Monday, April 16, 2012

Can Foods Containing Sugar Be Fed to Diabetic Dogs?

Why is sugar included as an ingredient in some dog foods such as Natural Balance Dog Food Rolls. I have a diabetic dog on a diet that has sugar listed as the fourth ingredient.

Should I change the diet for this diabetic dog? What diet do you recommend in your diabetic dogs?

My Response:
I'm obviously not a food chemist, but sugar is sometimes used to both enhance the physical characteristics of dog food products and to increase palatability. It helps mask bitter flavors imparted by acidifying agents and may change the texture of specific food types (1).

In dogs with diabetes, one of our goals is to limit the postprandial glycemic response by controlling the dietary carbohydrate source (2-6).  So if this dog is not experiencing severe postprandial hyperglycemia and is doing well clinically, this diet may be fine.  That said, it is always best to avoid foods and snacks containing simple sugars because they tend to rapidly increase blood glucose and make diabetic control more difficult. So unless this patient is well-regulated, I'd recommend that you consider switching the diet in this diabetic dog.

Diets with complex carbs instead of simple simple sugars are perfectly fine in dogs with diabetes. For example, feeding carbohydrate sources that have a low glycemic index (e.g, sorghum and corn) are preferred for diabetic dogs. Carbohydrates with a higher glycemic index (e.g., rice) are best avoided (4).

Overall, there is not one type of diet that is recommended for all dogs with diabetes. Diabetic dogs can do well when fed a number of diets as long as they are nutritionally complete and balanced, do not contain simple sugars, are fed at consistent times in consistent amounts, and are palatable to ensure a predictable and consistent appetite (2-6).

Bottom Line:

In dogs with diabetes, it is best to avoid foods and snacks containing simple sugars which can rapidly raise blood glucose concentrations and interfere with insulin regulation.

In general, I recommend a diet that is moderately restricted in carbohydrate content — that is, a diet with <30% metabolizable energy (ME) as complex carbohydrates— for diabetic dogs to limit their postprandial glucose load and help control hyperglycemia (7).

  1. Crane DW, Cowell, CS, Stout, NP, et al. Commerical pet foods. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, Roudebush R, Novotny, BJ (eds), Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. Mark Morris Institute. 2010; 157-190.
  2. Nelson R, Duesberg C, Ford S, et al. Effect of dietary insoluble fiber on control of glycemia in dogs with naturally acquired diabetes mellitus. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 1998;212:380–386.
  3. Graham PA, Maskell E, Rawlings L. Influence of a high fibre diet on glycaemic control and quality of life in dogs with diabetes mellitus. Journal of Small Animal Practice 2002;43:67–73
  4. Rand JS, Farrow HA, Fleeman LM, et al. Diet in the prevention of diabetes and obesity in companion animals. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2003;12 Suppl:S6.
  5. Elliott KF, Rand JS, Fleeman LM, et al. A diet lower in digestible carbohydrate results in lower postprandial glucose concentrations compared with a traditional canine diabetes diet and an adult maintenance diet in healthy dogs. Research in Veterinary Science 2011; epub
  6. Rucinsky R, Cook A, Haley S, et al. American Animal Hospital Association.AAHA diabetes management guidelines. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 2010; 46:215-224.
  7. Peterson ME. Insights into Veterinary Endocrinology. Q & A: Best Diet for Dogs with Diabetes. October 19, 2011.

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