Nutritional considerations for Senior dogs

Monitoring your Diabetic Dog

If your dog has recently been diagnosed with diabetes you're probably very worried about him/her and how long they'll live. The good news is that with proper care and diet management your faithful friend can live a long and healthy life.

Canine diabetes management has many key aspects similar to the management of diabetes in humans with a significant emphasis being placed on maintaining a healthy weight. If your dog is overweight, losing weight will help his body to produce and manage insulin, a crucial hormone in maintaining blood sugar levels and turning food into fuel for the entire body.

Keeping blood sugar/glucose levels as close to normal as possible will not only reduce diabetes related symptoms but reduce long term complications as a result of the disease preventing cataracts, urinary tract infections and a host of other secondary illnesses that result from unchecked diabetes.

Food as Fuel

When your dog is diagnosed with diabetes your veterinarian will usually calculate your dog's daily caloric requirements based on their age, weight and level of activity and it is very important that as an owner you ensure that their diet adheres to this guideline by monitoring feeding.

While research into the optimal diet for canine diabetes is still being conducted, the majority of veterinarians will recommend that you provide your dog with a diet that is low in fat and high in fibre. This is due the fact that low fat diets have fewer calories and high fibre intake slows the introduction of glucose into the bloodstream which will keep your dog feeling fuller for longer ‐ both of which will ultimately assist in weight management.

With this type of diet it is essential that your dog has access to adequate amounts of drinking water to replenish the fluids absorbed by the fibre in order to prevent constipation and a variety of other issues.

The majority of dogs will generally thrive on store-bought foods but if this is not the case with your dog your vet may prescribe using a specialised dog food or a homemade diet developed by a veterinary nutritionist. He/she will generally give you tips on how to tailor your dog's diet to their new health requirements.

In some dogs, you will be required to give insulin on a daily basis and it is important to note that this cannot be administered on an empty stomach or it will make the animal extremely ill. It is therefore very important to get the diet aspect right and ensure that your pet is eating well as soon as possible.

If you find that your dog is not eating well, it is important to try alternative foods within their caloric allowance but make sure that you avoid soft, moist food packets as these often have a high sugar content that can wreak havoc with insulin levels.

If these changes don't help, consult your vet as soon as possible as it could be due to a diabetes-related complication. With your vet's approval you can also try adding a few treats to kibble to encourage interest in eating such as adding a tablespoon of tinned dogfood, adding scrambled egg or a protein source like shredded chicken or meat or using a low fat, sugar free broth to wet dry food.

Snacks and Treats

Healthy snacks and dog treats are allowed in diabetic dogs as long as they are low in carbohydrates, sugar and calories and are only permitted if the dog food you are feeding does not meet the calculated caloric requirement stipulated by your vet.

Always read the labels on pet foods and dog treats and make an effort to avoid those which contain syrup, any form of added sugar (fructose, maltose, and dextrose) or molasses.

Pay attention to Timing

When it comes to balancing insulin levels, being mindful of timing is essential. This may mean more work for you but ultimately it will benefit your pet.

The body produces and processes food and insulin between meals and injections on an ongoing basis, so to avoid spikes or lows your dog will generally require a regimen of around two to three meals per day. Consult your vet to work out a schedule that works for you and meets your dog's needs.


Regular activity and exercise will help your dog to lose weight and maintain it while also regulating blood sugar levels. Exercise your dog for the same amount of time and intensity daily as workouts that are too long or taxing can cause blood sugar levels to crash.

While it can take some time to get used to your pets new lifestyle and diet needs, getting their levels right as soon as possible and ensuring that they lose any weight necessary to be at their ideal weight can actually lower their need for insulin. So take the time to monitor their levels, adjust their diet and workouts according to their needs and you'll ensure that your pet is happy, healthy and strong in spite of this condition.