We all love our pets, often treating them like tiny humans or children. What many people do not know, however, is that pets can have many of the same diseases and conditions as humans. Dogs, for example, can have diabetes. Thankfully, diabetes in dogs can be adequately managed with treatment, particularly insulin. This article will discuss how insulin can help treat your pup and the best way to administer it.

Diabetes in dogs

When many of us think of diabetes, we think of diabetes in humans. However, diabetes can affect animals, including dogs and cats. If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to understand exactly what diabetes is and how insulin can help.

Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by consistently high blood sugar levels. This can be the result of one of two conditions: insulin deficiency or insulin-resistant diabetes.

  • Insulin-deficiency diabetes happens when your dog does not make enough insulin. This occurs when the pancreas is dysfunctional, possibly due to damage. In these instances, dogs will require daily insulin injections to supplement their natural insulin.
  • Insulin-resistant diabetes happens when the pancreas makes insulin, but the body becomes less responsive to the insulin that is produced. Thus, blood sugar is not removed from the bloodstream and into the cells, causing high blood glucose levels.

In both of these cases, your dog can experience high blood sugar levels over an extended period. Over time, this can damage several organs, including the heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves, and blood vessels.

How do I know if my dog has diabetes?

There are several symptoms of diabetes in dogs, including:

  • Increased frequency of urination. If your dog is frequently having accidents in the home or asking to go outside often, this could be an indicator of diabetes. Your dog does this because its body is attempting to remove extra sugar via the urine.
  • Increased thirst. If your dog drinks more water than normal, this could be a sign of diabetes.
  • Weight loss. Your dog may have a decrease in weight despite eating sufficient amounts of food.
  • Excessive appetite. If your dog’s body’s cells do not have enough glucose, this could cause excess hunger.

If your dog has had one or some of these symptoms for some time, it would be best to visit your veterinarian. The vet can conduct testing to evaluate for glucose levels in your dog’s urine and blood. From there, you can get a formal diagnosis and initiate treatment as needed.

What is insulin?

A common treatment for diabetes in dogs is insulin. The pancreas releases insulin, a hormone, to help regulate sugar levels in the blood and cells. With diabetes, a dog either does not make enough insulin or their body does not respond appropriately to insulin. Thankfully, insulin is available as an injection for dogs to help their bodies regulate their blood sugar. Insulin injections need to be given to your dog consistently to maintain a normal level.

What are the different types of insulin for pets?

Before administering your dog’s insulin, it is important to understand the different types of insulin and how it is supplied.

For starters, there are different types of insulin. Insulin is classified based on its duration of action. Thus, there are intermediate-acting insulins (like NPH/Humulin, Lente/Vetsulin, etc.) and long-acting insulins (like PZI/ProZinc, Glargine/Lantus, Detemir/Levemir, etc.).

There are also different routes of administration for insulins. Insulin can be provided in a vial, which requires you to draw up the insulin from the vial and into a syringe via a needle. From there, the insulin is injected into your pet. Insulin may also be provided as an injectable pen. Your veterinarian will select the type of insulin and route that is best for your dog’s diabetes.

How effective is insulin in dogs?

When used correctly, insulin is very effective in managing a dog’s diabetes. One study, for example, evaluated the efficacy and safety of Vestulin, a type of insulin, at a dose of 1 IU/kg of insulin once daily. A total of 81 percent of dogs had appropriate blood sugar control, and 83 to 96 percent of dogs had reductions in diabetes-associated symptoms such as excessive thirst and urination. Thus, consistent and appropriate treatment with insulin in diabetic dogs can be successful.

Where can I get insulin for my dog?

To get insulin for your dog, you will need a prescription from the veterinarian. You can pick up the prescription at the pharmacy, along with vials and syringes.

Directions for giving your dog insulin

Administering an insulin injection can be a daunting task at first. Thus, it may be helpful to first practice using the needle and syringe, drawing up water, and administering it to a fruit, such as an apple or orange. Once you feel comfortable, you can give a real insulin injection to your dog.

Insulin should always be given to your dog after they have eaten an entire meal. This will ensure that their blood sugar levels remain stable with the insulin after eating.

The basic steps for administering insulin to your dog are as follows:

  • Always start with a new needle and syringe with each injection. This ensures that these tools are sterile, thus reducing your dog’s risk of infection. Unwrap the needle and syringe, leaving the needle capped.
  • Roll the insulin bottle between your hands to mix the insulin but be sure not to shake it (unless it is Vetsulin).
  • Take off the needle cap and draw back the syringe to fill it with air until you have reached the appropriate dose on the syringe.
  • Place the needle through the rubber cap of the insulin and flip the vial upside down. Push the plunger down, releasing air into the vial.
  • Put the needle into the vial as far as possible, ensuring the tip of the needle is surrounded by insulin. Pull the plunger back until you have collected the correct dose.
  • Take the needle out of the bottle. If there are air bubbles in the syringe, flick the syringe until the bubbles dissipate.
  • Pinch some of your dog’s loose skin along either the neck, back, hips, or shoulder blades. Place the needle into the skin and pull back on the plunger.
  • If air or blood comes into the syringe, take the needle out and restart. If not, push the plunger to administer the injection.
  • Take the needle out and throw it out in a sharps container.

Ensure there is no wet spot on your pet after administering the insulin. If there is, this could mean the full dose was not injected. If this is the case, do not attempt to re-administer the dose. Instead, contact your veterinarian for assistance. Additionally, if you happen to accidentally inject yourself, contact your doctor.

Tips for giving your dog insulin

Dogs will not always be receptive to receiving insulin injections, especially consistently. Here are a few tips for alleviating the process for both you and your pup:

  • Utilize commands. It helps if your dog obeys simple commands like sit and stay, as it allows you to administer the injection quickly and easily.
  • Make it a positive experience. To do so, try administering the injection while your dog is eating its meal or treat.
  • Remain relaxed. This will help your dog also stay calm.

What can I expect after giving my dog insulin?

While administering insulin to your dog is both safe and effective, insulin can cause side effects. One such effect is hypoglycemia, defined as very low blood sugar. This can manifest as symptoms such as lethargy, weakness, stumbling, or falling. While this is unlikely to occur, it is important to look out for these signs and symptoms. If you believe your dog is hypoglycemic, contact your veterinarian right away. You may need to stop the insulin temporarily and adjust the dose to avoid future hypoglycemic events.

How do I store my dog’s insulin?

Insulin vials should be kept upright in the refrigerator, protected from light and freezing temperatures. Though manufacturers recommend the use of insulin vials within a few weeks of use, some experts note that they can be used past the expiration date for up to six months. If you do so, ensure that the insulin is not discolored or clumpy, and if it is, make sure to discard it.

Conclusion

Finding out your dog has diabetes can be confusing to navigate. Although there are several risks associated with diabetes, the good news is that proper intervention and treatment can help manage your dog’s blood sugar levels. Insulin is a great option for treating diabetes and is a likely option that your veterinarian might suggest. Insulin is a hormone found naturally within both our bodies and dog’s bodies that regulate blood sugar. You can administer insulin to your dog via injection from a needle and syringe or pen. If doing so, make sure to follow the above instructions carefully to provide a safe and effective dose to your pet.