Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) is a common disease in cats. Routine monitoring of blood is easily performed with a blood glucometer.
Similar to people, many cats with diabetes need daily injections of insulin. However, difficulty often arises in determining the optimal type, dosage, and frequency of insulin administration. As with diabetic people, each cat is a little different in what they require and how they respond to treatment.
For example, inadequate dosing can lead to poorly controlled diabetes. On the other hand, excessive doses can cause weakness, coma and even death.
One of the best ways to determine the optimal insulin dose in a pet is the glucose curve. In this test, a series of blood glucose (sugar) tests is done over a 24-hour period. The results of this test facilitate proper insulin dosage and time of insulin administration.
Blood glucose can be measured at your vet or it is possible to perform this test at home. On occasion, a spot check which is a single blood glucose measurement is done but more commonly, a “glucose curve” is recommended.
Why do Home Monitoring with a Glucometer?
Cats are often stressed when they come to the veterinary hospital. Sometimes the stress will prevent cats from eating and artificially increase blood glucose levels.
Home monitoring decreases stress and also saves the pet owner the expense of the testing at the vet clinic. However the time your vet takes to interpret the results and communicate changes is worthy of some professional charge.
What is a Glucometer?
A blood glucometer is a little device that measures blood glucose levels. They are commonly used in people with diabetes and are being used with increased frequency to monitor cats at home.
What Kind of Glucometer Should You Get?
There are many different brands of glucometer marketed for humans however they appear to have varying amounts of accuracy in cats. For example, a recent test revealed an average of 180 mg/dl difference between the human and veterinary machine. In general, it appears that human glucometers read 10% to 15% lower on cat blood than they do on human blood. Every machine can be a little different.
Most glucometers come with instructions, the meter, a control solution for calibration method, lancets, and glucose sticks for the meter to read.
The machine that reads most accurately for cats and is recommended by veterinary specialist most often is the AlphaTrak, Ascensia Elite, or the One Touch Ultra. The AlphaTrak is preferred. Even these machines, which tend to be the most accurate of the machines on cats, tend have a 10 to 15% variance with blood run on a more sophisticated chemistry analyzer.
If a human machine is used, it is recommended to determine the accuracy of the machine by your vet preforming concurrent measurements on your machine and their lab machine to determine the difference. Several readings are recommended, ideally at normal, high and low ranges.
How Do You Use the Lancets?
Blood lancets are the little needle devices that pick the skin causing bleeding that allows us to obtain a blood sample. The lancet is used to make a small puncture. In people, they call this puncture a fingerstick as the lancets are shaped to be used on human fingers.
Blood lancets are generally disposable. Most pet owners will use them a couple times before disposal. Some glucometers come with a lancing device, generally shaped like a pen, which allows you to insert the lancet and with the push of a button inserts the lancet into the skin. The sudden motion and click scares some pets. Some models of lancing devices have a silent action and allows up to 6 depth settings (Softclix lancing device). The depth settings can be helpful. For example, some tissues such as the elbow callus may require slightly more depth to draw blood.
Many pet owners use the lancet manually. Just twist off the cap to expose the needle. As an alternative to a lancet, a syringe needle can be used.
Some cat owners need to use different size lancets, different needle sizes or adjust their lancing device to a deeper depth to obtain an adequate sized blood sample to obtain a glucometer reading.