Dogs and Human Diseases, Nutrition’s Role in Diabetes

by Mary Haight on August 5, 2010

k9 Obesity Not Cause of Diabetes

We’re back to continue the conversation started when the mistaken idea that obesity caused diabetes in dogs cropped up.  Since this notion has been so thoroughly embedded in the public mind, many people, except those who have dogs with diabetes, still subscribe to it. I had asked Dr. Lori Huston to first take us through the big picture and look at  other dog and human diseases that can be wrongly associated as being the same in our minds. Today, she’s back to help us clear our memory banks, and replace it with the straight poop on nutrition’s role in diabetes.

Guest Post by Lori Huston, DVM

Canine nutrition is a confusing subject for many people, even when your dog is healthy. However, when a dog has a health issue such as diabetes mellitus, nutrition becomes even more confusing. It can be difficult to decide what to feed a diabetic dog and there are many differing opinions. Questions persist about whether carbohydrates, proteins or other nutrients in the food affect control of diabetes.

To understand how nutrition plays into feeding a diabetic dog, it is necessary to understand how diabetes occurs in dogs. Diabetic dogs are, almost without exception, type 1 diabetics. That means that the cells in the pancreas are no longer able to secrete insulin, the hormone necessary to control blood glucose levels. As a result, in order to regulate the glucose levels in a diabetic dog, insulin must be provided from an outside source. This is usually done by giving regular insulin injections, although the use of insulin pumps embedded under the skin may gain popularity in the future.

The fact that diabetic dogs are insulin dependent has a large impact on the feeding regimen necessary. In type 2 diabetic cats and people, dietary modification can have a significant effect on the ability to adequately regulate glucose levels and control diabetes. In these species, diets low in carbohydrates (sugars) and high in protein can be helpful in regulating diabetes. In fact, in some cases, remission leading to the ability to discontinue insulin therapy may become a possibility when low carbohydrate diets are used. This occurs because in type 2 diabetes the pancreas still retains some ability to secrete insulin, although the ability may be limited. However, in dogs, this is not true. Diabetic dogs must rely solely on insulin therapy to regulate blood glucose.

In diabetic dogs, the insulin dosage can and should be adjusted to keep the blood glucose within acceptable levels. The type of food is less important in controlling diabetes than the consistency in feeding, although it is still important that the diet be balanced to meet all of the dog’s nutritional needs. High fat diets should be avoided due to the risk of pancreatitis. However, the diabetic canine pancreas is unable to react to changes in carbohydrate levels or other nutrients. The exception to this is the addition of fiber to the diet, which may aid in glucose regulation.

So, how is diabetes controlled and the glucose level regulated in dogs? By feeding the same amount of food at the same time(s) daily, each day and every day. This will result in a consistent need for insulin. Variations in the feeding schedule or caloric intake will result in variations in the insulin needs, making insulin dosage more difficult. When a consistent feeding program is instituted, insulin needs will not change drastically from day to day, allowing better management of canine diabetes. It should be noted also that drastic changes in the exercise regimen will also impact blood glucose levels and the demand for insulin.

Many thanks Dr. Huston! (And I think I found a new poster child that may help to remind people of the facts.)

Lorie Huston has been in veterinary medicine for over 20 years in Providence , RI.  Dr. Huston is a successful freelance writer, the feature writer at’s Pet Care section, a National Pet Health Examiner at, publishes her blog, The Pet Health Care Gazette and is The Voice of Pet Care on Facebook. Dr. Huston also co-moderates DogTalk, a weekly twitter chat that focuses on a variety of dog topics.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, Rod Burkert and Doggy Bytes, Mary E Haight. Mary E Haight said: "Dogs and Human Diseases, Nutrition's Role in Diabetes" Dr Lori Huston gives us the straight poop! […]

  2. […] causes it, then? According to Dr. Lori Huston, who had an excellent post on the topic on Dancing Dog Blog: The current thought is that genetics plays the biggest role in the development […]

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