Pet owners run the gamut from lackadaisical to overzealous when it comes to management of their diabetic pets. We don’t want to over-test and strain the emotional bond between the diabetic pet and the human due to excessive pokes with a lancing device. And yet we also want good diabetes control. Furthermore, some diabetic pets are easy to manage yet others make vets want to pull their hair out. No two situations are the same, but in general, even for a well-controlled diabetic pet, there are some tests and procedures I’d recommend on a regular basis.
Run glucose curves at least quarterly
The phrase “glucose curve” means checking the blood glucose every 2 hours from one insulin injection until the next, twelve hours later. These curves tell us not only how long insulin lasts in your pet, they also tell us just how low the blood glucose goes. The “nadir” (where the blood glucose bottoms out) really matters! We want the nadir to be around 100, but if the nadir is below that we may need to back off on the insulin dose. Likewise, if the nadir is at 200, we would likely increase the insulin dose. It’s so important to know the nadir that I have pet owners check the glucose hourly if the glucose goes below 150 mg/dl. Once it starts to rise again I have them go back to every 2 hours. We run a glucose curve weekly when we start a pet on insulin until we find the best dose. We like to sneak up on a dose. If we start with too high a dose it is much harder to find the right dose for a pet. If we adjust the dose, we wait a week to run another curve. Even if you think your pet is well-regulated, it’s best to run a curve every few months to ensure your pet is indeed under control. It’s a lot cheaper (and better for your pet) to be proactive!
Have full labwork and urine culture at least annually
Diabetic pets are immunosuppressed relative to non-diabetic pets. Diabetics are prone to fatty liver disease. Additionally, they are prone to urinary tract infections. Pets age faster than humans. One year to a human is equivalent to several years for pets. It only makes sense to monitor a full blood chemistry, CBC and urinalysis at least once a year for diabetic pets. I like to run urine cultures on diabetic pets at least once a year as well. At my vet clinic I have an in house urine culture incubator that makes it far more economical to run a urine culture than to send it to an outside reference lab when I expect (well, hope) that a urine culture will be negative. Once again, our goal is to be proactive in diabetic management rather than find ourselves with a pet in diabetic crisis.
Doggie or kitty dental annually
Have I harped on this point recently? Infection is one of the biggest causes of insulin resistance. Dental disease is one of the most common sources of infection in middle aged and older pets. Diabetic cats on canned only food (as we encourage low carb canned food for diabetic felines) are particularly prone to tartar build-up and dental infection. If only our pets would floss!
Finally, I’d strongly recommend you have at least 2 people you trust to care for your sweetie when you go on vacation. Why 2? If a friend is loyal and caring enough to learn how to manage your diabetic pet in your absence, there’s a decent chance you’ll want to take that friend on vacation with you!
Happy New Year to you and your pets!
NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.