What to Feed A Diabetic Dog That Won’t Eat: A Deep Dive!

It goes without saying that diabetes can be a challenging issue for any pet owner to deal with.

However, as long as there are appropriate mechanisms and procedures in place, there’s no reason why your diabetic dog wouldn’t be able to live a long and fulfilling life!

Diabetic pups require constant monitoring to ensure their blood glucose does not fall to dangerous levels.

A balance between food intake and insulin levels is crucial in maintaining these blood glucose levels.

When a fussy diabetic dog won’t eat, this can develop into a life-threatening issue.

Meals are vital for replenishing blood glucose, so if your dog appears to be avoiding food for any reason it definitely warrants medical attention.

If you’ve found your way here wondering exactly what to feed a diabetic dog that won’t eat: Well, we’ve got some answers for you!

There are various reasons as to why your diabetic dog may not eat, but there are also numerous methods of making food more appetizing for the pup.

No matter what, always make sure you don’t give any doses of insulin on an empty stomach.

Insulin therapy is undoubtedly important in controlling blood sugar levels- but only when there are higher levels of sugar in the blood.

Inappropriately injecting insulin can cause hypoglycemia almost immediately. The emptier the stomach, the faster the development of hypoglycemia.

It’s definitely something you want to avoid in dogs, as hypoglycemia can cause symptoms such as extreme lethargy, loss of appetite, incoordination, muscle tremors, discoloration of gums and skin, and seizures.

Whenever a diabetic dog displays changes in its feeding behavior, it should never be simply ignored. Indeed, the best course of action would be to consult with your vet as quickly as you can.

Receiving medical assistance when it is appropriate and necessary will help to prevent the severe complications of diabetes, including afflictions such as urinary tract infections and cataracts that can cause blindness.

Potential Reasons As To Why A Diabetic Dog Won’t Eat

What to feed a diabetic dog that won't eat

A diabetic dog with no appetite can be a concerning sight, especially when you are used to seeing your dog sneak a bite or two of your homemade cherry pies or Sour Patch Kids.

(Actually, sweet food’s probably part of what got them in trouble in the first place! Try to get your best pal to lay off the syrupy stuff.)

Abnormal, food-aversive behavior can be explained by a single (or a combination) of factors.

The underlying reason can oftentimes be pretty straightforward and can involve:

  • The dog disliking or getting sick of its current food/diet;
  • The pup being uninterested in meals due to there being something more interesting happening at the same time (such as your other dog throwing up hard white chunks);
  • The pooch already having ate another meal– or had been secretly snacking on pig ears– beforehand, unbeknownst to you;
  • It’s simply not feeling hungry! Rare, I know, but it can happen.

A pooch that does not want to eat could also be experiencing nausea for whatever reason. This can be diagnosed through behaviors such as lip smacking, grass eating, and generally appearing irritated.

One of the more common reasons that can cause nausea to occur in a canine is if it has been a while since it last ate.

This is because stomach acid and bile can build up in the stomach, subsequently irritating the surrounding tissue and inducing feelings of nausea.

Other more complicated causes of appetite loss include various illnesses, hypoglycemia, and diabetic ketoacidosis (see below).

There are still other potential reasons not as commonly known, and you may need to consult with a professional to accurately diagnose the issue at hand.

If your dog does not eat, a record of their behavior before meals should be kept. In this way, a journal will help the vet to determine the potential cause of the situation.


Hypoglycemia is diagnosed as having blood glucose levels below 60 mg/dl of blood.

As we’ve touched on briefly above, injecting insulin into a dog that hasn’t eaten yet is one of the most common causes of hypoglycemia.

The severity of the symptoms experienced will depend on your dog’s blood sugar levels and the rate at which glucose levels drop. Symptoms typically include:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Shaking or twitching
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Blindness

This is a dangerous condition that requires prompt treatment as it can result in a coma and potentially lead to death. It is important to contact a vet immediately to stop the issue from escalating further.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

A dog abstaining from eating could be experiencing something called ketoacidosis.

