My dog is a picky eater and has diabetes

Thankfully Bender is not a picky eater. He eats all his food at every meal. But what happens if he didn’t? Our other dog Luna will eat any from a 1/4th of her food to all of her food every meal. Its never the same.

Imagining Luna on diabetes, I would think she would be difficult to regulate with an eating habit like that. So what could you do?

Testing after every meal would be a pain, stressful for the dog, and would cause major micro adjusting for the dosages. Some thing I don’t recommend.

The easiest thing would be to switch to a food that your dog loves and will eat all of it up. But what happens if that doesn’t work?

Coming up with a sliding dosage scale might work based on food consumption. Some thing like this.

  • Ate all the food – Full shot
  • Ate 3/4th of the food – Subtract 1-2 units
  • Ate 1/2 of the food – Subtract 2-4 units
  • Etc.

In theory this seems like it would work. Of course the amount of insulin units subtracted would be based on your dog and how much insulin they get. It would be different for each dog. And also going on the assumption that the dog is being fed the same amount at ever meal (like you should be doing for your diabetic dog).

Its an interesting thought and some thing to ask my vet about. What are your thoughts?

21 Responses to “My dog is a picky eater and has diabetes”

  1. That is a great way to entice your dog to eat. I have tried adding a little hearty chicken broth to my dog’s diet and he ate it up. I guess the more savory smelling the dog food is the better. Great site. keep it up!!

  2. Jeff Mendelsohn

    Hope you are not giving your diabetic dog chicken broth, way too salty. :( Low sodium might be good but there has to be better teaser foods out there to get your dog to eat.

  3. Rule of thumb;

    no food ~ 1/4th insulin dose
    1/2 food ~ 1/2 insulin dose
    1/2 to all food ~ full insulin dose

    Can vary between dogs but this gives a place to start.

    Using ‘toppers’ to entice a dog to eat can include…

    ~ a bit of canned sardines squashed into the food
    ~ sprinkle Parmasan cheese into the food
    ~ warm in microwave as a dog relys more on smell than on taste, heating brings out the yummy smells
    ~ squashing a tad of canned catfood into the mixture (what dog can resist catfood)

  4. My rottie has had diabetes for over 2 years now. She is 13, not bad for a diabetic large breed, but at this point her arthritis (double knee surgery) is bringing her down. Adequan did not work for this dog, she has liver value issues from before diabetes, so we have only recently swithched her to Rimadyl from Zubrin (a good drug), and are now augmenting with tramadol. Gabapentin may be next for pain.
    Her BG has never been ‘regulated’ by the typical standards, we are believing (we being her owners, multiple internists at Cornell, and our personal vet) she may be one of those diabetic dogs that IS normal on a higher BG.
    She’s a fussy eater – we were told she must be fed low fat (had a pancreatitis attack) and low salt, low sugar is obvious. She gets natural Choice venison or fish for ease of digestion dry mixed with either Natural Choice savory lamb and vegetable stew and 90% burger or fat free chicken with a bit of tuna. Both have organic Imagine broth in chicken or beef added. We have found that switching off different meal components gets her to eat. She seems to get tired of the going thing, so another thing will be used. Low fat breakfast sausage or turkey italian sausage, organic chicken or beef gravy, tilapia fried in low fat smart balance.
    Cornell told us to give 50% insulin dosage when fasting her (another pancreatitis attack, or a gastric event like a clostridium overgrowth with vomiting), and that she only needed to eat 1 – 1.5 cups of food to get the full shot. We have force-fed formed torpedos of ground dog food mixes, about 5 of these gives us 1.25C. We dip them in au jus to help them slide down better. Obviously, this is not a fun procedure for anybody, but there have been times when nothing would get her to eat for her insulin.
    Cheese and cat food are too fatty, we have been told. We heat every meal, 1min 30 in the microwave.
    After trying ketodiagnostix and human BG monitors, Alpha trak is the best!

  5. Jeff Mendelsohn


    Natural Choice is ok, but I think there are better foods out there. Tough if your dog is picky eater though.

    Natural Choice has a higher fat content, Crude Fat(min) 10% than I like to see in food for our diabetic pups. For the price Wellness Super5Mix Healthy Weight or Blue Buffalo Chicken & Brown Rice Adult Dog Food might be a better choice.

