I own a small animal general practice but I am also a pet diabetes educator. I’ve been writing articles about diabetic pet management and more for ADWDiabetes since 2011. I enjoy taking a subject that many folks find overwhelming and making it simple. Yes, I know that deer in the headlights look clients have when we tell them they will be poking Fluffy with needles and checking the blood glucose at home!
You will note that when I give advice it is usually generalized. It would be wholly inappropriate for me to give specific advice to anyone if I hadn’t personally examined the pet. I hope you see my articles as a starting point for a discussion with your family veterinarian. And for folks who do email me, I often start by sending them my “Back to Basics” articles. Nonetheless, in my interactions with readers, I do run across some habits that make it difficult to regulate diabetes.
I find some common areas for improvement when emailing with ADW readers. Perhaps you might find something that can improve your pet’s glucose regulation. Here it goes:
Avoid mid-meal snacks unless you believe your pet’s blood glucose is low. The majority of calories should be fed at the time of insulin injections, about every 12 hours. Snacks between insulin injections typically cause unwanted increases in blood glucose levels.
Do Your Own Blood Glucose Monitoring
Own a pet blood glucose meter and do blood glucose curves on a regular basis. Even if you think your pet is well-regulated, run a blood glucose curve every 3 months or so. It is better to tweak the insulin dose when a pet is doing well overall than to wait until your pet is poorly regulated and potentially have a urinary tract infection or worse, ketoacidosis. If we ever do tweak the dosage, you should do another curve 5 to 7 days later to see how the new dose affects your pet. Regardless of how often you check your pet’s blood glucose, a curve tells us how long the insulin lasts for your particular pet and how low the blood glucose goes at that dosage. Curves are what we use to evaluate dosing. Curves at home are typically more accurate than those at the clinic as there is no stress hyperglycemia at home. Additionally, curves are also more affordable when done at home compared to having your veterinarian run the curve at the clinic. Besides, your pet appreciates not having to spend the day at the vet clinic.
Inject Insulin Every 12 Hours
Try to give injections every 12 hours. Some folks give their pet’s insulin and food when the humans in the family eat. Seriously, I can’t tell you the times folks have written me saying they give the insulin and meal at 8AM and again at 5PM or some other odd schedule—that is NOT 12 hours apart. In general, diabetic pets do best when fed equally portioned meals and equal insulin doses every 12 hours. This equal dosing business doesn’t include cat owners who strive for tight diabetic control. These folks might adjust the dosage at each meal, but they still strive for meals 12 hours apart. Obviously, sometimes life gets in the way of your best laid plans. You might get stuck in a long meeting or in rush hour traffic such that you can’t get home for Fluffy’s injection. Still, strive for injections every 12 hours. Have a neighbor or friend on call for such unforeseen circumstances. It takes a village to regulate a diabetic pet.
Book Regular Check-Ups
Have regular check-ups with the vet to catch potential causes of insulin resistance early. Some of the most common causes of insulin resistance for dogs and cats include dental disease, urinary tract infections and obesity. You and your vet are a team. You can show your vet Fluffy’s blood glucose logbook and have a thorough physical examination. When you have a strong relationship with your family veterinarian you can bet your vet is more likely to give you a personal phone number for “after hours” situations. I give all of my diabetic pet clients at my vet clinic my cell phone number. I understand most veterinarians don’t do this except for their very favorite clients. Be that spectacular pet owner!
Avoid Running Out Of Food
Don’t run out of your pet’s food. Seriously, I own a vet clinic and I’ll admit I’ve gotten home and realized I forgot to bring home pet food. Many diabetics are on prescription diets, usually low carb diets for cats and complex carb diets for dogs. A diet change can easily affect your pet’s blood glucose level and insulin requirement. Earlier I mentioned that if you ever adjust the insulin dosage you should run another blood glucose curve in 5 to 7 days. The same is true of a diet change! If you change your pet’s diet I want you to run a blood glucose curve in 5 to 7 days. I’ve seen dramatic changes in glucose levels from diet changes, particularly when diabetic cat owners take away kibble and go to canned low carb diets.
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.