This is where body fat is broken down as the primary energy source instead of glucose. The process produces ketones as a by-product, which then makes the blood acidic and causes your dog to become lethargic.

Signs of diabetic ketoacidosis can include:

  • Dehydration
  • More frequent urination
  • Lack of attention
  • High blood glucose levels
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • High level of ketones in urine

Ketoacidosis is treatable with timely intervention, so it is crucial to bring your pet to the vet as soon as possible when possible symptoms are seen

Treatment will normally involve injections of short-acting insulin, and the administration of IV fluids that contain various electrolytes.

To prevent canine ketoacidosis from reoccurring in the future, the following precautionary actions should be taken:

  • Careful monitoring of feeding behavior, glucose levels and insulin levels
  • Frequent urine testing
  • Elimination of high fat foods from diet

What Is The Best Food For A Diabetic Dog That Won’t Eat?

White and brown short coated dog looking at camera

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer as to what you should feed a diabetic dog that won’t eat.

Most owners will have to attempt a trial-and-error process to determine which food is most appropriate for their dog.

Many store-bought foods are unlikely to be suitable, so realistically the best place to start is to ask for a recommendation from your vet for a well-balanced diet that is most appropriate for your pup.

When you introduce new foods to your dog, you will need to be more mindful of other medical conditions as diabetic dogs tend to also suffer from issues such as pancreatitis.

This means foods with high fat density (like cream of mushroom soup and kielbasa) should be avoided.

The most important factors when feeding your diabetic dog is the quality of their diet and the consistency of their meals.

A well-rounded, high-quality diet fed according to a set schedule is often the most effective way to make sure your dog eats its meals. A consistent schedule will also help to regulate insulin injections.

In between meals, consider feeding the pup some treats as well to help to keep its blood sugar levels more stable.

Whenever dogs lose their appetite and don’t eat, it is a good idea to consult with a vet ASAP.

They will be able to give advice on the ideal meal, as well as on the appropriate portions to provide to ensure your dog’s blood sugar level does not excessively fluctuate.

The suitable amount of each meal will depend on your dog’s daily activity level, breed, size, and age.

If you find your dog doesn’t eat for multiple meals in a row, you should immediately request medical assistance as they can become at risk for hypoglycemia. This can then escalate and subsequently lead to life-threatening consequences.

Feeding: Best Practices

Some dogs may actually like their meals, but the food they are given may just need some adjustments before it is enthusiastically wolfed down.

This could be due to your dog being inherently picky, having a slight loss of smell which stops them from noticing there is food available, or from simply disliking something about the current state of their meal.

There are several ways to make food more appealing to a pup, such as:

  • Heating up the food: This will make the food more aromatic and enticing.
  • Cleaning the food bowls after every meal: Remnants of previous meals may deter certain dogs from eating anything from the food bowl.
  • Replacing food if it is becoming stale: A change in texture or consistency of food may cause your dog to avoid eating.
  • Feeding by hand: Some dogs may be anxious, scared of their bowl, or there could be something in the area making them uncomfortable. Feeding by hand can be a comforting alternative- but keep in mind that this is only a temporary solution.
  • Providing a wet/canned and dry food mix: Some dogs may prefer softer textures, or they may want a slight variation in their meals. Coating the dry food with wet food is a good way of mixing it up- and for preventing your pooch from gorging on kibble!

Food Toppers

Brown and white small dog eating lettuce

Despite how nutritious and delicious your dog’s meals undoubtedly are, it may appreciate a little more ‘spice’ in its food. Food toppers are an excellent way of making a meal more exciting.

There are a huge variety of toppings that you could potentially add, but it’s definitely a good idea to ask a vet first before mixing anything into your pup’s chow.