    How much does your Rot weigh?
    Insulin Type?
    Insulin amount given per shot?

  6. Jonathan

    My dog is about 13 lbs and has been diagnosed diabetic for exactly a month. He is inconsistant in eating his foods and not sure as to why. I have tried numerous methods, but still inconsistant. I am giving him 4 units/ 2x per day recommended by vet. Since it is not exactly 12 hour per shot it differs slightly within 20 minutes. My question is can I just top the food off with chicken broth or something. Dry food, he will not eat at all I am sure of. I have been trying to feed him 100% natural beef, liver strips, some pumpkin for fiber, mixing in some nutrisca raw food tablets. I am not even sure EXACTLY how much food to give my dog. This is getting very frusturating for me. He is blind in 1 eye and has glaucoma in his other which I am sure he will be going blind there soon as well. Wet food he will be good with, but I have to watch the wallet. I go to a specialty dog food store not the supermarkets. Any and all advice would be MUCH appreciated.

    Breed – Toy Poodle/Maltese Mix
    Age: 11 years old
    Insulin – Humulin N
    Units – 4 units/2x per day
    Weight – 13 lbs
    Exercise – Medium

    I just want him to be stable and doing good. I love him to death but it is getting very frusturating. PLEASE HELP!

  7. Jeff Mendelsohn


    The key is no matter what you feed your dog, it has to be consistent. Get on a schedule for exercise and feeding.

    If you are finding that your dog isn’t eating consistently try some exercise before feeding. Maybe an At His Pace 15-20min walk, no stopping for sniffing.

    You can use a topper of some sort to entice your dog to eat. I wouldn’t recommend chicken broth though, it is high in salt, even the low sodium kind. Bad for dogs and diabetics. Plus why would you need a topper for Beef or Liver? You dog should be eating that up!

    I can’t say how much to feed your dog. For 13lbs it can’t be much. I would ask your Vet. I tried homemade food for a while and found it cost more, took a lot of time to make, and Bender was losing too much weight.

    I really haven’t done much research for canned food, so I don’t know what is out there. Just make sure the fat content is low. No fillers like White Rice, Corn. Nothing salty. What about buying dry food and soaking it in some warm water to make it soft, would your dog eat it then?

    Who told you to do exactly 12 hours between shots?

    Have you bought a glucose meter yet?

  8. Jonathan


    Thanks for the quick response. I have a blood sugar tester from a friend who used to have diabetes and no longer does. I am afraid of using it. The vet told me the shots should be 12 hours apart. 1 shot in the morning and the other at night at the same time. They say I can go 2 hours after so 12 – 14 hours after the shot.

    If he has eaten less food than usual I have been providing him the same units in the shots which makes me nervous. I am almost questioning my vet, and might go for a second opinion as they seem to be very busy as they are reputable, but hard to get all the details pertaining to issues.

    The lady who has done research at the dog/cat food specialty store recommended these to me. I have even grinded dry food to make it into a powder and mixed it in with liver strips and beeg, but still I guess the smell of the dry food keeps him away.

    I don’t know the amount of food I should be feeding him per day. I only feed him 2 times per day, but if its like a human shouldn’t I feed him something small during the day to keep his metabolism up? There are just so many things I am uncertain of as I know all dogs are different and depends on the animal/exercise/weight etc.

    Just like a nutrionist, all I want is someone to tell me how much to feed my dog and what to feed him. I just want conistancy, but am having a hard time doing so as I continually change his diet.

    – So overall water to dry dog food wont work.
    – The vet told me to do exactly 12 hours apart
    – Have a blood sugar leveler but don’t know how to use it.

  9. Jeff Mendelsohn


    Shots should be done right after eating. Insulin is needed as soon as digestion starts. Its best to feed at consistent times. I feed Bender at 8am and 6pm. But some times its 9am and 5:30pm. Always within a two hour windows of 7am-9am and 5pm-7pm.

    You can feed three or even four small meals a day but it is a commitment that can’t be skipped.

