Help! What to Feed a Diabetic Dog That Won’t Eat?

As a dog owner with over 15 years of experience treating diabetic dogs, I know firsthand how scary it can be when your pup refuses his food. Not eating is especially dangerous for diabetic dogs who need to balance their food intake with insulin injections. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll cover all the reasons your diabetic dog may stop eating and provide tips to tempt even the pickiest eater. You’ll also learn when it’s time to call the vet. My goal is to help you support your diabetic pup so he lives a long, healthy life.

Table of Contents

Why Should You Worry If Your Diabetic Dog Doesn’t Eat?

Let’s start with why a diabetic dog not eating is cause for concern. When a healthy dog skips a meal every now and then, it’s usually not a big deal. But for a diabetic dog, not eating can quickly lead to hypoglycemia. This is when their blood sugar crashes dangerously low.

Here’s why: Diabetic dogs lack sufficient insulin, which is needed to move glucose from the bloodstream into the cells to be used for energy. We give insulin injections to make up for their deficiency. The injected insulin brings blood sugar down. Without food for fuel, insulin can make blood sugar drop to severely low levels.

Hypoglycemia can cause lethargy, confusion, tremors, and even seizures. Left untreated, it can lead to a diabetic coma or death. That’s why if your diabetic dog refuses a meal, take it very seriously. Monitor him closely and call your vet promptly if he continues not eating.

What Stops a Diabetic Dog From Eating?

There are several reasons your diabetic dog may go off his food. Let’s look at some of the most common causes:

Your Dog is Picky or Bored of His Food

Some dogs are just fussy eaters. If you’ve recently changed foods or flavors, your dog may be protesting by skipping meals. Loss of appetite could also signal boredom with the same bland prescription diet day after day.

Your Dog is Stressed, Anxious, or Depressed

Dogs are sensitive creatures. Stress from changes in environment or routine, anxiety from loud noises like fireworks or thunderstorms, or depression from loneliness can all make your pup lose his appetite.

Your Dog Feels Nauseous

One of the most common reasons diabetic dogs don’t eat is nausea. Possible causes include:

  • Side effects from medications like insulin or antibiotics
  • Inflammation of the pancreas, known as pancreatitis
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Reaction to a new food

If the nausea persists, your vet can prescribe anti-nausea medication.

Your Dog’s Blood Sugar is Low

Ironically, hypoglycemia itself can also suppress appetite. Your dog may not feel like eating because his blood sugar has already dropped too low.

Your Dog Has Dental Disease

Bad teeth and gums hurt! If your dog has an oral infection, fractured tooth, or other dental problems, it may make chewing painful.

Your Dog is Dealing With an Infection

Systemic infections reduce appetite. Some common examples include:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Skin infection
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Parasites like heartworms

Treating the infection often brings appetite back to normal. But sometimes, antibiotics themselves can cause nausea. Discuss this possibility with your vet.

As you can see, it takes some detective work to figure out why your diabetic dog stopped eating. Don’t panic, but do monitor things closely and call your vet if your appetite doesn’t improve within 12-24 hours.

What Should You Do If Your Diabetic Dog Stops Eating?

If your diabetic pup refuses a meal, try the following tips to get him eating again:

Check Blood Glucose if Possible

Use your glucometer to check your dog’s blood sugar at home. This gives you an objective measure of where his levels are at. The normal range is 80-150 mg/dL before a meal.

Tempt with Smelly, Tasty Toppers

Add a small spoon of wet food, or low-sodium broth, or scramble an egg into your dog’s regular kibble. The smellier the better! This often piques a dog’s interest to try eating again.

Hand Feed Your Pup

If your dog seems anxious or hesitant to eat on his own, sit with him and gently hand-feed him. The comfort of your presence can help stimulate your appetite.

Give Anti-Nausea Medication

If nausea is the culprit, your vet can prescribe anti-nausea meds like Cerenia or Reglan. Give the medication 30 minutes before mealtime.

Reduce the Insulin Dose Temporarily

To prevent blood sugar from dropping too low, give a reduced dose of insulin (25-50% less) until your dog eats again. But first, consult your vet on appropriate dosage adjustments.

Try Prescription Food or Supplements

Ask your vet about prescription foods or oral supplements designed to stimulate appetite in sick pets.

Make Sure Water is Available

Dehydration will exacerbate poor appetite. Make sure your dog always has access to fresh, clean drinking water.

