Diabetes in Cats and Dogs

Learning your dog or cat has diabetes can be overwhelming. The learning curve is steep and there is often a sense of urgency, particularly if your pet was sick at the time of diagnosis. Not only do you have to familiarize yourself with the disease, possible complications, and treatment protocols, you are also learning hands-on skills and likely shifting the daily rhythm of your pet’s life. It is important to remember that in most cases, management of a diabetic cat or dog WILL become routine. Diabetic cats and dogs often have an excellent quality of life, despite how sick they may have been at the start of treatment. The following checklist is intended to guide you through conversations with your veterinarian, to ensure you have the information you need. 

General education
After speaking with your veterinarian, you should be able to answer the following questions: What is diabetes? What will change in the daily life of my pet? What will my role be as an owner? What will my veterinarian’s role be?

The following websites can be helpful:

Supplies
Insulin and Syringes. Not all insulin is the same, not all syringes are the same. Pay particular attention to which insulin has been prescribed, what size syringes you will be using, and whether those syringes are U40 or U100.

Food. Diabetic pets often require a prescription diet and carefully timed meals. Ask whether you should follow a particular protocol for transitioning type of food or timing of food.

Glucometer, stylets, and test strips. Not all human glucometers are calibrated for cats and dogs. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations before purchasing a unit.

Sharps container. Ask about a sharps container for disposal of used syringes. Ask what your clinic’s policy is for disposal of full containers. 

Skills
Insulin Injections. Feel free to ask for demonstrations (plural) if you are feeling uncomfortable about your ability to administer insulin. Try to have all family members who will be giving injections at the clinic.

Checking blood glucose. While this skill is not critical for the home care of your pet, it can give you a great deal more control as well as save you money.

Home glucose curve. If you are comfortable spot checking blood glucose levels at home, ask your veterinarian to guide you through a home glucose curve.

Finances
To avoid financial surprises, ask the following questions:  What will it cost to start care for my pet? What are my monthly expenditures going to be? What yearly veterinary services will my pet require?

Emergencies
Sometimes, despite our best efforts at management, glucose values will become too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia). Ask your veterinarian what signs and symptoms to monitor for, and what to do if you do identify them.

Know where to go for nighttime and weekend emergency care.