Ask the Vet: Monitor Diabetic Pet's Blood Sugar Levels at Home
Q: Pebbles, my 9-year-old terrier, was diagnosed with diabetes several months ago. I give her insulin injections and monitor her diabetes with urine test strips. Is there a better way to determine how well her diabetes is being controlled?
A: Diabetes mellitus arises most often in middle-aged dogs, usually around 7 to 9 years of age. Three-fourths of diabetic dogs are female.
Clinical signs include increased drinking and urination, increased appetite with decreased weight, and lethargy. Some diabetic dogs also develop cataracts and urinary tract infections.
While humans can experience different kinds of diabetes, dogs almost always have insulin-dependent diabetes, similar to type 1 diabetes in humans. In both forms, the pancreas does not produce insulin as it should.
Insulin has many roles, one of which is to move blood sugar, or glucose, into the cells of the body, where it produces energy the tissues and organs require to function normally.
When insulin can't drive glucose into the cells, the glucose levels in the blood increase and glucose is excreted in the urine.
For a number of reasons, however, urine testing does not provide a valid representation of diabetic control. So, you must test the glucose in Pebbles' blood or tissues.
There are several ways to do this. The most common method is to test a drop of her blood at home using a pet glucose meter, such as the AlphaTrak or VetMate. These meters are more accurate in pets than human glucose meters.
It may seem challenging, but my clients easily learn the technique and are pleased they can check their pets' blood sugars on a routine basis and whenever they're concerned the pet doesn't seem quite right.
Alternatively, your veterinarian can check Pebbles' blood glucose levels at the animal hospital periodically throughout the day.