    A human glucose meter is not the same as a pet glucose meter. They function the same but they will not give actuate results. check out the AlphaTrak. Click on the American Diabetes Wholesale ad’s, they have a good price for the kit on their site. I just bought another one because mine died after 6 yrs of use. They are very easy to use. Lance to get a little blood. Insert strip into meter, touch strip to blood. wait. Check out: for a possible lancing site. And if you haven’t already read through a lot of my other posts on here. Lots of good info.

    No harm in finding another Vet. I was lucky that my first Vet had several diabetic animals and had to learn about it. But he has since moved out of state and I need to find a new Vet.

    I wish I could tell you how much to feed your dog. But even the home made food I was giving Bender wasn’t enough and he started to loose weight. Maybe if you find a new Vet they will be able to tell you.

    How come the specialty store isn’t able to give you an amount to feed? You are feeding your dog natural food which is far healthier than most processed food so long as you are feeding them a balanced diet (and for diabetics, low in sugars, fats, and salts).


  10. I have a diabetic 15 year old Silky terrier. he has been diabetic for almost three years. He has recently not been regulated, with sku high BG levels. We found out it was from feeding dry food, too many meals, and too many different kinds of food. NO DRY FOOD!!! High in carbs. We were told by an internist to feed 2 times a day, and a small snack in between, of the SAME foods. We chose to mix home cook with W/D wet. It have worked very well. He is now regualted.

  11. Jeff Mendelsohn


    Not all dry food is bad. There are some really good brands out there that work with diabetic dogs. Blue Buffalo Healthy Weight, Wellness Healthy Weight, Wellness Core Grain-Free Reduced Fat, Orijen just to name a few.

    Personally I don’t like W/D, they use fillers like corn and rice.

    What food were you feeding your dog before you switched?

  12. BeStrong

    With a chubby 15 lb Yorkie *Winston* you can’t do it that way though. If he eats his meal at this point he is getting 6 units of Novolin. But if he eats 1/2 of his food he gets 4 units. If he does that for more than 2 meals, then it is a phone call to the Vet. He isn’t responding well to the Novolin. The Vet was at a conference 2 wks. ago and they said that Vetalin (sp?) was coming back in 1 or 2 months. That would be great. Being a small dog he doesn’t really have any other insulin choice that I’m aware of. He is my Mom’s boy and we gave him to her as a gift 2 yrs after my Dad passed. Thought she needed a companion so she wasn’t talking to herself :) She loves him like he is her unexpected child. At 84, I can’t imagine what would happen to her if she were to loose him. :(

  13. Dianna Wilhite

    Can someone give me really SIMPLE suggestions for a 9 lb Pom who is and always has been a very picky eater?? He is 13 yrs old and spoiled. He’s a newly diagnosed diabetic after going into ketoacidosis and being at vets for 3 days. I’m wondering if I can handle this and do him justice. I want to be a good “parent” but I feel lost.
    Thanks anyone.

  14. I just found out that my dog is diabetic he is a Bichon and weighs 9lbs (he was 11lbs but lost weight bc of the pancreatitis) his blood sugar was a scary 570 when I brought him to the vet a few days ago and dropped to a 140 by the time he left. He has always been a picky eater since the day I got him (he is 8). The vet recommended W/D dog food which is made for dogs with diabetes or dogs who are obese and my pup won’t eat it of course. I’ve cooked some chicken and mixed the W/D with that and of course he eats all the chicken and maybe a little of the W/D but it’s mostly left behind.. I could get the canned W/D and syringe feed it to him which he won’t like but will at least be getting the proper nutrients. The vet is starting me off with only 1 unit which is so minimal I feel like I’m just pricking him and nothing is happening, I can’t even feel myself pushing the insulin in.. He needs to fatten up he is so skinny after this whole ordeal and hungry all the time but the vet recommends just twice a day feeding with no treats or snacks for the first week until I bring him back in and I don’t want to give him anything that’s high in carbs or sodium.

