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Dogs with Diabetes: Looking for Low-Glycemic Dog Foods for Diabetic Dogs

I just finished a nutrition consultation for a prospective customer who has a diabetic dog. What do you feed a diabetic dog? What is the percentage of carbohydrates in your foods? Do you have any foods with a low-glycemic index? What’s so great about grain-free foods?

All of these were GREAT questions and required me to do a little research.

I am a big fan of DogFoodAdvisor.com, so I have decided to post links to the content that helped me write this article, at the bottom of this blog.

If you have a diabetic pet, make sure to work closely with your veterinarian to determine which foods will work best for your dog. Diabetes is serious. Sometimes canned foods are the best option, as they contain less carbs than kibble, thereby having a lower glycemic index.

For comparison’s sake, and to be fair, Orijen was awarded a Low Glycemic Award by the Glycemic Research Institute. The chart below shows a good basis for comparison.

Nature’s Select Comparison Chart for Diabetic Dogs
As compared on a Dry Matter Basis
Brand/RecipeProteinFatFiberAsh (est)% Carbs
Nature’s Select Grain Free36.3%17.6%4.4%8.6%33.2%
Nature’s Select High Pro33.0%18.7%4.4%8.8%35.2%
Evangers Canned Foods: Beef Dinner41.0%18.2%6.8%14.8%19.2%
Origen Adult Dog Food -certified low glycemic42.2%20.0%5.6%8.9%23.3%

Benefits of Grain-Free foods:

Originally designed for highly-allergic pets and pets with special dietary concerns, grain-free foods generally contain less carbohydrates than other grain-based foods. Some grain-free advocates will argue that grain-free foods are more biologically appropriate for dogs, using terms like “ancestral diet” and comparing grain-free recipes to that of wild wolves, etc.

While I think that the term “grain-free” has been subject to marketing hype over the last five years, grain-free foods DO serve a special niche market for those pet parents requesting lower grain foods.

This begs the question, are grains bad? Not necessarily.

Beneficial whole grains in a premium food can serve as prebiotics (food for the beneficial probiotic bacteria that live in the dog’s intestines), and for those budget-conscious pet-parents, make some foods more affordable.

That said, unless your pet has a condition requiring low-protein, I personally would never go below 22% for a senior diet or 24% protein for an adult diet. (Side rant: For the love of your dog, please research your pet food on DogFoodAdvisor.com, and try to find at least a 3-star rated pet food. I prefer to stay in the 4-5 star range, but even pet-parents on a budget can find economical 3-star options.)

What about vets?

Vets unfamiliar with high-allergen grains (like corn, wheat, and soy), usually just advise pet-parents to go “grain-free” to make things simple. Many times, a normal, healthy dog, would be alleviated from food allergens by simply switching to a corn, wheat, and soy free food.

Grain-free foods serve as excellent choices for lower-glycemic foods, preferred for dogs with diabetes and other health concerns. Just make sure, when researching grain-free foods for diabetes, that the food does not contain white potatoes, as this vegetable has a high glycemic index.


Insulin injection

Determining basic carbohydrate content in dog food (as a glycemic indicator)
https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/dog-food-carbohydrate-content/
Regarding kibble vs canned for diabetes
https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/frequently-asked-questions/diabetic-dog-food/

Calculating for dry matter basis (to compare canned food to dry food realistically):
https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/dry-matter-basis/