I get some great questions from clients. They inspire me with article ideas and keep me in tune with diabetic pet owners. I enjoy interacting with our readers, and sometimes the questions are worthy of a newsletter. I bet if one person has this question and takes the time to write me, there are likely lots of folks with a similar question. Todays question is about grabbing too much skin during an pet insulin injection.

Dr. Joi, tonight I believe I grabbed too much skin when giving my dog his insulin injection and POSSIBLY gave an intramuscular injection instead of subcutaneous. It hurt him. He cried and snapped at me. I was having a difficult time pulling up skin in a different area is what I believe happened. Is this harmful to him? Will he still get the effects of the effects of the insulin or is it just lost?

When I teach folks to give insulin injections, I have them practice over the shoulder blades for the first month or so until they feel comfortable. Over the shoulder blades it is usually easy to pick up the “scruff” of a pet, and for some reason it doesn’t seem to bother pets much there. As you do it more and more you become an old pro. Once you have the hang of it you can start rotating injection sites. It is best to move injection sites around so you don’t cause scar tissue by poking the same area over and over again. Scarring could hinder insulin absorption.

Every now and then a poke may come near a nerve in the skin and hurt a bit. Or, as you experienced, a pet may wiggle and you might give it intramuscularly (IM). An IM injection could certainly affect that dose. It might be absorbed more quickly or not last as long as a subcutaneous injection (particularly if the insulin is one that is pH dependent), but don’t fret… It was just the one injection. You will be back on track the next injection.

Now, you know to rub the area before the injection, yes? Your mom probably told you when you were a kid to rub a boo-boo to make it feel better. That’s hard science! Really, when you massage the skin before an injection it stimulates nerve endings in the skin and it really does help the injection hurt less. When I give a pet an injection of any sort (insulin, medication, vaccine, whatever) I rub the skin for a couple seconds before the injection, during the injection and a couple seconds after the injection. It really helps decrease discomfort of the injection. Besides, this is your sweetie and you want to pet and hug your darling after the injection regardless for being a good pet. You want the injection to be perceived by the pet as an episode of love and cuddles rather than a poke, but in reality it is both!

Every now and then you will “miss”. Everyone does! Maybe you feel wet fur after the injection and wonder. Maybe you know right away that the needle came out. Rarely will you know that the pet got all or got none of the injection. If you are not certain, don’t give another injection. Really, a short period (well, 12 hours) of hyperglycemia for a missed shot is safer than a short period of hypoglycemia from being dosed twice. Just wait until the next injection time in 12 hours and start fresh rather than risk an episode of hypoglycemia.

Chin up. Soon you will be very proficient with insulin syringes and injections. Again, once you get the hang of it start moving the injection site around. Maybe go down one side of your pet one week then back up the next side the following week.

Have a question or comment? Then post below! I always enjoy hearing from my readers!


NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.

Dr . Joi Sutton

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.
Dr . Joi Sutton