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5 Ingredients to Avoid in Diabetic Dog Food


It's no secret that dogs with diabetes need to watch what they eat. Chowing down on the wrong foods won’t just make them insulin resistant; it can reduce their lifespan Developing a sustainable diabetic dog diet is therefore of paramount importance.

When it comes to a dog with diabetes, it’s less about what your dog should eat—like salmon oil for dogs—and more about what they should not eat. Certain foods commonly found in many top pet foods can play havoc with a dog’s diabetes. Dogs who eat foods that constantly spike their blood glucose and insulin will see their disease spiral out of control.

That's why we've summarized the ingredients you should avoid. If you’re looking to make homemade diabetic dog food or you just want to control your dog’s diabetes better, avoiding these 5 ingredients will help.

#1: Avoid Rice

For humans, rice is often looked at as one of the most staple foods around. Few people are allergic. And for large sections of the planet, it’s their primary food source.

That couldn’t be further from the truth for diabetic dog diets.

While brown rice has a slightly higher nutritional profile, white rice is merely empty calories with a high glycemic profile. With little to no nutritional value, it also has an outsized negative effect on blood sugar.

In one study, diabetic dogs were fed either a rice-based diet or a sorghum/lentil-based diet. Measurements of the dogs’ glycemic control found rice-based diets increased the maximum blood glucose level and resulted in a higher after-meal glucose response [*].

In short: rice will exacerbate your dog’s diabetes and worsen their diabetic control. It is not a healthy ingredient for diabetic dog food.

#2: Avoid Wheat

In the wild, a dog's cousin—the wolf—is primarily carnivorous. Dogs actually can eat some plant matter, making them partially omnivorous.

They’ll never naturally eat grains, however.

Wheat is a double-whammy! Not only does it consist primarily of simple carbohydrates, which causes a spike in blood sugar levels, it also causes leaky gut syndrome.

Carbohydrates are known to trigger a higher postprandial (after meal) glucose and insulin spike. Glucose, insulin and triglyceride concentrations can take over twelve hours to return to normal in diabetic dogs, making it unsuitable for diabetic dog food. This was shown in a 2012 NIH study [*].

Wheat also contains gluten, which can inflame the immune system and lead to chronically increased intestinal permeability (also known as "leaky gut syndrome") [*]. This medical issue allows toxic molecules to pass straight into a dog’s bloodstream instead of being processed by the liver [*]

#3: Avoid Peas and Legumes

With grains increasingly seen as problematic in dog foods, companies turned to peas and legumes as a replacement. Unfortunately, these are still dog food ingredients to avoid.

It's true that legumes are superior to carbohydrates for glycemic control. Being rich in protein and fiber means a smaller postprandial glucose rise. However, they are significantly less digestible than other food sources [*].

Moreover, legumes are limited as a source of sulphur amino acids and phytates, also known as taurine precursors. Taurine is a critically important amino acid, and its absence can lead to dilated cardiomyopathy [*]. This heart condition prevents normal functioning of the heart, which can be fatal.

Peas and legumes are a cheap filler ingredient in dog food. It's better to find a dog food that avoids them, and while that's more expensive, you can also make your own home cooked dog food a budget without them.

#4: Avoid Potato

Continuing on the topic of filler ingredients... when dog food companies don’t replace rice with peas or legumes, they often replace it with potatoes. Like rice, however, potatoes are high in simple sugars and starch. That means they have a high glycemic index compared to complex carbohydrate foods that also contain protein, fat and/or fiber—like oats or barley [*].

Few people appreciate the long-term consequences of poor diabetic control.

Adding high glycemic food into a diabetic dog food diet will cause routine spikes in blood glucose. Insulin is either not released at all or in insufficient quantities to bring the glucose level under control. As we’ve seen, it can stay that way for hours or even days, eventually causing insulin resistance and worsening diabetes.

For dogs, this can lead to significant damage to blood vessels including those in the eyes. Chronic poor diabetic control can cause blindness [*]. It also leads to problems of the kidneys and heart. That’s why avoiding high glycemic index foods like potatoes is so important.

#5: Avoid Soy

Increasingly, soy protein or soy meal is a common ingredient in commercial dog foods. It’s used as a source of dietary protein.

It’s used in dog food for a very simple reason: soy is cheap. Grown in vast farms in Brazil and elsewhere, it’s a way of increasing the protein content on the food label even though it's filled with antinutrients.

But it’s not just its poor dietary profile that should be of concern. It’s also the high levels of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens have been identified in the urine of male dogs who eat soy [*]. In an analysis of dog foods containing soybeans, 11 out of 12 had detectable levels of phytoestrogens [*]

Researchers have suggested that phytoestrogens may cause prostate enlargement in dogs and increase cancer risk, impair female fertility and disrupt normal thyroid functioning.

What should you include in diabetic dog food?

Now we know what dog food ingredients to avoid, let's see what should be in your dog's bowl.

Dog food rich in protein and fat will keep blood glucose levels in check—but you need to make sure they're still receiving an AAFCO complete and balanced diet.

Muscle meat and offal are excellent ingredients, rich in nutrients and reflective of a dog’s natural diet. Eggs are also an excellent source of protein and good cholesterol.

Gluten-free oats provide a healthy amount of fiber without a dangerously high glycemic index.

Vegetables and fruits like carrots, blueberries and pumpkin provide plenty of nutrients to a diabetic dog’s diet—while avoiding large spikes in blood sugar.

Here at Yumwoof, we have a simple rule: We only want to give our dogs food we’d eat ourselves. That’s why Yumwoof never uses any of the filler ingredients in this list.

If you want to learn more about what goes into our products, check out our ingredients page for further details.

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