  15. John Blackwell

    My 7 year old fox terrier was diagnosed with diabetes last week. Just came home from the vet yesterday (10-14-14) evening. He is very, very weak and has trouble walking, standing at this point. I think because he was so sick before I returned to the vet.

    vets instructions: Feed him anything he will eat at least 30 minutes prior to his insulin shots which are 12 hours apart. 2 units each shot but after reading some of these posts not sure that is enough. The vet had difficulty getting my dog’s sugar levels regulated and they still spike in the evenings. His sugar levels were still shooting up into the 300s in evening but back down into 140s to 160s in morning. I don’t have a way to monitor his blood sugars yet.

    Yesterday I had to force feed him and was only able to get about 5 tablespoons of Hills A/D down my dog. He will drink if I stand him in front of the water bowl and he seems to be a bi more alert this morning but still low energy and not active.

    I love this little dog and have offered up more prayers in the past week than in the past 3 years but I know I need facts and information. I am concerned that the vet just sent my dog home to die after reading all the above posts. He didn’t give me any real feeding instructions at all after I asked him except ‘feed him whatever he will eat and as much as he will eat’ which at this time is nothing unless I make him eat. My dog now weighs about 6-7 lbs (estimate) and is 7 years old. He hasn’t been active in a few weeks I suppose due to his diabetes condition unknown to me until late last week. I don’t know the kind of insulin and didn’t realize I should ask. It is something the vet gave me in small vial, placed in a pill bottle with the label marked ‘Vetsulin’.

    I am going to try some boiled chicken and I make my own broth. What is safe for me to add to the water when I make the broth to make it more enticing to my dog? Is a little bit of salt safe to add at this point?

    Any and all comments/suggestions will be so much appreciated. Please help me save my best friend!!! Thanks in advance.

    John B

  16. Jeff Mendelsohn


    I’ve found in my experience that most vet’s haven’t had to deal with diabetes so it is worth pressing your vet more for more help or to call around in your area for a vet that has worked with diabetic dogs.

    Did the vet do any other tests? Did they check to make sure your dog’s liver, kidney’s and other organs are functioning ok?

    What normal food are you feeding you dog?

    As far as your vet’s instructions. I think he is trying to get your dog back to eating and getting his strength back up. But to me, this is not a long term solution but for now, every dog has that food that will get them excited and eating, it could be some plain grilled chicken cut up and mixed in with normal food or ground beef with green beans mixed in with normal food or peanut butter mixed in with normal food. It is usually about the smell. Just remember diabetes is the inability to process sugar properly, just like diabetes in humans, stay away from foods that have lots of sugars or will convert to sugars, such as corn and rice.

    For Bender, I add a teaspoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of warm water to his food, then mix. It brings out a good smell and he usually can’t eat it fast enough.

    When Bender was on Hill’s W/D he wasn’t excited about his food. It was bland. Hill’s A/D might be the same.

    Your dog will never be regulated until you get him on a schedule and feed him proper food. Stay away from Hill’s W/D. I’ve posted a lot about food and getting your dog regulated throughout this blog. In Bender’s case, he eats the same amount at the same times every day, he doesn’t get any extra people food and if he does that has to be factored into his insulin needs.

    For the amount of insulin, every dog is different. Being able to test at home will allow you to dial in the amount of insulin needed.

    Vetsulin seems to be back on the market and so long as it is working for your dog, there is no reason to change, but there are options out there. Walmart/Sam’s club have ReliOn which is Novolin branded for Walmart for $25/bottle.

    For your dog’s curve, again, each dog is different. Bender fluctuates between 80-250 most days. But if I up his insulin even a little he will crash on our run or during the night.

    But if you dog is not doing good, I would call around to other Vet’s who have experience with diabetes and won’t just read from their vet book.

  17. My mongrel (Staffordshire Bull/Border Collie) is 15 years old; diabetic for the past 4 years; glaucoma/blind in both eyes with 15% peripheral vision perhaps; occasionally incontinent and now he has his dementia moments. It all sounds horrendous but his ‘Spirit’ is still there and we do have our daily fun: it’s like looking after a ‘non-complaining’ happy adult in a care home.

    So, I’ve paid a website visit to pick up tips on ideas for his growing picky feeding habits that have sort of crept up on us. No new ideas, alas, I guess the dog wins with his demands for beef and tuna steak each meal…LOL I first came here a few years ago in a sort of panic after finding the dog was diabetic and it was up to me to stick a needle in his neck twice a day!

