Many veterinary clients get irritated when veterinarians ask them to run blood glucose curves to assess the insulin dosage for their diabetic pets. When we prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications we don’t make clients poke the pet periodically to assess the dosage! Why do we pick on diabetic pet owners? Is it a conspiracy to bleed you dry financially or ruin your day off? Are veterinarians simply rotten humans out to torture diabetic pet owners? Well, no it’s no character flaw of your family vet. It’s that no two animals are the same. Pets vary in how they absorb insulin. Pets may also metabolize insulin at different rates. Some pets may be borderline diabetics in that the pancreas still has some function where others may not produce any insulin at all. It’s not an all or nothing situation with pancreatic function. Each patient is a new experience, and various factors can affect the dosage and glucose regulation. If only I had a crystal ball!
Absorption of Insulin Affects the Dose
Absorption of insulin varies between pets. Some pets may absorb one insulin better than they would absorb another type of insulin. If the weather is very cold, a pet will likely absorb less than in a warm environment. If a pet exercises after a dose of insulin it will likely absorb the insulin faster than a pet snoozing all day. Intramuscular injection would be faster absorption than a subcutaneous injection. We advise subcutaneous injections for pets, but if the owner accidentally gave it IM it would likely absorb more quickly.
Metabolism and Duration of Insulin Affects the Dose
We can’t say how long an insulin will last in your pet. Various factors influence metabolism and clearing from the body. Insulins are metabolized via the liver and kidneys. Pets with kidney or liver disease may take longer to metabolize the insulin and the insulin may last longer in the pet. After a while, patients could even develop antibodies to a particular insulin which can shorten the duration of action. Levemir insulin is protein bound in the body, so if the pet has low protein levels the insulin may not last as long. Sound confusing? No worries, this is why we run blood glucose curves!
What You Feed the Pet Affects the Insulin Dose!
It doesn’t take rocket science to know that feeding a diet high in simple carbs will wreak havoc on your pet’s sugars. One client told me that the only advice her vet gave her was, “Don’t feed him donuts.” This is good advice, but it really skims the top for nutritional advice! What to feed your diabetic pet is another newsletter, but know that diabetic cats usually do best on canned low carb diets! Can I stress this? Cats are not small dogs, and diabetic cats don’t do well with carbs. If you feed your cat kibble expect a higher insulin dose and a difficult time regulating the blood sugar. Diabetic dogs tend to do best when their diets have complex carbohydrates high in fiber.
How is Your Pet Doing?
If your pet is doing well on a particular insulin, stick with it. How do you know of your pet is doing well? We know by running blood glucose curves! How often? Even if you think your diabetic pet is doing fabulously well, I’d like you to run a curve at least every 3 months. As I mentioned at the start of this newsletter, insulin needs change over time. It’s much better to tweak the dose early than to find yourself in an unforeseen crisis later.
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.