Some of healthier options for a diabetic dog may include:

  • Shredded chicken
  • Thin slices of scrambled eggs
  • Canned pumpkin
  • Dehydrated meat or vegetables (such as carrots and peas)
  • Fresh vegetables including cauliflower, broccoli, and pieces of cucumber

Foods with a more pungent smell (such as kefir or liverwurst- but not too much!) could be ideal for pickier dogs, as smell can help to make the dish more enticing.

Alternatively, you could consider adding moderate volumes of liquids such as:

  • Low-sodium chicken broth without any toxic ingredients such as onions
  • Canned tuna/sardine water.

Fiber in some form is also a great topping as it will help to control blood sugar levels and promote weight loss.

The most common and recommended fiber supplement for canines is canned pumpkin.

Ensure that the product does not contain toxic ingredients such as xylitol or additional flavors, as their inclusion could cause undesirable consequences.

Although adding toppings will help to entice a dog to eat their meal in some circumstances, a high-quality and well-balanced diet is still much more important in the grand scheme of things.

Prescription Dog Food

Rows of dog food
The amount of options can be overwhelming, so be sure to consult your vet!

Instead of trying to find or make a suitable diet for your dog, consider asking your vet for a professional recommendation. What you may find is that certain prescription diets (certified for digestibility by certified canine nutritionists) may be advised.

After a consultation, they may suggest and prescribe certain diets for your dog. A potential product they may recommend is either the Purina DCO diet or Hill’s M/D diet.

These dog foods are low in carbohydrates and high in protein, which is ideal for promoting weight loss.

In some cases, a vet may suggest a high fiber and low-fat diet. Fiber delays glucose absorption and satiates hunger so that your dog will eat less, while lower fat content means less calorie consumption overall.

All this will help the pooch to fight weight gain and put up a solid fight against the demon of diabetes.

Certain prescription diets such as Hill’s R/D will also help to combat obesity and diabetes while increasing the sensitivity of insulin receptors.

As a few types of diets are not recommended for diabetic dogs, you should always ask your vet for approval first before providing a prescription meal for your pup.

Canine Nutritionist

Although there is a range of prescription diets and store-bought food which could be well-suited for a diabetic dog, a fully-customized meal may be another way to go about your diabetic dog’s diet.

A certified professional can customize a homemade diet to ensure your dog eats food with sufficient nutrients and avoids any unwanted stomach issues.

The diet they prescribe will depend on factors such as your dog’s daily activity levels and their average weight.


While medication should not be your first choice, in more serious situations they may be a lifesaver in helping to stimulate appetite and promote feeding behavior.

Typical appetite stimulants that require prescription include Mirtazapine and Entyce. There are various other medications available, but it will ultimately depend on your dog’s current situation.

When consulting with your vet, make sure you provide a list of all the current and previous health conditions that your dog has experienced- as well as any other medications currently being taken.

How To Get A Fussy Diabetic Dog To Eat: Other Methods Of Encouraging Your Dog To Eat Food!

Person putting food in dog bowl

Besides altering your dog’s regular diet, there are also other approaches that can encourage your pup to eat their meals.

These methods include setting a regular mealtime, increasing exercise frequency, and ensuring there is always water available.

If the approaches mentioned within this article do not help improve your dog’s appetite, make sure that you talk with a vet or a canine specialist. The most suitable diet for a fussy diabetic dog will be different for each pooch.

1. Scheduled Meals

A possible explanation for why your dog is not eating properly could be due to irregular mealtimes. The brain center that regulates appetite could be inactive at the time of which you give your dog food.

By scheduling and maintaining a consistent mealtime, the dog’s body will automatically signal hunger as the regular time of day approaches and subsequently induce the production of digestive enzymes.

A vet or other animal professional can help to customize a suitable feeding schedule by taking into account your dog’s daily routines, such as when they wake up in the morning and when they usually exercise.

Establishing a routine will also help to prevent excessive fluctuation in blood sugar levels and thereby stave off hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. A healthy treat can still be provided between meals to maintain blood glucose levels.

