Once your veterinarian confirms that your dog or cat has diabetes, he or she will likely prescribe a daily insulin therapy for your pet. This is an important first step towards maintaining your pet’s health—but it is only part of the equation. In order for treatment to be successful, you must take an active role and administer needed insulin, and also carefully monitor your pet, since your pet’s insulin needs will likely change over time.
Monitoring is a two-part process that involves watching for changes in your pet, as well as establishing new daily habits. These habits include logging your pet’s food and water intake; tracking the insulin dose; and watching for signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). In addition, you may be asked to perform urine tests and home Blood Glucose Curve tests.
Log the Basic Information
When it comes to monitoring your pet, you should keep a written log of your observations, either in a notebook or on a computer spreadsheet. If your pet’s health changes, you will want to share this information with your vet or if someone else is caring for your pet, you all want to be, literally, “on the same page.”
Here is the information you should track daily:
Amount of food and water consumed, as well as notes on overall appetite
Amount and frequency of urination
Amount of insulin administered in the morning and in the evening
Any changes in your pet’s appetite, behavior, body condition, drinking habits
If you notice any sign of increased drinking and urination, increased appetite or weight loss, contact your veterinarian.
Test for Glucose and Ketones
Ask your vet how often you should check your pet’s urine for high glucose. Some pet owners will need to check their pet once a day, others more often. Consistently high urine glucose readings along with excessive urination and drinking may be signs that your pet’s insulin dose needs to be changed. However, if you continue to get negative urine glucose readings, it may mean that your pet is getting too much insulin. In either case, consult your veterinarian.
Urine tests are also used to detect ketones, which are produced when your pet’s body breaks down fat for energy. Normally, your pet will get the energy it needs from its diet. However, if your pet’s diet does not contain enough carbohydrates to supply its body with glucose or if your pet cannot use glucose properly, stored fat breaks down and ketones are made.
If your pet has a positive ketone reading, and seems unhealthy (e.g., loss of appetite, weakness, etc.), contact your vet immediately. If your dog or cat seems healthy in spite of a high reading, your vet may suggest that you keep your pet at home and watch for any new symptoms.
Administer Blood Glucose Curves (BCGs)
You vet may also ask you to conduct a home blood glucose curve (BGC) to ensure your pet is producing the necessary insulin. A BGC simply means you will conduct a series of blood glucose checks and create a graph that maps the blood glucose levels of your pet over time. For instance, you will probably begin the process by charting your pet’s glucose level just before you feed and inject your pet with insulin, then check it again every hour or two hours until the next meal and injection.
Watch for Hypoglycemia
Too much insulin can cause hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose. Hypoglycemia can be a life-threatening, so learn the signs and contact your vet immediately if your pet is exhibiting any of them:
Visit Your Vet Every Three to Four Months
Even if your diabetic pet seems healthy, it can develop urinary tract infections and other disorders, so make sure to visit your veterinarian every three to four months. Also, be prepared: have a pet medical kit easily available, so you can add diabetes supplies to it quickly, in case of an emergency.