What’s the Normal Blood Glucose Range for Pets?

By | 2017-11-29T11:36:03+00:00 October 23rd, 2014|Pet Care, Pet Diabetes, Pet Newsletter|28 Comments

This week one of our readers asked me what the normal blood glucose range is for dogs and cats. One of her vets told her it was up to 170 mg/dl for cats. I agree! It can be that high if taken in a clinic environment where a cat may feels stress. Evaluations in a pet’s blood glucose do reflect the environment and stress level of the pet.

Imagine that you were a cat. You were purr-fectly happy sunning yourself on the back of the couch in the family room by the big window. Ah, that’s the life. Suddenly, and without warning, your human nabs you and shoves you (despite your best Houdini-like efforts) into a box and puts you in the car. Oh how you hate going in cars! The car ride ends and you pray your human has come to her senses but no… You have arrived at the vet clinic and there are yapping dogs in the lobby. Even a non-diabetic cat could have a blood glucose level of 170 or more after such a harrowing experience. I’m not kidding. I live one mile from my own veterinary hospital and when I take my cats to work for a dental check or something else that I can’t do at home they scream in their carriers as if someone was beating them with a stick.

This phenomenon is called “stress hyperglycemia”. It’s not unique to cats. I once saw a Chihuahua present to the ER with a blood glucose level in the 300s from stress hyperglycemia. This is all part of the fight or flight response.

How does stress hyperglycemia occur? Remember learning about the fight or flight response back in high school? It’s that same thing. In a stressful situation you release adrenaline (a.k.a. epinephrine), which can cause the liver to produce more glucose to help you get away from the adversity. Cats are specialists in stress hyperglycemia.

In my hospital I use in house blood machines and also send blood to an outside reference laboratory when I need a blood profile. The “normal range” for the parameters we measure (such as kidney values, liver values, electrolytes and such) are different for each type of machine. I typically place more confidence in outside reference labs over in house machines, because their “quality control” is very tight. I run in-house labs when I need answers ASAP when a pet is ill or if I’m suddenly needing to anesthetize a pet that we hadn’t planned for ahead of time. For my outside reference lab (a big national lab), the blood glucose range for cats is 64 to 170. And for dogs it is 70 to 138. My in house chemistry analyzer lists a normal range of 70 to 150 for cats and 60 to 110 for dogs. It’s all statistics. They test a bunch of “normal” pets to determine a normal range with that chemistry analyzer. Ranges for various machines are in the same ballpark – but not exactly the same exact numbers.

Now, if we are trying to fine tune a pet’s insulin dose to get the best glucose regulation, and therefore the best quality of life for your sweetie, doesn’t it make sense to avoid factors that can cause stress hyperglycemia? You bet! This is why I’m such a huge proponent of home glucose testing. Additionally, it saves families lots of money compared to having glucose tests run at the clinic, where stress hyperglycemia can affect accuracy.

As always, I enjoy hearing from our readers and clients. You can email me at Joi.SuttonDVM@adwdiabetes.com. I get a lot of our article topics from questions by readers.


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

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About the Author:

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 though 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.

28 Comments

  1. Blackwahoo October 23, 2014 at 9:53 am - Reply

    Great article. I am really luck to have found ADW!!!! You have the best prices and service.. Thanks ADW>

  2. Deanna Concidine October 23, 2014 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    I monitor my pets glucose at home, definitely much easier and less stressful. I was wondering what the normal range should be. Thanks for the article.

  3. Dr Joi October 23, 2014 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    You are very welcome. 🙂

  4. Donna October 24, 2014 at 10:16 am - Reply

    my dog will bite me before he will allow me to take his blood from a foot, leg or his gums. and I could not get any blood from his ear when I pricked it. Any thoughts on this?

    • Dr Joi October 24, 2014 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      Donna, I don’t want you to get injured! It sounds like he is less sensitive to attempts from his ears than elsewhere??? Tricks to getting a sample include warming the area first to cause vessels to dilate (so you get a better droplet of blood). I suggest using a sock filled with uncooked rice or beans. Pop that into the microwave to warm it then holding the warm filled sock next to the ear before using the lancet. This may dramatically improve the yield of blood. Also, ask your vet to clip away the fur over the marginal ear vein to prevent the fur from wicking away the blood drop. You can also ask your vet or one of the hospital nurses to show you. A picture is worth a thousand words. Finally, some glucose meters need more blood that others to get a result. I’m a high fan of the alphatrak 2 meter which takes a measely 0.3 microliter of blood to yield a result. Don’t give up, but don’t get bitten! You can also find soft cloth muzzles for your safety or if needed ask your vet to run the glucose curves. I’m a fan of home monitoring, but I sure don’t want you to be hurt.