    My tips for dealing with a diabetic dog:

    1) A regimented daily routine makes for a simpler life. The routine will not be the be-all-end-all, it just makes life easier for you and the dog by minimising those untoward events that will occur no matter how rigid the dog’s routine is. Think of the routine as a sort of Groundhog Day, each day is a replica of the previous day.
    2) With such a strict routine the dog will inevitably have diabetic episodes that you, your vet and no amount of laboratory tests can explain. Just stick to, and work through, the routine as best you can. A diabetic human (if you know one) will explain the out-of-the-blue set-backs they incur inexplicably and the three/four days it takes to get themselves back onto an even-keel. Trying to alter feeding and insulin doses during these episodes will put you and your dog on a roller-coaster that will take weeks to level out.
    3) Dogs are sensory, they can sense your anxiety no matter how hard you try to hide it – you can’t! Things changed for me when I came to terms with the fact my dog was going to die. A bit bleeding obvious to say (and type) but when I came to terms with that and decided to do the best that I can for him, and put him down when his ‘spirit’ had gone , everything else came easy and fell into place. The primary important rule I found was to create a workable daily routine and enjoy the journey with him.

    My dog is coming to his end. If he lives the next six months I’ll be astounded. It has been a crazy 4 years of every human and canine emotion there is to be had and as for mistakes, I think I have the record for mistakes being made. Learn from your mistakes and good luck…

  18. Shyann is a 7 year old cha- terrier for a lack of a name that weighted 27.7 lbs four weeks ago She has had a hard life to have such a good life. She too is very picky and set in her ways (her way or no way). I swear she doesn’t know she’s a dog! She was diagnosed with diabetes with a bs of 671. I was told by her vet to give her Royal Canin instead of her Kibbles and Bits (she really didn’t eat as her meals just as a snack) and it was ok to give her chicken every other night as I have done since she was 4 weeks old weighting in at 2 lbs. I took her back to the vet today because she has lost all her energy and is more demanding than ever. She weighed in at 23.4 lbs and her blood sugar was 316. Shyann refuses to eat her RC , she may or may not eat her chicken and the vet wants to know what else she will eat? She is like all humans if it’s bad for you she likes it (ranch, mayo, pasta, sweet tea and the list goes on) she won’t eat any meat other than chicken unless it’s dipped in ranch she loves salad but again only if it’s got ranch. I have stopped giving her anything that she will eat except for her chicken, rawhide, milk bones, and jerky (I make for her using chicken breast and celery) the vet placed her on 5ml of vetalin 1 time of day after meals. How do I make this happen when I can’t get her to eat? Any helpful hints or recipes would be great. Thanks in advance

  19. Jeff Mendelsohn


    I am glad you are not feeding your dog kibbles and bits any more, that is like eating McDonalds for every meal.

    If Shyann refuses to eat RC, then I would try another high protein, low fat, low carb food. I prefer Wellness Core Grain Free Reduced Fat but there are plenty of other similar types out there. If you have to add something to the food to get her to eat then factor that into the insulin shot amount. I would slowly ween your dog off of what ever you are adding. Dogs are smart and will do what they can to get their way. So if Shyann refuses to eat and then you give her a bit of ranch on her food. She will refuse to eat every time until she gets it. You need to break that habit and get her eating her food without it.

    Something that might help is exercising your dog before each meal. Consult your vet on how much and what type of exercise. It should help to get Shyann hungry.


  20. I have a 12 yr old Brussels Griffon. He is diabetic and all has been fine for the passed 4 years. Lately he as developed the most unbelievable “gas”. It could clear a room. He is on W/D Hills formula food and 10 units of insulin 2x a day. I have talked with the Vet about the problem but we have had no relief. We need help!!

  21. Jeff Mendelsohn


    I don’t know what to do to stop your dog from being gassy. Bender gets gassy. It is just a part of owning a dog.

    However, besides Hill’s W/D being a TERRIBLE food for diabetic dogs, you might consider switching foods to see if that helps.

    We have found some dog biscuits and certain diabetic friendly foods cause Bender to be even more gassy. Are you giving treats? If so what kind?


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