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Do I Need a Prescription Dog Diabetes Diet?

What Dog Prescription Diet Food You'll Need to Care for Your Dog with Diabetes

By Madeleine Burry. August 13, 2013 | See Comments

  • expert or vet photo
    vet verified

    Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM

    Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

    Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

Do I Need a Prescription Dog Diabetes Diet?

If your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, a stringent new diet will be a critical part of your pet's treatment plan. For some dogs, a prescription diet may be necessary in order to keep your pet's glucose levels stabilized. Find out more here.

If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, you are most likely aware of the important role diet plays in your dog’s treatment plan. Along with regularly administered insulin, a consistent diet helps to keep your dog’s glucose levels stable, and while not all dogs require a prescription dog diabetes diet, some most definitely will.

Diet and Feeding for a Diabetic Dog

Diabetes can cause your dog to lose weight, so they may need to put on a few pounds. After diagnosis, the first dietary step is to make sure your pet is at a healthy weight.

More likely, however, your dog will need to lose some weight. Obesity can be problematic for dogs with diabetes, since extra fat creates a resistance to the insulin your dog needs. Fiber-rich diets can be helpful, since they will keep your dog feeling full.

Once your dog’s weight is stabilized, you should feed them a balanced diet that covers all their nutritional needs. This will help them to maintain their weight. In general, the most important aspect of a diabetic dog’s diet is consistency -- it’s vital to feed your dog at the same time each day. Ideally, your dog will have two evenly spaced out meals every day. This prevents glucose levels from spiking or falling throughout the day. A diet that’s high in fiber and carbohydrates is generally recommended, since that helps maintain stable glucose levels.

Does Your Dog Need a Prescription Diet?

Sometimes even with a careful and consistent diet, your dog will still experience hyperglycemia, and in that situation, a prescription diet may be necessary in order to keep your pet’s glucose levels stable. The main prescription diet options are:

  • Hill’s w/d
  • Purina DCO
  • Royal Canin Diabetic HF 18 Formula

Your vet may recommend one of the prescription options to help food break down at a slow and regular pace. These foods give your dog a lean diet with high fiber and low amount of fats. A prescription diet doesn’t have drugs in it, but rather, is very fixed -- the composition of the diet is totally static, helping to maintain regularity for your dog. One major problem with prescription food diets is that they may not be particularly appetizing. Your dog may not enjoy eating this diet, and may need to be encouraged to eat.

The Cost of a Prescription Diet

Another downside to prescription diets is the high cost compared to the food dogs typically eat. Prescription dog food can be purchased through your vet, a pet store, or online, and the price is often around $30 for 12 cans of wet food. Dry food can range in price, with a 25 pound bag costing as much as $90, so if you’ve grown accustomed to the price of regular grocery store pet food, you may be feeling some sticker shock.

Want to spend less on your dog's health needs?

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More on Special Diets

Nutrition for Cats and Dogs with Heart Disease
What Are Hypoallergenic Dog Foods?
Diets for Dog and Cat Urinary Stones

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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Dog Diabetes Diet at a glance

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  • 1A prescription diet is not always necessary when your dog has diabetes.
  • 2Feeding your dog at the same time each day, and with the same food, is very important to your dog’s health.
  • 3Diets that are high in fiber and low in fat are generally recommended for diabetic dogs.