formulate a custom diet tailored to your dog’s needs.
- Regular Monitoring: Monitor your dog’s blood sugar levels as advised by your veterinarian. This will help you and your vet adjust the insulin dosage and diet as needed.
By following a consistent feeding schedule, providing high-quality nutrition, and working closely with your veterinarian, you can help your diabetic dog lead a fulfilling life.
For emphasis, it is important to reiterate that although weight loss is recommended for those overweight and obese dogs, it is best to make sure your dog’s diabetes is well controlled.
Is Wild Earth Appropriate for a Dog with Diabetes?
Many of you may be wondering whether you can feed Wild Earth to your diabetic dog. Let’s dive into the key nutrients and see how Wild Earth compares.
Let’s begin with protein. Wild Earth Performance formula contains 31.4% high-quality protein on a dry matter basis, which is on par with or higher than most prescription diabetic diets. Yeast is a high quality protein as it contains all 10 essential amino acids dogs need.
Next, complex carbohydrates. As you remember, diets for dogs with diabetes should only contain complex carbohydrates which release glucose gradually, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar. Wild Earth Performance formula does not contain any simple carbohydrates and instead contains only complex carbs including barley, oats, sorghum, millet and sweet potato.
Moving on to fat. Prescription diabetic diets typically contain 10% to 15% fat. Wild Earth Performance contains 12% fat.
Lastly is fiber. While total dietary fiber (TDF) accounts for both soluble and insoluble fiber in a food, it is not generally listed in the guaranteed analysis on a bag of dog food. Instead, crude fiber is listed as a maximum which only accounts for insoluble fiber. Wild Earth Performance formula contains 5% crude fiber on a dry matter basis. For reference, prescription diabetic diets generally contain about 11% to 25% crude fiber on a dry matter basis.
While Wild Earth checks most of the boxes for a diet that is appropriate for a diabetic dog, the fiber content is lower than many prescription therapeutic diets for dogs with diabetes. That being said, there are ways to add fiber to the diet, and if your dog’s diabetes is well-controlled and your preference is to feed a specific diet, then your veterinarian may be willing to trial it.
Ultimately, a prescription therapeutic diet specifically formulated for dogs with diabetes is best to achieve good control of blood glucose levels. As always, speak with your veterinarian as they know your dog best.
Diabetes is Manageable
Diabetes in dogs can be successfully managed with proper medical care, including insulin therapy, dietary changes, and regular monitoring.
Remember that every dog is unique, so consult with a healthcare professional to create a personalized diet plan that suits your pet’s specific needs. With proper care and attention, your diabetic dog can thrive and enjoy a high quality of life.
Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA
Dr. Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva is the Professional Services Veterinarian here at Wild Earth. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Brown University, and attended veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in general practice, on telehealth platforms, and in animal rehabilitation. She has worked tirelessly to gain expertise in the field of canine nutrition through numerous certifications and coursework, and plans to pursue her Masters in Animal Nutrition.