Ask Dr. Joi – Questions About Glucose Meters From Our Readers

By Dr . Joi Sutton|2023-09-25T13:56:17-04:00Updated: May 7th, 2015|Pet Care, Pet Diabetes, Pet Newsletter|2 Comments

Interacting with ADW customers is one of the best parts of my job. As the staff veterinarian at ADW, I get great access to lots of diabetic pet owners and then I can translate our talks into newsletters that may be of value to all of you.

Here is a small sampling of the email encounters I’ve had in just the last few days. Maybe you, too, will pick up something new.

What does it mean when a glucose meter reads “hi” or “lo”?

When a glucose meter gives the reading “hi” or “high” it means that the glucose level is above whatever maximum level the meter can read. In the past, most meters topped out at about 500 mg/dl. The AlphaTRAK 2 meter can read up to levels of 750 mg/dl. Honestly, any number over 500 is not good!

If a meter reads “lo” it probably is below 20 mg/dl. You need to read the fine print of whichever meter you use, but for most meters “lo” is 20 or less. This, too, is a crummy and dangerous number to have!

Does the number on the test strip bottle have anything to do with the glucose level?

I hadn’t ever thought too closely as to why various batches (both human and pet calibrated meters) are coded differently. This client had a good question! For decades I had simply accepted that we just do it – change the code for a new bottle or change the code to match the number for the species on the bottle. The coding has to do with the calibration for that batch of test strips. It is certainly a potential source of error if the user doesn’t change the code when a new batch of test strips is opened. Some human glucose meters are getting away from changing the code bottle to bottle and I imagine that, in time pet glucose meters will follow suit.

Nonetheless, for the pet glucose meters you need to code for the species (ie the AlphaTRAK meter) or use a different chip (ie the IPet meter) for dogs versus cats. The number coded on the bottle has nothing to do with the glucose level of the pet. Pay attention – if you don’t code correctly you can get erroneous blood glucose results.

Do I really need to shell out the money for a pet calibrated glucose meter when I was given a human glucose meter for free from a friend?

Human glucose meters tend to underestimate the glucose level of a dog or cat. It has to do with how much of the glucose is in the plasma versus the red blood cells between species. This varies between dogs versus humans versus cats.

For many years we didn’t have glucose meters calibrated for dogs and cats. Veterinarians used human meters for pets. Some were better than others. Some required more blood than others. Now that we have pet glucose meters I strongly encourage owners to use them. Yes, it’s a smaller market than the vast human diabetes market which means the test strips may cost a bit more. Nonetheless, the improved accuracy can make a world of difference in you diabetic pet’s health. The better the glucose regulation the less likely it is for a pet to wind up in the ER in a crisis. Diabetic complications and visits to the ER can set you back a lot more money than a bit extra in test strips for a pet glucose meter compared to a human glucose meter.

I’m always happy to have ADWDiabetes readers send me questions.It is where many of these newsletter ideas come from! Keep those questions coming to [email protected].

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian to confirm that my recommendations are applicable for the health needs of your pet.

About the Author: Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida. Connect with Dr. Joi on LinkedIn


  1. Jarolyn Geist January 16, 2023 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    I have a Vet GlucoGauge Meter for my dog and the test strips are very expensive. I have run several tests using the GlucoGauge Meter and a Bayer Contour Next human meter and the results are about 50 points different, with the human meter recording lower. Is it reliable to use the human meter and adding 50 points when checking my dogs blood sugar, or safer to stick with the pet GlucoGauge Meter?

    • Dr . Joi Sutton January 22, 2023 at 3:17 pm - Reply

      I have not used the Vet GlucoGauge meter myself. Pet glucose meters are more accurate for pets than human meters. It has to do with the amount of blood glucose in the plasma versus within the cell. The meter I typically recommend is the Alphatrak because it uses such a tiny droplet of blood to get a reading. It’s test strips are pricier than the typical human test strips as well. I do think it is best to stick with a veterinary meter as 50 points can be significant. Most blood glucose meters are more accurate when the blood glucose is in or near the normal range. The further from the normal range the less accurate the reading can be. How is that for an ambiguous answer! I’d stick with the veterinary meter even though the test strips are more. Disregulation can result in very expensive trips to the ER.
      I am very glad you are doing home testing. Home testing takes stress hyperglycemia out of the picture. (Some pets get extremely stressed in vet clinics.) Good job!

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