Diet for Diabetic Dogs, and Exercise Tips

Diet Changes color photo of a dog with a hotdog in mouth

In order to manage your dog’s diabetes, you may need to change its diet and feeding schedule. The objective is to keep your dog happy and to prevent large swings in blood glucose.

Your veterinarian will advise you what type of food your dog should eat, in what amounts. For many diabetic dogs, any high-quality balanced diet will work well. However, in some cases, the veterinarian may suggest that your dog eat a specially formulated diabetes diet.

Listen to the veterinarian's recommendation, because a diet that is best for one diabetic dog may not be ideal for another:

  • If your dog has an inflammation of the pancreas it needs to stay away from high-fat canned food.
  • If your dog is overweight, the veterinarian may suggest a weight loss diet, which can help you to better manage your pet's diabetes.
  • Fiber-enhanced foods have been used in addition to insulin for the management of diabetes in dogs. These foods are nutritionally complete. The extra fiber slows the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. This helps to reduce the blood glucose peak after the dog eats. The overall result is to keep the dog's blood glucose within a more acceptable range.

Remember that a healthy diet is useful ONLY if your dog is actually willing to eat it. If your pet refuses to eat the first food you buy, ask the veterinarian to suggest another.

NOTE: There is no diet or vitamin supplement that can reduce your dog's dependence on insulin injections. This is because vitamins and minerals cannot do what insulin does in the dog's body. If you believe that your dog needs a vitamin or mineral supplement, discuss it with your veterinarian first to make sure that the supplement does not interfere with the action of the dog's other medications. You will still need to give your dog insulin injections twice a day.

Tips for feeding the diabetic dog:

  • You can buy specially formulated diabetes dog food from your veterinarian.
  • Because the insulin doses are set to match the amount and type of food your dog eats, you will need to feed it the same type and amount of food every day.
  • Feed your dog twice a day, at the same general time every day, just before giving the insulin.
  • Most veterinarians recommend twice a day feeding for diabetic pets. If your dog prefers to eat more often, that's all right. The important point is to wait until your dog has eaten, and then inject the insulin. This allows you to see if the dog has eaten all of its food and actually needs the total insulin dose before you inject it.
  • If you have other pets in the home, they should be placed on a twice a day feeding schedule too, so that the diabetic dog cannot eat from their bowls.
  • Avoid table scraps and between-meal treats to help your dog to achieve the best possible blood glucose control.
  • Watch for signs that your dog is starting to drink more water than usual. Call the veterinarian if you see this happening. It may mean that your pet's insulin dose needs adjusting.

color photo of a dog playing with a frisbee Exercise

Your veterinarian may prescribe exercise - many recommend regular walks twice daily for your dog. Exercise may increase non-insulin mediated glucose uptake in muscles so your dog's insulin dose can be reduced. However, many vets agree it must be regular daily exercise to achieve these benefits.

Managing your dog’s diabetes also means managing its activity level. Exercise ‘burns up’ blood glucose the same way that insulin does. If your dog is well regulated on insulin, any active exercise on top of the insulin might cause the dog to have a severe low blood glucose episode, called hypoglycemia.2

Keep your dog on a reasonably consistent exercise routine. Your usual insulin regimen will take that amount of exercise into account.

If you plan to take your dog out for some extra demanding exercise, such as swimming at the lake or playing in the snow, give the dog only half of its usual insulin dose.


color graphic - Food raises blood glucose. Insulin and exercise lower blood glucose. Keep them in balance!


The BD Diabetes Learning Center describes the causes of diabetes, its symptoms, and diabetes complications such as retinopathy and neuropathy. This site contains detailed information about blood glucose monitoring, insulin injection and safe sharps disposal. Interactive quizzes, educational literature downloads and animated demonstrations help to teach diabetes care skills.

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