BY DR. DONNA SPECTOR DVM, DACVIM
Detailed info on how to manage diabetes in your pets!
Diabetic pets can live normal, healthy lives with proper at-home management and routine veterinary care. With the introduction of newer insulin types, home urine and blood testing,and appropriate foods, treating diabetes at home is easier than ever for pet owners. While it might seem daunting at first, with proper support, you can do this!
Diet Is Key
Your veterinarian will guide you toward the best diet for your diabetic pet. Typically, higher-fiber foods with complex carbohydrates are recommended for diabetic dogs. Diabetic cats are best managed with high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods and may even achieve diabetic remission with these foods.
Once a healthy diet is established, blood sugar will be easiest to control if the same type and amount of food is given at the same time every day. If treats are given, select low-carbohydrate treats and give according to your veterinarian’s recommendation. Midday treats should usually be avoided.
The most effective way to gain control of your pet’s diabetes is to administer twice-daily insulin injections. These injections provide the insulin that your pet is producing too little of or that your pet cannot use effectively. There are many types of insulin available, and your vet will tailor insulin therapy specifically to your pet’s needs.
Learning to administer insulin injections can seem daunting at first, but your veterinarian will demonstrate proper technique, allowing you to gain confidence quickly.
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The amount of insulin administered to your pet is based on the amount of sugar in the blood at the time of injection. Administering too much insulin can cause potentially life-threatening hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Administering too little insulin will result in hyperglycemia or high blood sugar.
The best way to avoid hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia is to ensure proper insulin dosing and administration and to maintain your pet’s blood sugar within an acceptable range by proper at-home monitoring.
Monitoring Blood Glucose at Home
Home glucose monitoring has been used by human diabetics for decades, and it is now available to pet owners. At-home blood glucose monitoring allows more accurate insulin treatment and therefore more consistent control of blood glucose. In cats, at-home monitoring has resulted in higher remission rates, and it has resulted in significant reduction in short- and long-term diabetic complications due to low or high blood sugar levels in both dogs and cats.
Checking blood sugar at home is simple — you just need a device and proper instruction. Since there is only one device that has been specifically calibrated for dogs and cats, your veterinarian will likely have a short recommendation list on which one to use! The process is simple. The skin is pierced with a tiny lancet and a small drop of blood is gathered onto a testing strip. This strip will provide a blood glucose
measurement within seconds.
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Your vet will tell you how frequently to check your pet's blood glucose. When diabetes has first been diagnosed or there is a change in insulin dosage, you will likely be performing more frequent checks throughout the day. All information obtained from at-home monitoring should be recorded to be shared with your vet.
Keep a Journal
With at-home care, you will be collecting valuable information every day about your pet that will help you and your veterinarian control your pet’s diabetes most successfully. At-home care minimizes the risks of hypoglycemia and helps prevent costly complications of diabetes that often result in hospitalization.
It is important to keep a daily journal. Include the following notes:
All meals and treats
All blood glucose and/or urine glucose and ketone measurements
Insulin dosage and injections
Depending on how well your pet’s diabetes is controlled, these results may be passed on immediately or shared at the next regularly scheduled checkup with your vet. Ask your vet about the best way and how frequently to share this information to benefit your pet.
And remember: At-home care and monitoring do not replace regularly scheduled veterinary appointments. You should still plan on bringing your diabetic pet in every three to four months to be evaluated.
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