You’ve studied the disease. You’ve purchased a glucose meter. You altered your schedule to ensure someone is home every 12 hours to give your diabetic pet insulin. And you run periodic glucose curves. A surprising perception of some diabetic pet owners is that the pet’s blood glucose is the same day to day. It isn’t!

Little things that we don’t necessarily consider can affect the blood glucose. This is why we like consistency in a diabetic pet’s routine.

Today I thought I’d mention 3 big factors that can affect blood glucose.

Exercise

Whether you are diabetic or not, physical activity can lower blood glucose levels. Increased exercise burns through calories and glucose. This is why we feel hungry after strenuous exercise. If you decide to take your diabetic dog for a hike, I’m sure you will remember to bring water. If this walk is more exercise than you and your dog usually tackle, do also pack your glucose meter and some treats in case your sweetie becomes hypoglycemic. Exercise is a wonderful thing for a diabetic pet, but be sure to pack snacks in case of low blood sugar levels.

Stress

Anxiety or emotional stress can increase the blood glucose. It’s the old ‘fight or flight’ adrenaline response that we learned about in high school. It’s the body’s way of providing energy to make a quick getaway in an emergency. There really isn’t anything we can do about occasional stress, as life tends to have its ups and downs. Nonetheless, if your sister is visiting with her screaming 3-year old child, it might not be the best day to check Fluffy’s glucose curve. Or perhaps this would be a good excuse to have them stay at a hotel (just kidding!).

Pet exercising chasing ball

Treats

Treats can increase the blood glucose. It is particularly carbohydrates that drive the increase in glucose levels. Remember how I harp on you to avoid mid-meal snacks if possible? Unless we know a diabetic dog is hypoglycemic, we don’t typically encourage feeding between insulin injections. Additionally, we strive for consistency. Consistency means consistent times fed, consistent timing of insulin injections (as close as your schedule can muster to every 12 hours), consistent exercise and consistent portions. If you are guessing or ball-parking how much you feed your diabetic pet, stop it. Either measure or weigh the food so that they are equally portioned meals.

Now when I say consistent meals, this would ideally pertain to diabetic dogs and diabetic cats. However, cats are bossy little creatures who like things their way. I live with them. I know how they are! My little feline monsters boss me around just as I’m certain your cats boss you around. I can tell you that it is ideal to “meal feed” your diabetic cat twice a day when you give the insulin, but most cats will assure you they are starving if they eat only twice daily. I feed my beloved felines right before I go to bed, yet they still stand on my head at oh-dark thirty, demanding breakfast.

In nature, cats are carnivores and eat few carbohydrates. Since we have found greater glucose regulation feeding diabetic cats low carbohydrate food, a low-carbohydrate snack between insulin injections probably won’t affect the glucose levels as much as a high-carbohydrate food would. Yes, most veterinarians would like you to feed your diabetic cat twice a day (when the insulin is given), but we want peace in your home. If kitty ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy. We pick our battles.


NOTE: Consult your veterinarian to confirm that my recommendations are applicable for the health needs of your pet.

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