When to Rush Your Dog to the Vet

In most cases, you can try the above home interventions for 1-2 missed meals. But contact your vet right away or go to emergency vet services if:

  • Your dog’s glucose level is below 60 mg/dL
  • Your dog is extremely lethargic or having seizures
  • Your dog’s gums are pale or blue
  • Your dog is vomiting, has diarrhea, or is otherwise acutely ill

These are signs your dog’s blood sugar has dangerously crashed and he needs immediate medical attention.

What to Safely Feed a Diabetic Dog Who Won’t Eat

The most nutritious food for a diabetic dog is his prescribed high-fiber, high-protein, low-glycemic, moderately fat dog food. But when your pup refuses his regular food, you still need to get some calories in him, especially before he receives insulin. Here are some healthy options:

Canned Food

Canned dog food is very aromatic and palatable. The soft texture also goes down easily if your dog feels nauseous.

Low-sodium chicken or Beef Broth

Offer a bowl of savory homemade broth for hydration and to supply some protein.

Natural, No-Sugar-Added Applesauce

Applesauce provides potassium and vitamin C without spiking blood sugar.

Low-Fat Cottage Cheese or Yogurt

Dairy products are nourishing and easy to digest. Just be sure your dog isn’t lactose intolerant.

Scrambled or Boiled Egg

Eggs are a fantastic source of protein your dog will likely gobble up.

Skinless, Boneless Chicken or Lean Beef

Hand shreds a small portion of a lean protein source into your dog’s regular food.

Avoid high-fat meats like bacon or sausage which can worsen nausea.

Baby Food

Look for unsweetened brands without onion powder. Meat-based varieties work best.


Cooked oatmeal is a healthy carb that provides soluble fiber.

Green Beans

Low-calorie beans add key vitamins. Just avoid salt, butter, or other flavorings.

When your dog is refusing all food, even these options may get rejected. It’s important to keep trying different textures and flavors until you find something appetizing. Use tough love and remove uneaten food after 10-15 minutes until the next mealtime.

Above all, never give insulin injections without food as it puts your diabetic dog at risk of life-threatening hypoglycemia. Call your vet right away if you’re unable to get nutrition in your pup.

Things Diabetic Dogs Should Not Eat

While tempting your sick pup to eat, there are also some foods to avoid feeding diabetic dogs:


This sugar alcohol used as a sweetener in gum, candy, toothpaste, and baked goods is toxic to dogs.

High Glycemic Foods

Avoid carbohydrates with a high glycemic index like potatoes, corn, white rice, etc. These can spike blood sugar.

Table Scraps or Fatty Meats

High-fat foods trigger pancreatitis which causes nausea.

Large, Complex Meals

Small, frequent meals are easier to digest than one large meal.

Excess Dietary Protein

Too much protein stresses the kidneys. Check with your vet on ideal protein intake if your dog has kidney issues.

While satisfying your pup’s cravings, keep these dietary restrictions in mind for your diabetic dog’s health. Moderation is key even when tempting a sick dog to eat.

How to Transition Your Diabetic Dog to a New Food
Picture credit @Anna Shevchuk from Pexels

How to Transition Your Diabetic Dog to a New Food

If your diabetic dog needs a diet change to improve his appetite, transition the foods gradually over 5-7 days. An abrupt change can upset your dog’s stomach.

Days 1-2: Mix 75% old food with 25% new food

Days 3-4: Mix 50% old food with 50% new food

Days 5-6: Mix 25% old food with 75% new food

Day 7: Feed 100% new food

This slow switch gives your dog time to adapt to the new food’s flavors and textures. Keep a close eye on stool consistency and appetite during the transition. Diarrhea or vomiting means you’re switching too fast.

Sample Feeding Schedule for a Diabetic Dog

Time Food/Insulin
7 AM 1/4 cup kibble + insulin injection
12 PM 1/4 cup wet food
3 PM 1/4 cup kibble
7 PM 1/4 cup wet food + insulin injection

Feeding Best Practices for Diabetic Dogs

To keep your diabetic pup healthy and stable, follow these feeding guidelines:

  • Consistency is key: Serve the same food at every mealtime. Feed set portion sizes from routine meal times.
  • Divide food into smaller, frequent meals: For example, 1/4 cup of kibble four times a day. This prevents blood sugar spikes.
  • Stick to a schedule: Space meals 4-8 hours apart and time insulin injections appropriately. Create a feeding chart to track.
  • Always have water available: Make sure your dog has access to fresh, clean drinking water at all times.
  • Wait before giving insulin: Administer insulin shots at least 15 minutes after your dog finishes eating. Never inject before a meal.
  • Weigh regularly: Monitor your dog’s weight closely and adjust food portions to maintain ideal body condition.

