Is it safe to feed a diabetic dog a raw food diet and does a diabetic dog need carbohydrates and fiber?

Original Question: Hi I have been feeding my 9lb, 9-year-old Papillion a raw food commercial diet (nature's variety instinct pet) for all of its life and she’s had no health issues like allergies, skin problems, teeth problems or digestive problems until recently when she was diagnosed with diabetes and very high ketones in her liver. She’s now on insulin twice a day and some prescribed liver supplements. With this regiment it’s almost under control with pretty well normal test but she’s still losing some weight even if I increase her food intake. In order to bring her completely under normal readings, the vet has prescribed a high fiber commercial pet food with carbohydrate content, which is totally opposite of what she’s eating now. The problem is she wont eat the vet food since she wants her raw food. Is there a problem with feeding raw to a diabetic dog? Does a diabetic dog need fiber and carbs? If so, how can a raw diet be implemented that includes fiber and carbs? Thank you. - Ann

Is it safe to feed a diabetic dog a raw food diet and does a diabetic dog need carbohydrates and fiber? May 25, 2017

Hi Ann,

Thanks for this question.

Diabetic dogs do not have a specific need for a high carbohydrate diet. The carbohydrates in a diet breakdown into sugars that your dog has so much trouble regulating because she is a diabetic. In fact, most diabetic diets would look to limit the carbohydrate component of a diet. The commercially made diabetic diets have high levels of protein and fat, much like a raw food diet. The carbohydrate component should typically consists of complex, long chain carbohydrates that take the body a long time to breakdown. Simple sugars are digested and absorbed quickly which causes glucose spikes in the body and is difficult for a diabetic patient to deal with. The long chain complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and absorb, so they are much more appropriate for diabetic regulation.

The most important point about controlling diabetes is consistency. You could theoretically feed any diet to a diabetic dog, but to achieve appropriate regulation, you need to adjust the insulin dose to accommodate for the diet. So my advice would be to feed the raw food as you would like to do and then perform multiple ‘blood glucose curves’ to make sure that you attenuate the insulin dose effectively. I believe a raw food diet is pretty appropriate for a diabetic dog, with the specific and important warning that you handle to product appropriately to reduce the risk of bacterial exposure. Diabetic dogs are prone to infection and raw food does have an increased bacterial presence that can contaminate the environment.

I would recommend that you learn how to perform ‘blood glucose curves’ at home so that you can do them often and get this problem under control. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to do this and request that for a fee, they evaluate your results and guide you on your insulin dosing decisions. This will not only result in improved control and health for your diabetic dog, but it will save you money as well. If your veterinarian is not interested in helping you with this, I would request it strongly or move onto to another professional who will.

I hope this helps and good luck.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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