    • CarlaS October 26, 2014 at 11:13 am - Reply

      Try doing this right before you feed him or have a treat ready such as green beans or some veggie he likes. I always do under the lip, not the gum. Just flip the lip up and go. Gums hurt to much I think and the ears don’t always give the blood you need, plus it leaves scaring. Good luck

  5. melanie October 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    Hi Dr. Joi. I monitor my dog’s blood glucose at home myself. She is 11 and a big dog and having very high levels in last few months. We are seeing a specialist and may change from Humilin N to Levimir. My dog gets SO stressed out going to the vet, groomer etc. I’ve tried a few things, homeopathics, Thunder shirt, but nothing works :((

    • Dr Joi October 24, 2014 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      It’s a pity that the Thindershirt didn’t help… I’ve had a few pets respond really well to it. You might ask your vet about a prescription of alprazolam for the grooming appointments. I’m glad you are heading to a specialist for advanced diagnostics. Let’s hope the internist gets your sweetie back into good regulation. Keep us posted!

  6. Love cats October 24, 2014 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    My vet said normal glucose was between 100-200 for my diabetic cat. BTW – I love your reading your posts. They are most informative.

    • Dr Joi October 24, 2014 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      😉 thanks!

  7. Chris A October 25, 2014 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Joi,
    Your articles are always great. I have an 8 year old diabetic kitty that is currently in remission. We test him now twice a week and his numbers are right in range. Our vet stated that remission usually lasts a year. My question is can a kitty in remission stay in remission the rest of his life?

    Thanks.

    • Dr Joi November 5, 2014 at 6:36 pm - Reply

      Yes, if you keep the body weight appropriate and keep your kitty on a low carb (canned food) diet, remission will hopefully last forever. Do monitor for the old signs of diabetes, but it is very possible for remission to be forever. 🙂

  8. CarlaS October 26, 2014 at 11:10 am - Reply

    I always do my testing right before I feed my dog. Now he sits and waits for me to take his blood!!! I do the under the lip. I used to do the ear, but it leaves too much scaring!

    • Dr Joi November 5, 2014 at 6:34 pm - Reply

      Dogs are smart. He knows something good will come. 🙂

  9. Norma K November 10, 2014 at 7:55 am - Reply

    I check my pet’s glucose at home, and give her insulin shots twice a day. But her readings were always high. My vet changed the insulin to Vetsulin insulin and it did help a lot, it cut down to half. But still her reading are so high (ranges between 250-600). Especially after she eats.
    But she is acting and eating normally. She is on low a fat diet due to her
    pancreatitis. She also had an epilepsy and taking Kbr 2 times a day. My Vet also recommended giving her Pepcid ac once a day and she’s taking Tylan powder.
    Any advice as to why her readings are so high? Thanks.

    • Dr Joi November 22, 2014 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      What time of day are the 250 -600 readings? Are these the lows and highs of a glucose curve or the glucose readings just before an insulin injection? I suggest running a curve and having your vet evaluate the dose! A curve means taking the glucose readings every 2 hours from one injection until another, hourly if it drops below 150. 🙂

  10. Sonny Crockett July 24, 2017 at 8:21 am - Reply

    Very informative article, thank you. We almost lost our little furry-bit-of-adorableness (cat) to diabetes. All her numbers were off the charts high and just before we were about to have to begin a serious discussion, our wonderful vet popped in and asked us to give him “24 hours” with her. Thankfully we did and after 8 days she was back home almost back to normal; the one stipulation being she needed an insulin shot daily. Short story shorter, she has something called “transient” diabetes and while being checked and recorded almost daily (Daily at first, this was three years ago) and she needs a shot once in awhile. Her sugar level varies from 170-402 (402 being the highest ever recorded by me). Our vet has told us, in her case, if her sugar creeps up over 320, she gets a shot, dose according to the scale he devised and she has been fine. She’s pretty cool when I have to prick her ear. She hops up on the counter and actually lays on her side. She’s 15 (as are all our other rescues, we have 5) and like the others, never ever leaves the house. Just wanted to share this story for anyone who may be overwhelmed initially, it’s a very “doable” situation. Peace!…..SC

    • Dr Joi July 24, 2017 at 11:53 am - Reply

      320 is high as a cut off point to give insulin, but I’m glad ou have developed a plan with our vet. And I’m glad you do home testing! For many people it is indeed a metal obstacle poking sir sweetie. And yes, it is “doable”! Are you feeding her a low carb canned diet? If not, chat with your vet and please consider it!! 🙂 Joi

      • Sonny Crockett August 17, 2017 at 7:18 pm - Reply

        Sorry for the long delay…..yes and NO dry food for this age was recommended; they’re all 16 years old. Thanks Doc!

  11. leslie December 1, 2017 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    thx for the article ! What is a good range level for a diabetic dog to be kept at ?

    • Dr . Joi Sutton December 1, 2017 at 8:57 pm - Reply

      In an ideal world we would have the blood glucose in the normal range all day! And yet, what is a more realistic goal for dogs is having most of the numbers under 300 mg/dL and to have have the nadir somewhere around 100 mg/dL. The threshold in the kidneys for blood glucose is somewhere around 250 to 300 mg/dlin dogs and cats. If we keep the blood glucose is below 300 mg/dL most of the day, pets won’t be excessively drinking and peeing all day and the quality of life is improved!

