How to Test Your Pet's Blood Glucose at Home (starring
memory of Harry, diagnosed diabetic 14 May 99 at age 13 years... the reluctant
star of our BG testing photos. Harry succumbed to the combined effects
of Feline Leukemia
and Feline Infectious Peritonitis on 31 Dec 1999. We miss him.
Disclaimer This information was developed through the experiences
of many owners of diabetic pets, who have begun to test Blood Glucose at
home with meters designed for human diabetics. Managing Diabetes is a long
term commitment. A veterinarian who is knowledgeable about the disease
and committed to ensuring the best quality of life for your pet is ideal.
While many veterinarians have not yet had experience with clients who do
home BG testing, most of those that do have come to appreciate its value.
It is very important to find a veterinarian that will work with you on
interpreting the results of your BG testing, finding the right insulin
and dose for your pet, and who will be familiar with the case history when
your pet needs medical attention. While not every diabetic pet needs to
have BGs tested at home, it is a valuable tool.
This web site evolved from our personal experiences in testing Blood
Glucose in our cat, Harry, with the Elite XL, using the Ear Prick method.
Our methods may or may not work for you and your pet. Be flexible and try
other approaches. We have expanded the site to include other meters and
the lip prick technique for dogs, but the most complete descriptions are
found in the section about doing an Ear Prick on a Cat and using the Elite
XL, please read that section and excuse the bias when it appears elsewhere.
of Diabetic Terminology Abbreviations
Monitoring your cat or dog's blood glucose level at
home with a glucometer like human diabetics use can help you to manage
their diabetes more wisely.
Many factors affect insulin activity. The primary task is to balance
the amount and type of food given with the characteristic absorption and
metabolism of the insulin administered to your individual cat.
A cat or dog that eats more than usual, will have a higher BG, one that
eats less or vomits will have a lower BG and may need less insulin than
usual to prevent hypoglycemia. Stress and infection tend to
raise BGs, exercise tends to lower them. Medications can affect either
way--always ask your veterinarian to check how any new medication might
affect BG levels. With so many things affecting BG levels, your diabetic
pet may have different responses to the same dose of insulin on different
Advantages of Home Blood Glucose Testing for Diabetic Pets.
Readings done in the home will not be artificially elevated by the stress
of the trip to the vet.
Doing pre shot and peak BG readings will allow you to gauge the effectiveness
and to evaluate the impact of changes in diet, feeding schedule, insulin
type, and dose, which need to be individually adjusted for each cat or
When your cat or dog doesn't seem right, you can test the BG and KNOW whether
you are dealing with Hypoglycemia
dangerously low) or Hyperglycemia
(BG dangerously high, possible Ketoacidosis)
and respond accordingly. If BGs are high, it is VERY important to also
urine for ketones, especially if your pet is eating less than usual.
A lower than normal pre shot BG reading will warn you that the usual dose
of insulin might be too much and allow you to adjust dosage and/or feeding
patterns to avoid a dangerous hypoglycemic
Doing curves at home
is less expensive and the data is more reflective of the actual eating/exercise/stress
levels that the pet experiences at home. Most vets can't do 24 hr
curves, but being able to get BG readings throughout the night, can be
essential to regulating a cat on a long acting insulin like Ultralente
or PZI. When 2 shots of long acting insulin overlap, predicting "peak"
times can be a challenge.
Home curves help avoid Somogyi
Rebound situations that happen because the only readings ever seen
at the vets are high, elevated by stress. Stress can elevate BGs 200
points very quickly in cats, and if the insulin dose gets raised too
high for the animal, rebound causes high BGs and PU/PD symptoms to re-appear,
just as when the diabetic pet was receiving no insulin.
