As a veterinarian, I have a strong preference for my clients with diabetic pets to run their blood glucose curves at home. It is less stressful for the pet at home than to be kenneled in a vet clinic for the day. Anxiety in the clinic can falsely elevate the blood glucose, a phenomenon known as “stress hyperglycemia”. Furthermore, the cost of a handful of glucose test strips is much more affordable than paying the vet staff to run the blood glucose curve for you. Over the years, that’s a big savings. You’d think no one would have a glucose curve run at the clinic. Wrong! Some folks are very resistant to checking Fluffy’s blood glucose at home. Especially when they hear they have to get a blood sample.
Perhaps the biggest deterrent to clients checking a pet’s blood glucose is that they feel like meanies by poking their darling pet to get the blood sample. Yes, they poke Fluffy with a needle to give an insulin injection, but blood is rarely seen with an insulin injection! Maybe if the pet has a very short hairdoo we might see a hint of blood at the injection site, but most of the time no blood is seen. I know some really brave people who turn green at the sight of blood.
The good news is that current blood glucose meters require a very small droplet of blood to yield a glucose reading. And as you get proficient, the sight of blood, if you are the squeamish sort, will become less of an impact visually, particularly if you follow my tricks.
Prepping for the Blood Sample
First off, warm the area where you plan to poke your pet. Whenever I diagnose a diabetic pet I give the client a sock of uncooked rice or uncooked beans. I put 3 or 4 tablespoons in stockingette material with a knot on each end. You could use a baby’s sock with a knot in the end to keep the rice enclosed. The point is that it would be soft and suitable to put in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up the rice or beans. This little “warm pack” only needs to be an inch or 2 in diameter, just big enough that when slightly warmed can be placed on the blood collection site and not be offensive to your pet. This warmth causes the blood vessels to dilate and makes it easier to collect blood with the lancing device.
Next, always have a tissue or piece of gauze to place over the blood collection site after you collect the blood. Use it to absorb any excess blood and apply pressure to prevent a bruise.
Where to Poke Fluffy
Finally, we will discuss where to poke your sweetie. I won’t lie. Some pets are easier than others. Most pets are compliant, particularly if you have an extra human to distract the pet. Rarely, a pet of the grouchy variety that might nip the pet owner. In those situations I’d just as soon have the curve run at the vet clinic where we have trained staff. Or, we might utilize a fructosamine or A1c level in that situation if the pet is sincerely too grouchy even for trained staff. Again, stress of a clinic stay can cause stress hyperglycemia.
Assuming your pet is compliant, then we survey potential look collection sites. It’s usually easier if the pet is larger. It’s just harder when the dog or cat weighs 5 pounds compared to a bigger pet!
Lancing devices are not complicated machinery. I like when lancing devices have an adjustable depth. It your pet bleeds easily you would adjust it to a more shallow penetration depth.
My favorite spot on cats and small dogs is usually the marginal ear vein. If you shine a flashlight on the edge of the ear you can usually see the vein. You can ask your vet to shave the fur off a spot on the ear to make this vein even easier to view. You might aim the lancet/lancing device right at this marginal ear vein, or if the ear is meaty you can sometimes just get a sample from the non haired part in the inside of the ear. Again, the sock trick is very helpful. Warming an area before using the lancet can make all the difference in the world. Heat the sock with rice or beans in the microwave until it is warm but not hot.
Some folks have good luck, especially with big dogs, by using the inside of the cheek. They flip the lip inside out, dab off any spit and proceed. If you have a relaxed, knucklehead Labrador this might be the perfect spot for you.
I love it when older dogs have hairless elbow calluses. They are one of my favorite spots to get blood! I’m not much of a fan of using feet or toes though because so many pets are foot sensitive already. I don’t wish to add to that. You can have your vet shave a spot on the hip, especially if your pet has some meat on his bones. Have a look with your veterinarian to determine what may be the best spot on your pet!
Poking your pet takes bravery and perseverance. Sometimes I show clients how to do check a blood glucose and they get home and can’t remember! It’s a lot to take in. I tell them they can come back every day for me or one of my vet nurses to show them again and again until they get it. Practice makes perfect.
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NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.