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6 step guide to insulin administration to diabetic cats

Diabetes occurs less frequently in cats than in dogs. However, when it does occur, it can be more difficult to control. Diabetes can occur in cats of any age, though most are over six-years old. When a diabetic cat ingests glucose and can't process it properly, it leads to the build up of sugars in the blood stream. Eventually, the blood sugar gets so high that sugar begins to be spilled in the cat's urine. Both the high blood sugar and the loss of sugar through the urine can have severe, and sometimes life threatening, consequences.

Insulin treatment

Insulin injections are still the most accepted means of treating insulin-dependent diabetic cats. Initially, a diabetic cat is hospitalized for three to four days whilst they are stabilized and started on insulin therapy. During that time, multiple blood sugar tests are taken to establish a proper schedule for the cat.

The goal of treatment is to maintain a blood-sugar level close to the normal range for cats during each 24-hour period and to improve or eliminate any symptoms. Often, numerous hospitalizations for serial blood sugars are required for monitoring and making adjustments in insulin dosages.

Giving injections to a pet can be daunting for an inexperienced owner, so the MedicAnimal vets have prepared a fail-safe step-by-step guide for owners to follow. Remember, accurate and timely administration of insulin will be crucial in the success of your cat’s treatment for diabetes.

Steps to draw up insulin for your cat

It is imperative to measure and administer the correct dose of insulin using the correct syringe. Insulin is available in different concentrations with corresponding syringes; it comes in a glass vial with a rubber stopper, and must be stored in the fridge.

  • Prior to removing a dose of insulin from the vial, mix the contents by gently rolling the vial between the palms of your hands.

  • Hold the vial stopper-side-down, remove the needle guard from the insulin syringe, and insert the needle of the syringe into the vial through the rubber stopper.

  • Pull back on the plunger of the syringe to draw the insulin into the syringe, up to the correct number of units.

  • If there is any air in the syringe hold it so that the needle is pointing up, and gently tap or flick the syringe to cause the bubbles to move to the surface. Then draw back a little, before pushing the plunger down to expel all of the air.

  • Recheck that you have withdrawn the proper amount of insulin, as overdosing can be fatal. If you had a lot of air in the syringe initially, it may be necessary to draw up a little more insulin.

  • Remove the syringe from the vial and replace the needle guard.

  • Return the insulin to the refrigerator

Administering an insulin injection to your dog

  1. Remove the needle guard from the syringe filled with the appropriate dose of insulin.

  2. If you are right-handed, hold the syringe in your right hand. With your left hand, pick up fold of skin along your cat's back or shoulders (use a different site every time).

  3. Push the needle through the skin at about a 45º angle. Be careful not to push the needle through the entire fold of skin

  4. Pull back slightly on the syringe plunger to be sure the needle is not in a blood vessel (if it is, blood will enter the syringe as you pull back the plunger). If no blood is seen, administer the insulin by pushing the plunger with your thumb. If you see blood, pull out the syringe and start over.

  5. Withdraw the needle from the cat's skin, and replace the needle guard

  6. Place the needle and syringe in a puncture-resistant container. These are available, sometimes free of charge, from your veterinarian or pharmacist. Follow your local regulations regarding disposal.