When my dog Keetna was diagnosed with diabetes, my veterinarian told me to monitor her blood sugar with urine strips - an inaccurate but easy method. Blood glucose testing that human diabetics do is much more accurate. But veterinarians historically have not made blood glucose monitoring a part of home care. Now that may change, thanks to a diabetes summit sponsored by Abbott Animal Health, a pet pharmaceutical company.
So why haven’t veterinarians encouraged blood glucose monitoring? For many reasons; it requires some education, patience, and expense, but these are well worth it for the peace of mind you get with having accurate results.
During the first few days after Keetna was diagnosed, I spent a lot of time on the internet trying to educate myself about how to care for her. At that time, I was concerned about saving her life - she was not responding quickly to the insulin regimen. I read on an online forum that some people had taught themselves how to test their dogs’ blood with the same equipment that humans use. Healthy blood glucose readings for dogs are similar to that of humans.
So I went out and bought the equipment and starting testing. It was a little scary, because I thought I would hurt my dog - but I was already giving her insulin shots, and that didn’t bother her much. I had read how to prick the elbow skin for a blood sample. It took about three tries and some tears (mine, not hers), but I got the reading I needed. It told me that her blood sugar was still very low. When I called my veterinarian, he was surprised that I had tested her. I asked why he didn’t mention blood glucose testing at home, and he said he thought most people weren’t willing to learn it and do the testing regularly.
I had been calling him every day to ask advice anyway, but now I was able to give him real-time blood glucose information. We worked together closely during the next weeks and months to get Keetna stabilized with the proper insulin dose to get healthy blood glucose readings. Since then, I’ve been a big proponent of home blood glucose testing for diabetic animals.
Now a global consortium of veterinarians agrees. The Diabetes Summit concluded that blood glucose testing in the early stages after diagnosis is critical, and can even lead to increased incidence of remission in cats. My own experience and that of other dedicated pet owners points to an increased willingness to do whatever it takes to give our animal companions the best care. Working together, veterinarians and pet owners can give the animals we care for a better, healthier, and longer life.
For more information on treating diabetic pets, see Canine Diabetes and An Obese Cat is an Unhealthy Cat.
Amy G. Casey is CEO of Pet Health Focus ( http://www.pethealthfocus.com ), and an award-winning science writer and author of numerous science and pet health books and articles. Amy’s mission is to help you give your animal companions the best possible care.