Last week we discussed insulin pens in general, and situations that indicate using an insulin pen instead of the old school standard of insulin syringe and vial of insulin. If you’d like, you can go back and read that article.

This week we will discuss specifically the VetPen that should receive approval in the USA this year and is already in the European and Canadian markets for the insulin, Vetsulin (known as Caninsulin in Europe and Canada).

Insulins are not all the same. Some pets may do better on one kind of insulin than another. Vetsulin is a good insulin choice for many dogs. It also has FDA approval for cats, but we veterinarians tend to choose longer acting insulins for our feline patients. Insulin pens are made for the delivery of insulin into a patient. The VetPen is calibrated for the concentration and viscosity of the insulin Vetsulin, just as Lantus pens are made specifically for the insulin Lantus. When the VetPen does get approval for use in the United States, I suspect many veterinarians will opt to use the VetPen for smaller canine patients.

I like the idea of an insulin pen made specifically for veterinary patients. It’s not so much that pets have of a fear of needles but many of their humans have a fear of needles. Insulin pens take some of the fear out of administering insulin to Fluffy. They do still require a pen needle change with each use, but some of the injection anxiety people suffer is lessened with a pen than a syringe. Additionally, at smaller doses the accuracy of a pen is higher and more predictable than with a syringe. We veterinarians love consistency in diabetic patient care.

VetPen will come in 2 sizes. The insulin within each size pen is the same as the Vetsulin that comes in the 10 ml Vetsulin vial, but the pens are made for dosing up to 8 or 16 units maximum per dose. The 8 unit pen will have half unit increments. The 16 unit dose pen will have one unit increments. These pens can be used for 3,000 or more actuations. You will be required to refill the cartridge when emptied, but the pen is reusable. When a cartridge is changed, the new cartridge must be charged or “primed” to remove the air.

Insulin pens can be useful in situations where a pet owner has manual dexterity issues or visual impairment. Pets who are already on Vetsulin may have slight adjustment to the current dose simply because the accuracy of the VetPen tends to be better than pet insulin syringes for our smaller patients.

One difference with the VetPen compared to an insulin syringe is that users need to hold the pen in place against the pet for 5 seconds before removing the pen. The company warns that premature removal of the needle will lead to inappropriate dosing. Of course if your veterinarian changes you to the VetPen administration route, there will be plenty of instructions that accompany the product.

I’m not telling anyone to change insulin! It’s a pain in the you know what to transition a pet from one type of insulin to another. Nonetheless, as Vetsulin is one of the most common first choices for newly diagnosed diabetic dogs, I expect many of you may be using these pens in the near future.

I enjoy interacting with our readers. Feel free to contact me at Joi.SuttonDVM@adwdiabetes.com.


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 and is the President and Founder of 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