Vail Pets: Monitoring diabetes at home has benefits |

Vail Pets: Monitoring diabetes at home has benefits

Melinda Schwoegler
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition that affects people, cats and dogs.

It is characterized by a lack of the hormone insulin. This hormone is secreted by the pancreas and enables body cells to derive energy from glucose, a sugar derived from the diet.

When there is not enough insulin, body cells become fatigued because they cannot access glucose. The body can mobilize fat stores for energy when glucose is not available, but this is harmful over a long period of time. The main clinical signs of diabetes mellitus are excessive hunger and thirst, excessive urination and weight loss despite large appetite.

Diabetes mellitus is diagnosed based on blood and urine analysis. Once diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, an animal is started on the proper dose of insulin and an appropriate diabetic diet. Close monitoring of the animal is crucial during the initial period as there is a tendency for animals to have poorly regulated blood glucose levels. Poor regulation can be life-threatening and often requires veterinary attention.

Once an animal is on a stable dose of insulin, they require consistent check-up and lab work to ensure continued regulation. These trips to the veterinarian’s office become expensive and are often inconvenient.

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Thankfully, the inception of home monitoring for diabetes has helped alleviate these problems. The idea of sampling blood from your animal may seem daunting, but it is generally well tolerated.

The monitor, test strips and lancets are all purchased through your veterinarian. There is an initial investment to buy the set, usually around $250, but it pays for itself after one or two in-hospital glucose curves. It is possible to use a human glucometer, but the reading is often inaccurate when used on dog and cat blood.

A lancet is used to prick small blood vessels of the ear flap or foot pad, and a drop of blood is placed on the test strip. Once the blood glucose reading appears, the owner records it in a spreadsheet and then consults a chart to determine how much insulin to administer. Initially, blood glucose is checked twice a day for a few weeks. During this phase, daily communication with the veterinarian is required to ensure smooth home monitoring. Thereafter, the reading frequency decreases depending on the how the animal is doing. Owners are also advised to perform four yearly blood glucose curves at home to ensure continued regulation.

Home monitoring of diabetes mellitus is a user-friendly system that has many benefits including: less money and time spent at the veterinarian’s office, better glucose regulation during times of illness, the potential to achieve diabetic remission in cats;, peace of mind for owners when the animal is acting abnormally and elimination of glucose elevations caused by stress from visiting the veterinarian’s office.

Home monitoring, along with yearly wellness and vaccination appointments, will help your diabetic animal lead a healthier, and potentially longer, life.

Veterinarian Melinda Schwoegler can be reached at Eagle-Vail Animal Hospital at 970-949-4044.

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