Validity of Home Blood Glucose Testing
The measurement of glucose level in cat (or dog) blood is really no different
from its measurement in human blood. The experience of many pet owners
indicates that the use of instruments designed for people is appropriate,
though no large scale research studies have been done to prove it. The
skill of the tester improves with practice. The newer models of glucometers
are designed for use by and extensively tested with young diabetics who
monitor their own BG levels at home. They are simple to use and provide
consistent and reliable readings, as long as a sufficient sample fills
a fresh, appropriately-coded, test strip and fresh control solutions are
routinely used to validate meter results. The newer models of glucometers
provide plasma/serum glucose results, the same standard as hospital laboratory
equipment. Because every lab must set up its own "normal" reference ranges,
results on the same blood sample at 2 different labs will be different,
though neither is wrong. You
shouldn't expect your glucometer which measures capillary blood to exactly
match the reading the vet gets with a venous blood sample on a lab instrument,
though they can come pretty close. You will get to know what the numbers
mean as far as how your cat or dog feels and acts, to know what numbers
are too high or too low, and what range is normal for your pet.
Your cat won't hate you for doing ear pricks. Your dog won't hate
you for doing lip pricks. Most pets accept BG tests as routine, especially
when food regularly follows. If you can stay calm while you do it,
your pet will likely be calm too. Some cats purr through the whole
procedure. As impossible as it may sound now, BG testing can be a pleasant,
bonding experience, a special attention time for your pet.
Blood Glucose Meter Considerations
The primary considerations are small sample size, ease of
meter use, and ease of obtaining a reliable sample. Pets will move
when you try to test them. If a meter is fussy about the angle that you
have to hold it to get an accurate sample or prone to getting blood in
places it isn't supposed to go (such as the Dex), that may outweigh all
the other advantages.
Required sample sizes are measured in microliters.
How big a blood drop is needed for your meter?
Popular Meters 9/99
From May to September 1999, the Bayer Elite (XL) and LifeScan FastTake
meters were most often recommended to owners of newly diagnosed diabetic
pets on the Feline Diabetes
Message Board and Muffin
mailing list. While essentially similar, there are some differences
between the newer Bayer
Elite XL and the older Elite model which doesn't have a button. The
model has the advanced features of the Elite XL, plus more. The LifeScan
is also very popular with diabetic pet owners.
All meter manufacturers have Customer Service Representatives available
7 days a week, 24 hours a day who are happy to answer your questions. Phone
numbers are included in the "Detailed
Comparisons of Some Meters Used with Pets" table. Meters frequently
come with rebate offers of US$20 or more and often an additional trade-in
of US$20 or more if you send in another manufacturer's meter, working or
not. Customer Service can tell you of current offers and supply the rebate
form, if it was not provided by your pharmacy or included with your meter.
Upon request, Bayer will send you a free video(s) on how to use your
their Glucometer(s). Other manufacturers offer free videos too. Watch the
videos for the meters that you are interested in to learn more about their
features and procedures before you buy. Watch again as you prepare to test
yourself and your pet for the first time.
Comparisons of Some Meters used with Pets
Glucose Units: mg/dL (U.S.) or mmol/L (Canada/Europe)
Try Out Some Steps Before you Buy a Meter
First, Get to Know Your New Meter
Figure out where you have good lighting, or set up a lamp that you will
Take your pet to where you plan to test and give positive attention with
the light on to get him or her used to being in that place and position,
to relax and feel comfortable with it. Some pets like to be brushed, others
just like to be petted or hugged, avoid active or rough play.
Gently massage the ears whenever you are interacting, especially if this
is new to your cat. For a dog, massage lip area.
Add the warming the ear step for a cat (warm washcloth in the plastic bag
or the heat of the light bulb).
One vet suggested actually pricking the cat's ear with a lancet before
buying the meter, to see if it would tolerate pricks. It's up to you. I
was nervous enough about doing an ear prick, I wanted it to be for a BG
value when I did it.
Read the manual and do initial setup. You may need to install the batteries,
set date and time, pick U.S. or European units of BG measurement, and use
a special Check strip to verify the meter electronics are working correctly.