2. More Exercise

A dog that doesn’t use much energy is unlikely to feel the need to eat much food especially if it is lazy by nature like my pup Olliver!

Olliver corgi sleeping on sofa chair
Olliver, in his most preferred habitat

Exercise is an outlet for excess energy which conveniently induces feelings of hunger and feeding.

Exercising more consistently will also help the dog to manage its body weight and improve the prognosis of diabetes.

Rather than a single intensive session, it would be better to exercise multiple times a day for short periods. For example, bringing your dog along for walks during the morning and the evening is healthy for both you and the pup!

If your dog begins trailing behind, check to see if your dog is tired. If your dog breathes irregularly, pants heavily, and looks downright exhausted, you should call it a day there.

Before a strenuous session or longer period exercise, ask your vet for advice first as you would not want to cause an excessive drop in blood sugar level.

3. Increase Water Intake

Diabetic dogs can become dehydrated much more quickly as they will urinate more frequently and experience thirst very regularly.

With low water content in the body, a dog can become lethargic as bodily functions are disrupted. It can also be prone to developing constipation and having irregular (Read: dry and crumbly) bowel movements.

It is therefore paramount that your dog has access to clean water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you would like to get your dog to drink more water, take a quick gander at our guide where we show you 5 Effective Methods for Increasing Your Dog’s Water Intake!

What Should A Diabetic Dog Not Eat?

Gingerbread man missing a leg, dog in background
Gingerbread men are a big no-no

It can be troublesome when you feed something you shouldn’t have to your dog. In general, the less sugary foods your dog eats, the better it will be for their health.

While the list below is by no means all-encompassing, it will give you a general idea on the type of ingredients to avoid.

Consulting a canine nutritionist can be hugely helpful to identify which parts of your pooch’s regular diet may be causing health issues.

Occasional treats are okay as long as they are given in moderation, and if they do not contain high levels of fat and processed sugar.

Typically, food or ingredients your dog should avoid include:

  • Foil-packaged dog food– These soft and relatively moist foods are often high in sugar as sugar is also used as a preservative
  • Syrup such as corn syrup
  • Molasses
  • Simple sugars such as fructose, maltose, or dextrose
  • Treats or table scraps containing sugar or sweeteners
  • White rice
  • White bread

These foods or ingredients are considered to be high glycemic foods which can rapidly increase blood sugar levels, and therefore can be dangerous to diabetic dogs.

As with any diet, you should adjust accordingly with your pup’s daily routine and advise your family members to avoid giving unnecessary amounts of food.

If you are considering home-cooking meals for your dog, it would be ideal to follow the specific directions of a vet or a canine nutritionist.

Generally speaking, home-cooking can vary in nutritional value and sometimes the ingredients incorporated may cause an unintended and undesired effect on your pooch.

In Summary

It is undeniably a worrisome issue when a diabetic pup won’t eat, as this can throw their blood sugar levels all out of whack.

And remember: The all-important insulin should never be provided to a dog on an empty stomach unless you are professionally advised to do so by a vet. Doing so could result in the onset of the potentially life-threatening condition of hypoglycemia.

A diabetic dog can be difficult to manage initially, but over time and with the appropriate medical attention and care procedures it should definitely get easier.

To promote healthy feeding behavior, there are a variety of different methods that you can try.

Heating up their food to make it more aromatic, combining dry and wet foods, adding food toppers, and setting regular mealtimes are all viable strategies that can help to ensure that your pup is positively drooling the moment dinner time rolls around!

Alternatively, ask for some professional assistance from a vet or canine nutritionist in the form of a customized meal plan. A vet can also prescribe appetite stimulants in extreme cases.

Whenever your dog develops unusual feeding behaviors, make sure that you make a note of what they did and didn’t eat, as well as what had happened before their meals.

With the appropriate treatment and care, your diabetic dog will get through this phase and continue living a long and fulfilling life. Best of luck!

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