Final Tips for Helping Your Diabetic Dog Eat

The last thing you want is for your sick, diabetic dog to go without food. Hopefully, these vet-approved tips help get your pup eating again:

  • Warm chilled food to bring out the aroma
  • Mix in broths, gravy, or healthy toppers to increase palatability
  • Try different food textures – canned, raw, kibble, homemade
  • Hand-feed your anxious or nauseous dog
  • Eliminate stressors and distracting noises at mealtime
  • Practice tough love and pick up uneaten food within 15-20 minutes

With patience and creativity, you can find something your dog will enjoy. Just remember—never give insulin if your diabetic dog refuses a meal. Call me or your vet promptly if your appetite doesn’t improve within 12-24 hours. We’re your partners in caring for your beloved diabetic pup!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I give insulin if my diabetic dog refuses to eat?

No, absolutely do not give insulin injections if a diabetic dog isn’t eating. This can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia or insulin shock. First focus on getting food into your dog, even if it’s something as simple as low-sodium chicken broth. Then consult your vet before giving any insulin without a meal. Your dog’s insulin needs may need to be adjusted.

What food is best for a diabetic dog who is a picky eater?

For finicky diabetic dogs, enhance the flavor and aroma of their food with irresistible mix-ins like chicken or beef broth, green beans, shredded cheese, or scrambled eggs. Canned food also smells great. You can even try warming the food to bring out more scents. The most important thing is finding something your dog will consistently eat at every meal to balance out his insulin.

Should I change my diabetic dog’s food if he stops eating his current food?

It’s generally best not to switch your diabetic dog’s food unless directed by your vet. Sudden changes can upset his digestion. But if your dog refuses to eat his current food for an extended time, even with different toppers, discuss trying a new prescription diabetic food with your vet. Transition slowly over 5-7 days to avoid GI upset.

What should I do if my diabetic dog vomits after eating?

Vomiting and nausea suppress appetite. If your diabetic dog throws up after eating, withhold his next insulin dose and call your vet. They can provide anti-nausea medication and may recommend temporarily reducing insulin dosage. Stick to a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice until the vomiting subsides.

Is canned pumpkin good for a diabetic dog who won’t eat it?

Yes, canned pumpkin (unsweetened, not pie filling) can encourage a diabetic dog to eat. It provides soluble fiber that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Add a spoonful to your dog’s meal or mix some pumpkin puree into their food. Just introduce new foods gradually in small amounts.

I hope these tips help if your diabetic dog is ever refusing his food so you can avoid an emergency vet visit. Please reach out with any other questions! I’m here to help your diabetic pup stay happy and healthy.

How Often Should a Diabetic Dog Eat?

Diabetic dogs do best eating smaller, more frequent meals. This helps prevent extreme blood sugar highs and lows.

Most veterinarians recommend feeding 3-4 small meals spaced evenly throughout the day. For example:

  • 7 AM
  • 12 PM
  • 3 PM
  • 7 PM

Feeding 1/4 cup of food at each of those mealtimes helps regulate your diabetic dog’s metabolism.

The exact schedule depends on what works best for coordinating their insulin injections. Just be sure to space meals about 4-8 hours apart. And try to be as consistent as possible from day to day.

What Are Signs My Diabetic Dog Needs the Vet for Not Eating?

Here are some red flag signs that warrant promptly contacting your vet or emergency clinic if your diabetic dog refuses food:

  • Repeated vomiting or diarrhea
  • Extreme lethargy, weakness, or collapse
  • Heavy panting or difficulty breathing
  • Gums or tongue appear pale, blue, or purple
  • Seizures or muscle tremors
  • Confusion, wobbliness, or other neurological signs

Rapid weight loss, increased thirst/urination, sweet/fruity breath odor, and high ketones in urine are also problematic symptoms.

If your dog shows any of these more serious symptoms on top of not eating, he needs medical intervention immediately.

Are Carrots and Apples OK for a Diabetic Dog Who Won’t Eat His Regular Food?