Most manufacturers' test strips and meters have codes that must be set
to match. Each new box of Elite strips will have a Code strip (has F-number
on it) to set the meter. The FastTake code must be entered with the C button.
Get the free video from the manufacturer's Customer Service and watch it
until you are ready to try testing yourself.
Go through all the steps of doing a BG Test, using a Normal Control Solution
to confirm the strips you have are ok.
Test yourself (your finger is fine), but make sure it is clean, dry, and
WARM. Try the lancet device that comes with the meter on yourself to learn
what the prick feels like and how to aim with it. Try different depth settings
to see how they feel. If you think you may want to hand-hold the lancet,
try that too. You can judge how much it might hurt your pet, by how much
it hurts you. We had already been using the BD Ultra-Fine II 3/10cc short
needle syringes to give insulin for a week with hardly any reaction from
our cat , before we bought the corresponding lancets. They don't hurt us
It's good to learn to do the BG tests solo. If you have a partner and can
both do it solo, that's twice the coverage.
The supplies you will need depend on whether you are testing a cat or a
dog and which approach you choose, as well as on your own preferences.
At a minimum, you will need a Blood Glucose meter, the test strips (or
cartridge of sensors) that the meter requires, and a lancet to get the
blood drop. A tissue is handy for all--folded behind the cat's ear to protect
your finger while you prick, and to apply pressure after the sample is
obtained. For a dog, use it to dry the saliva from the test area before
the prick. Vaseline applied very thinly to the furry side of a cat's ear
can help the blood drop bead up instead of spreading into the fur. Some
cats also think a lick of Vaseline is a treat. A small reward after the
BG test helps your pet accept a necessary intrusion. A hot damp washcloth
in a plastic bag will warm an ear or paw without wetting it and diluting
your blood sample. Some people like to position a flexible-arm desk lamp
close to the cat's ear to warm it less intrusively from the bulb's heat.
Most meters come with some sort of lancet device (though it may not
be an adjustable one). Try it on yourself, and also try pricking yourself
with lancet alone. Try the different depth settings on the lancet device
to see what they feel like to you. A shallow setting and a fine or ultra
fine lancet will be plenty for cat's ear or a dog's lip. A paw pad or a
dog's leg callous will require a deeper lancet setting and possibly a lancet
that is not labeled "fine" or "thin". Some FastTake meter users have found
a transfer pipette helpful in getting the blood drop onto the test strip.
Test Strips - Check for Ketones
to Buy Supplies at Good Prices
BG Test Method
Blood Glucose Curves
to BG InterpretationReview with your Vet, tailor for your
your Pet Won't Eat--Anorexia
Information on Other Sites
& BG levels
Computer to Plot Your BG Data
Sites Featuring Feline Diabetes
Sites Featuring Canine Diabetes
Sites Featuring Health Information
Created by Nancy Johnson, 8/8/99. Last update 6/2/2001.
Open Directory Cool Site Award received 5/24/2001
Site contents moved to www.sugarcats.net/sites/harry/bgtest.htm on
Please email feedback and suggestions for
this page to Nancy Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With sincere thanks to the sponsors of and contributors to the Felinediabetes.com,
Petdiabetes.org, and Sugarcats.com websites and to the many who have generously
shared their knowledge and experiences on the Feline Diabetes Message Board
and the Muffin Mailing List. We also thank the manufacturers that provided
information for these pages, but please note that this site is not sponsored
by or affiliated with Bayer, LifeScan, Abbott Medisense, Roche, or any
other manufacturer of meters or diabetic testing supplies. The mention
of their products does not imply an endorsement by these manufacturers
for use of these products for animal testing.
Bayer asked that we include the following disclaimer:
"The Bayer diabetes testing products were developed for human use. We
have not conducted studies in animals and we do not make any claims regarding
the use of our products for animal testing. While we understand they can
be used to improve and prolong animal life, such use is beyond their intended
Visitors since 03/18/2001