MONITORING GLUCOSE REGULATION
To download a printable Monitoring Diary visit (PDF format):
Both AlphaTrack and Vetsulin offer on-line tracking apps and other useful resources. To browse what is available, visit:
Alternatively, the Freestyle Libre system (description below) utilizes a scanner that tracks numerous trends and allows them to be printed, emailed and synced to your smart phone.
In a perfect world, glucose monitoring is performed at home. At home the pet is at its most comfortable and blood glucose measures are not altered by stress. Further, by doing glucose curves at home the owner is spared the expense of the vet visit. Traditionally, glucose monitoring is done using a drop of blood obtained from an ear vein or foot pad, similar to how human diabetics use a spring-loaded lancet device to prick their finger. More recently implantable probes have made glucose monitoring at home much simpler for many pet families. Details on both systems are provided below.
Glucose curves can be performed at home or in the hospital. For a curve, glucose levels are sampled started with the first insulin dose of the day and continuing every two hours until the next glucose dose. This process typically takes 10-12 hours.
If glucose monitoring is being performed at home regularly, it is especially important to check glucoses prior to giving an insulin dose so as to avoid creating a low blood sugar incident.
Find out from your veterinarian how low a glucose level should be in order to indicate that you should skip the insulin.
The Glucometer and Lancets
In a more traditional form of monitoring, a glucometer can be used to monitor pet glucoses at home. This involves obtaining a small blood sample with a lancet device and doing so on a regular basis. Not every owner is able to accomplish this feat and not every pet is amenable to the process but many people and many pets are perfectly fine with it.
In older times, human glucometers were used to monitor dog and cat blood sugars. The problem with doing this is that accuracy at lower values was not reliable. Trends were easy to see but more precise measurements were not possible to obtain. Today, there are several veterinary glucometers on the market and we recommend buying one of these for best results. (We like the Alpahtrak meter but there are many others.)
The meter will come as a kit and provides links to instructional videos from the manufacturer along with written/illustrated guides for use. Blood collection instructions are also included, though we have added some links here as well. A test strip is inserted in the meter and a drop of blood is touched to it. The glucose value is displayed in a few seconds.
Taking Blood: Watch it Done
Click here to see a video of a cat having a suitable blood sample drawn (provided by Dr. Margie Scherk).
Most glucometers come in a kit which includes instruction discs, the meter, a control solution or similar calibration method, lancets to take your pet’s blood, and glucose sticks for the meter to read. In short, one assembles a dipstick in the meter and turns it on, punctures the pet’s ear or other area, and puts the stick in contact with the drop of blood that wells up. The meter does the rest.
To see how to use the Alphatrak meter, watch this video from Caledon Mountain Veterinary Hospital:
TO DO A CURVE AT HOME
TO DO A CURVE IN THE ANIMAL HOSPITAL
All this may be a bit overwhelming especially at first. Glucose curves may be done in the animal hospital setting at least at first.
Everyone knows that food provides our bodies with fuel. Most of our tissues can burn stored fat, though our brains (and a few other tissues) have no use for fat and must burn glucose. In normal life, there is plenty of glucose to feed our brains and plenty of fat to feed the rest of our bodies and our metabolism runs happily along but in times of starvation problems start: we deplete stored glucose and we burn fat rapidly and desperately.
Ketones are a by-product of intense fat burning. The brain is able to use ketones as an alternative to glucose which is a good thing. The problem is that intense ketone production leads to metabolic pH changes leading to acidic blood and dangerous electrolyte imbalances.
When diabetes mellitus is complicated by infection or other problems, ketoacidosis can result. This is a very serious complication which can lead to expensive hospitalization and even death. It is helpful to monitor your pet’s urine for the presence of ketones.
Ketostix are urine dipsticks when indicate the presence of ketones in urine. Only a drop of urine is needed. Dip the ketostick in the urine and look for a color change. A color guide is present on the bottle of dipsticks. This need not be done every day if the pet seems to be doing well but when it is done record the results in the monitoring notebook if you have one.
Occasional ketones are not an alarming finding in a diabetic pet but if ketones are found in urine three days in a row or if the patient showing ketones seems ill (poor appetite, vomiting etc.) then the pet should see the vet right away. In such a situation, diabetic ketoacidosis is likely occurring and serious treatment is likely needed.
Ketostix can be purchased at any drugstore.
(For more information on Diabetic Ketoacidosis click here)
COLLECTING YOUR PET’S URINE
Using Ketostix is simple enough but one will need a sample of the pet’s urine. For dog’s this is best done as a two-person job.
A female dog is a bit trickier and one may need a second person to slip a small paper plate under the dog as she urinates. Again, it is helpful if a second person manipulates the plate and uses the ketostick so that the person holding the leash does not have to manage all these tasks at once. If only one person is available, the “grabber reacher” shown above may be helpful.
For cats, a piece of cellophane can be placed over the litter box and some urine will be caught there even if the cat digs in the box. Only a drop of urine is needed for the test so even if the cellophane is wrinkled up hopefully a drop can still be obtained. Alternatively a very small amount of litter can be placed in the box. The cat will still understand what he or she is supposed to do but not all the urine will be absorbed by the litter.
Your pet will still need regular veterinary check ups, typically every six months after regulation has been achieved. Obviously, if your pet seems sick or if the symptoms of diabetes seem to return, then your pet needs to be checked right away.
It is largely inevitable that sugar will spill into your pet’s urine possibly even for a short time daily. Sugar in urine is highly encouraging to bacteria and urinary tract infections are common in diabetic pets. Often symptoms are difficult to discern at home so periodically performing urine cultures is a good practice in ruling out latent infection.
For more information on urinary tract infection, click here.
Measuring fructosamine is a helpful way to help monitor glucose control and, if for whatever reason, it is not possible to run glucose curves this would be the next best thing. Blood glucose fluctuations leave a metabolic mark which lasts a week or two. Measuring fructosamine gives a sense of the average blood glucose over the previous couple of weeks. Control is designated “excellent,” “good,” “fair,” “poor,” or “prolonged hypoglycemia.” Of course, because the fructosamine is looking at averages, it will not distinguish excellent control from wide swings from very high to very low glucose readings. Still, even with this limitation, fructosamine is good to include in periodic monitoring tests.
A basic blood panel and urinalysis should also be expected when the pet returns for regular check up and evaluation.
Page posted: 3/21/2012