In moderation, carrots and apples are healthy snacks that are safe for diabetic dogs.

Raw carrots are low glycemic, meaning they won’t drastically spike your dog’s blood sugar levels.

Apples are high in fiber which helps slow digestion and glucose absorption. Look for no-sugar-added applesauce without artificial sweeteners.

While fruits and veggies can be fed on occasion, they don’t provide complete nutrition. It’s still important to try and get your diabetic dog to eat his regular prescription food as well. The carefully balanced nutrition helps regulate his blood sugar.

What Are Some Tips for Introducing New Foods to a Diabetic Dog?

Here are some tips for safely introducing new foods to your diabetic pup:

  • Transition to new foods slowly over 5-7 days.
  • Start with very small portions like 1-2 teaspoons.
  • Mix the new food into your dog’s regular food at first.
  • Only introduce one new food at a time.
  • Watch for signs of an upset stomach like vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Avoid giving new foods within 2 hours of insulin injections.
  • Check blood glucose levels more often when making diet changes.
  • Consult your vet before introducing any people’s foods.

Go low and slow when adding novel foods to your diabetic dog’s diet to allow adjustment and monitor for any response. Patience and caution help prevent adverse effects.

Should I Give My Diabetic Dog Food at Exactly the Same Times Every Day?

It’s ideal to feed your diabetic dog at very consistent times each day, but an exact rigid schedule usually isn’t necessary.

The most important thing is to space meals about 4-8 hours apart and keep insulin injections coordinated appropriately with meals. Whether you feed at precisely 7 AM or within 30 minutes of that is not critical.

Have a general outline for mealtimes, but don’t stress if life circumstances vary things slightly from day to day. Just try to prevent long stretches without food.

The regularity helps your dog’s body anticipate and regulate blood sugar levels. But some flexibility in the schedule is fine.

What Are Some Tips for Getting a Fussy Diabetic Dog to Eat?

Some tips for encouraging a picky eater who is diabetic:

  • Hand feed your dog small bites to stimulate appetite.
  • Warm chilled food slightly to increase aroma.
  • Try sprinkling on a favorite topper like shredded cheese or chicken.
  • Slightly moisten dry kibble with warm broth or water.
  • Switch between wet food and kibble for flavor variety.
  • Eliminate stress by separating from other pets at mealtime.
  • Try interactive dog food puzzles to pique their interest.
  • Practice tough love by picking up uneaten food after 10-15 minutes.

Patience and creativity are key to finding foods your individual dog gets excited to eat at each meal!

Can I Still Exercise My Diabetic Dog If They Haven’t Eaten?

It’s generally best to avoid strenuous exercise with a diabetic dog until they have eaten a meal and received insulin if needed.

However, a short leashed walk even without eating shouldn’t cause problems as long as your dog is feeling well. Just monitor them closely for signs of hypoglycemia. Avoid overly exerting your diabetic dog on an empty stomach.

But after a meal when insulin and glucose levels are stabilized, exercise is great for diabetic dogs! Regular, moderate activity helps manage their disease.

What Are Some Good Canned Foods for Diabetic Dogs Who Won’t Eat Kibble?

Here are some top-rated canned foods for picky diabetic dogs:

  • Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets DM
  • Royal Canin Glycobalance Wet Dog Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Digestive Wet Food
  • Iams Proactive Health Senior Wet Food
  • Natural Balance LID Limited Ingredient Diets

Wet foods often have more aroma and flavor. The softer texture also makes it easier to eat if your diabetic dog is having dental issues or nausea. Check with your vet before switching foods.

How Can I Make My Diabetic Dog’s Food More Appealing?

To make your diabetic dog’s meals more enticing:

  • Warm food slightly to bring out aromas.
  • Mix in a tablespoon of wet food or low-sodium broth.
  • Top with a small spoon of plain yogurt, cottage cheese, or scrambled egg.
  • Sprinkle on some shredded cheese or crumbled bacon treats.
  • Add a dollop of canned pumpkin or mashed sweet potato.
  • Drip some meat drippings saved from your own meals.
  • Try both dry kibble and canned food for texture variety.

Getting creative with irresistible mix-ins or toppers makes their food extra delicious so your dog gets the nutrition they need.

I hope these diabetic dog feeding tips help if your pup is ever refusing to eat. Don’t hesitate to call me or your vet with any questions! We want your dog healthy and happy.