||There have been many discussions on the internet among owners of
diabetic pets about questions they would ask the vet. Some
of the main categories of questions are:
You can use the ideas and questions below or modify them to better fit your pet's situation.
Discussing these issues with your vet may help you be prepared to deal with an emergency and be able to decide
what to do when things don't go as planned. And believe me, there will be days when
things don't go as planned!
Vets are very busy professionals, but most of the vets I have taken my pets to
are happy to take the time to discuss things, explain terms, and answer questions. They
realize that you must understand things in order to take care of your pet.
But you have to be prepared for your appointment. Before your next appointment, think about the things you want to discuss. Write them on a
piece of paper and leave space to take notes - similar to how this page
is formatted. This will help
you organize your thoughts and will help you and the vet get the most out of your visit.
As the vet explains things, take notes. If you forget something or think of
other questions later, call and ask the vet to call you back when he has some free time.
sure you've scheduled plenty of time with the vet to discuss the items that
General questions about
your vet's practice
- How much experience
does the vet have treating diabetic pets? If the vet has little or no
that may be fine. But if you are not comfortable with that situation, you might want
to consider asking for a referral to a vet who has more experience. Maybe there's another
vet in the same practice that can be part of the diabetes management team. Or maybe
there is a another vet in town who has a lot of experience treating diabetic pets. You may
want to ask specifically about cats or dogs. There are some differences in managing
diabetes in cats and dogs, and there are differences in the other effects of diabetes.
You have to choose the vet who you think will be best able to help your pet.
- Do you consult with a specialist
or other vets when you're not
sure about a patient's case?. Is there a specialist nearby that you
clients to if there are complications managing the diabetes?
Particularly for dogs, who is the eye vet specialist your vet refers to
(dogs are prone to developing diabetic cataracts and may need to be
evaluated by a specialist).
- What are your regular office hours?
- Does the vet have an emergency number you can call?
What is it?
- What do I do if there is an off-hours
emergency (nights and weekends)?
- Who or what clinic does the vet refer to during off
hours or when the vet is on vacation? Get the name, address, and
phone number of the clinic.
- Good communication
is absolutely essential. If you don't understand the vet's instructions, or if you don't
understand some of the technical words the vet might use, there may be misunderstandings
that effect your pet's health. It is very important for you to ask the vet to explain
things so you understand everything. Will your vet have a reasonable
amount of time to discuss things with you or get back to you with an
answer if you call with a question?
- Your vet's general style
is also important. You
both have to be on the same team, with a common goal to do what is best for your pet.
If you think a different approach may be better for your pet, you
may be reluctant to follow the vet's instructions - and that may lead to serious problems
for your pet. For example, if you want to treat the diabetes very aggressively and
think home blood glucose monitoring is a good method for managing your pet's diabetes, you
need a vet who will support home bg testing and help you interpret the results. Style is a tough
one, but you can
usually work out your differences or find a vet that you feel more comfortable with.
You may want to ask your vet if he or she has a pretty set method of
care of if he is open to trying different treatment methods.
General questions about diabetes
- How will the diabetes and insulin interact with other conditions my
pet has or with other medications my pet is taking? Remember to tell
your vet if you are giving your pet any dietary supplements or herbal
- What other health problems should I watch for?
Examples: cataracts for dogs, hind leg weakness for cats, signs of
home recordkeeping and monitoring
- What kind of records should I keep to help you to evaluate my pet's
condition? Most owners keep a calendar or chart noting the insulin dose, time of
injection, notes about eating, home urine testing or bg testing results, and other
observations like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy. Here are some samples of
home care notebook pages.
- How should I monitor my pet's condition at home? For example,
measuring water consumption, watching for excessive thirst, urination, hunger, weight loss or gain, lethargy (lazy or
sleepy), urine glucose or ketone monitoring results, home blood glucose monitoring results.
treatment or insulin therapy
- If the vet wants to try to manage the diabetes using a prescribed
diet or oral drugs, how long will the vet use this approach if it doesn't seem to be
working? This question is more appropriate to diabetic cats.
- Vets have preferences about which insulin
they try first. Sometimes this is based on what the literature lists as the
"first choice" insulin, and sometimes it is based on the vet's personal
experiences. Ask why that insulin was chosen. Ask how long you will stay with that
insulin if it doesn't seem to be working. There are many different insulins
available, and sometimes it takes a few tries before finding the one that works best for
- How frequently will the vet want to monitor your pet's
condition? Weekly, every other week, once a month?
- What information will the vet use to determine how well your pet's
diabetes is controlled? Your daily observations, blood glucose curves
done at the vets?
- Will the vet perform blood glucose curves (testing the blood glucose
every hour or two for a full day)? How often will this be done?
- After your pet's diabetes is better controlled, how frequently will
the vet monitor your pet's condition? Monthly, every 3-4 months? And what information will
be used (bg curve, general health check, fructosamine test).
- Can you give me some idea of the expenses involved
for testing, checkups, etc.
- How important is it for me to give the insulin injection at a certain
- How many minutes or hours late can I give the shot and not have to adjust the
- If I am later than that (the answer to the previous question) what do
Do I skip this shot or do I give less insulin (how much less)?
Do I give the next shot at the regular time?
- What do I do if I think I missed a shot or gave an
incomplete shot but I'm not sure? Do I give
- What should I do if my pet vomits his meal after I've already given
the insulin injection?
- How much insulin should I give if my pet refuses to eat?
- How much insulin should I give if my pet only eats part of his meal?
- I fed my pet, but forgot to give the insulin
shot. What do I do?
- I found my pet eating extra food, candy, or garbage. What
should I do?
Do I give extra insulin?
- My pet looked sick last night and this morning she just doesn't look
"right". Do I give the usual amount of insulin?
- My cat is throwing up hairballs (and food). Do I give the usual
amount of insulin?
- Be sure your vet explains hypoglycemia (low
blood sugar) and how serious it is.
- Be sure you know how to treat hypoglycemia - and try not to panic.
You must stay calm in order to help your pet.
- Always have corn syrup (Karo) or another sugar source available (pancake
- Be aware that many pets do not show any signs of hypoglycemia, even
when their blood glucose is very low.
- What are the physical signs of hypoglycemia? What might my pet do
when she is hypoglycemic?
- How do I treat hypoglycemia based on behavioral observations.
- My pet looks sleepy and is lethargic. What should I do?
Do I give
food or Karo? How much?
- My pet is stumbling, has wobbly legs, is whining or meowing
strangely. What do I do?
- My pet is having a seizure, or my pet is unconscious. What do I do?
- How do I treat hypoglycemia based on home blood glucose monitoring
- The bg is 50 and I think it may go lower.
Do I give food, or Karo?
- The bg is 50, but I think it will go higher soon. What do I do?
- The bg is under 50, what do I do?
- For all these hypoglycemia situations: when do I call the vet, or
when do I immediately take my pet to the vet or emergency clinic?
- What do I do if I can smell a strange chemical smell on my pet's
breath? This is a sign of ketoacidosis and is potentially life threatening.
- Can my pet keep up with his or her usual physical
activities (walks, running, swimming, hiking)?
Updated June 2002
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