Missed the previous article? Check it out here Back to Basics for Diabetic Pets | Part 2
Back to Basics Part 3: Blood Glucose Monitoring
We are going back to some of the basic questions pet owners may have when they learn their beloved pets have diabetes. For many of our readers this is a refresher. Read on… Maybe you will pick up a pearl! Today, we talk about pet blood glucose monitoring.
Do I really have to check my pet’s blood glucose?
Checking blood glucose at home is imperative to good diabetes regulation. It used to be the norm to do blood glucose monitoring only at vet clinics. This was problematic, as testing in the vet clinic causes inaccuracy due to stress hyperglycemia. Being in a vet clinic causes many pets significant anxiety. Anxiety causes adrenaline release which causes a spike in blood glucose. Stress hyperglycemia is an unfortunate but common event in vet clinics. If a vet thinks a pet’s blood glucose is higher than it actually is (due to stress from the clinic), the vet would prescribe a higher dose of insulin than the pet actually needs. Therefore, it is better to test the blood glucose in the home environment.
How often should you check your pet’s blood glucose?
This answer depends on you and your pet. If your pet is a fragile diabetic that is very difficult to regulate you will potentially need to check a pet blood glucose prior to each insulin injection. If you have a newly diagnosed diabetic cat and are striving for diabetes remission through tight diabetic control, the same applies. However, if your pet is stable, easy to regulate, and eats dependably at each meal you may only need to run periodic glucose curves.
What is a glucose curve?
Pet blood glucose curves are run to find out 2 important facts. They tell us how long a particular insulin lasts in a particular pet. Insulin may last 3 hours or it may last 8 hours. We don’t know unless we check a curve. Additionally, a curve tells us how low the blood glucose gets. We typically want the nadir (the point where the blood glucose bottoms out) to be somewhere around 100 mg/dl. If it goes too low we will need to decrease the insulin dosage. If it doesn’t go low enough we may increase the insulin dosage. Owners can check a curve and share the results with their veterinarian to start a plan! A pet may respond well with one insulin but not so well to another insulin.
How often should we run a glucose curve?
We check blood glucose curves every 3 months even in pets that we believe are well regulated. Glucose curves should also be run whenever you change insulin dose, starting about a week after the dosage change. For diabetic pets, full blood work should be run at least yearly and a urinalysis and urine culture should be run at least twice yearly.
My sock trick…
Whenever I send a newly diagnosed diabetic pet home with a pet blood glucose meter, I include a little sock of uncooked rice. You can fill a baby sock with 1/3 cup of uncooked rice or uncooked beans and tie a knot in the end. Pop this sock into the microwave for a few seconds to warm it. You don’t want it to be hot, just a smidge warm. Place the sock over the site where you wish to collect blood with a lancing device for 20 seconds before using the lancet. The warmth causes vasodilation of the area and the pet bleeds more easily. This is especially helpful for itty bitty pets that you think bleed like a turnip.
Another helpful tip is to use the clear cap on the lancing device. Most starter kits come with a lancing device. They often include 2 caps to the lancing device. I prefer using the clear cap so I can aim it at a vessel on the pet’s ear. You guessed it! The marginal ear vein is most often my favorite site for blood collection in pets, particularly cats and small dogs. If I have an older dog with callused elbows I really like that spot as well. Of course, you can ask your vet to shave a spot of skin anywhere as a target. Shaving the area helps because hair will wick away the droplet of blood and tempt you to use naughty words. If a pet has a tail fold many folks like using that area. I personally try to avoid feet as many pets are already sensitive to having their feet touched.
My final tip for collecting blood is to have the have the test strip poised at the meter so that once you have the drop of blood you can push it into the meter and quickly get a reading. What initially seems cumbersome soon becomes quite easy.
Just because we now have great and accurate meters to check blood glucose for pets doesn’t mean we can ignore clinical signs. Weigh your Pet! Monitor for increased thirst, urination, and hunger. If your pet seems happy and well regulated, there is a decent chance you are right. If your pet is losing weight and is always peeing and at the water bowl, run a curve and chat with your vet! Urine monitoring used to be common before we had home glucose monitors. There is still some value in urine test strips, but blood glucose curves are a much more definitive assessment of diabetes control.
Next week is the final installment of this series where we chat about ‘The What If’s’. Check out Back to Basics for Diabetic Pets | Part 4
Have a question or comment? Post below or email me at [email protected]. I always enjoy hearing from my readers!
NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.