      (Note: For cats under tight diabetes regulation we want the numbers a bit lower while trying to get newly diagnosed diabetic cats into remission… Cats often have glucose toxicity that can resolve with insulin and a low carb diet and go into diabetic remission. So the above answer was more for dogs. Clients who try for tight diabetic control in their diabetic cats are truly dedicated and willing to check the blood glucose before each injection.)

      Joi

      • Janice L Zdyrski January 17, 2018 at 7:33 pm - Reply

        My 7yearold Siberian husky has diabetes as of 2 month ago. got the alphatrak meter and 2 days ago I was ble to check him through a skin tag on his leg. red 256. my vet which I am not happy with I have been giving in 18 unit novolin n a, and 19 pm. seems to drink alittle more. but playful. I am a nurse and deal with diabetic pt. when he first was dx range was over 400 then was told to give him10 and 10 then when I brought him back 89 omg. going to check him now. on Glyacobalance now$$ and plato cod skin treats for tatar and some purebites. if his reading is above 256 should I give him a little more insulin and going to find a new vet. Like I said I am giving him 18 in am and 19 at night because I am home. I think maybe 20 and 20 but dont know have a cuz in Austin tx but could not advise. but if it is high please help until i find a new vet thank you

        • Dr . Joi Sutton January 18, 2018 at 8:01 pm - Reply

          Janice, to sort the proper insulin dosage you should run a blood glucose curve. This means checking the blood glucose every 2 hours from one injection until the next, 12 hours later. Now, if the glucose goes below 150 mg/dL I’d like you to check it hourly. This way we don’t miss the nadir (where it bottoms out approximately). The nadir is ideally around 100. A curve tells us how long an insulin lasts for your particular pet, and the nadir tells us if we should increase or decrease or leave the insulin dose alone. 🙂

  12. Matt January 22, 2018 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    So then are you saying a normal range for cats without diabetes is a BG level between 64 – 170 daily? A cat without diabetes after eating would they still stay in that range or what is acceptable for a cat to raise after eating breakfast or dinner?

    I ask because our cat was recently diagnosed with diabetes an we started her on 2.2 units of Prozinc. With that dose, she would drop down to the 30s BG using the Alpha Trak 2 meter we purchased through your site. We now give 1 unit of insulin and her numbers are between 120-140 throughout the afternoon. When we test 12 hours later, she is around 191. Yesterday morning her BG was 138 so we didn’t give a shot at all and when we tested before dinner at 5PM (12 hours later) she was at 199.

    I’m trying to figure out normal range for cat without diabetes to figure out if maybe she’s in remission? How would I know?

    Thanks,

    Matt

    • Dr . Joi Sutton January 24, 2018 at 6:12 am - Reply

      Matt, you are doing a good job with your kitty’s glucose regulation. Now, as far as the 170 mg/dL is concerned, that is likely the laboratory’s upper limit of normal because that is blood pulled in a vet clinic and probably includes stress hyperglycemia.
      You are doing well to check a blood glucose before each injection with the beautiful numbers you report. Skip a dose if the glucose is normal or nearly so, or give a smaller dose if it is just slightly increased. These are things you can discuss with the vet who has examined your cat. Work out a plan! You might be skipping a dose, you might give a dose, or you might give a fraction of a dose.
      If she does indeed go into remission, be sure to keep her on the canned low carb diet forever. I’ve had more than one cat come out of remission when the family forgot and started feeding kibble again.
      Keep up the good work!!
      Joi 🙂

  13. Celine February 21, 2018 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Hello,

    My cat Lynx (age 6) was recently diagnosed a few months ago. Throughout the last few months we had to increase his insulin from 1 unit twice a day to 5 units twice a day. After six hours he was at 186 mg/dl. My mom did give him a protein treat I think within the last hour that I tested. What should it be ideally after six hours of insulin. He’s also really hungry, all the time. I’ve been checking his food dosage for his weight and split that in two between his meals.

    • Dr . Joi Sutton February 24, 2018 at 6:11 pm - Reply

      First of all, is he on canned food only? Low carb diets will not only improve your kitty’s blood glucose levels but likely also lower his ins7l8m requirement.
      Next, do you do blood glucose curves? A curve means checking the blood glucose every 2 hours from one insulin injection until the next, 12 hours later. Now, if the blood glucose drops below 150 mg/dL, do test hourly until it starts to rise again. This way we don’t miss where the glucose bottoms out. We want it to bottom out somewhere around 100 mg/dL. Where it bottoms out tells us if we should increase the dose, decrease the dose, or leave it where it is. A curve also tells us how long the insulin lasts in a pet.
      When you increased the dose from one to five units, did you do so grepadually, doing a curve about a week after each increase? If you increase the dose too quickly you May bypass the proper dosage for your pet and it will be hard to find regulation. I’m hoping you worked with your vet as you altered the dosage.
      Which insulin are you using? Cats tend to do best with a longer acting insulin such as glargine (my fave for cats) or pzi or levemir.
      Don’t hesitate to email me if you have further questions.
      🙂 Joi

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