This section contains general principles about home
blood glucose testing for pets. The different techniques used to obtain a blood
sample from cats and dogs are described. Detailed instructions are given for the ear and paw
prick methods for cats, and the lip and leg-callous stick for dogs.
Managing diabetes is very complicated. Blood glucose
(BG) readings can change depending on food consumption, exercise, stress, and normal daily
fluctuations. There may also be other diseases or conditions that are effecting
your pet's health. Home blood glucose monitoring should be performed in consultation with
Home Blood Glucose Monitoring
Home BG monitoring is a useful tool to help you and your
veterinarian get your pets diabetes regulated. It can be used to determine how well
the current type and dose of insulin is controlling the diabetes. This determination is
best done under typical daily conditions where the pets feeding, exercise, and stress
levels are normal. One common problem with doing BG testing in the vets
office is that many pets, especially cats, become severely stressed, refuse to eat, are
confined to a cage for a long period of time, then restrained for a blood test. These are
not normal conditions and the BG values obtained at the vets office may not
accurately reflect what the BG is doing on a typical day.
If your pets diabetes is pretty well regulated, home BG monitoring can be used to
check the BG on an occasional basis or to fine tune the control. You can perform a BG test
at any time, quickly and conveniently.
If your pet's diabetes is difficult to regulate, home BG monitoring can be used to obtain
the information that is necessary for your vet to determine the appropriate adjustments to
the insulin therapy.
Testing Habits of Owners
Read the results of a survey of owner on the petdiabetes mailing list. Owners were asked
to characterize their home bg testing habits. You
can also read reasons why people do, or do not perform home bg testing.
Will My Pet
Many owners are discouraged from doing home bg
monitoring because the vet suggests that the pricks may make the pet dislike the
owner. None of the people I've spoken
with who do home bg monitoring have had this problem. Sure, this is not the pet's
favorite activity, but it is relatively quick and painless. But not all pets will
tolerate being restrained or having a prick performed. If you have a pet who hates being
handled, lightly restrained, or is otherwise uncooperative, home bg testing may not be
appropriate for you and your pet. Even if your pet is cooperative, you do not want
to become "prick-happy". You and your vet can discuss the
appropriate amount of home bg testing for your pet. Some vets also believe that the home bg
meters are inaccurate - this is not true. These meters are relied on by human diabetics for their daily
diabetes management, and for the the purposes of diabetes regulation in pets, these meters
have adequate accuracy.
Will I Hurt
Probably not. Some vets suggest that the ear can be seriously
damaged doing an ear prick. Of course it is possible to cause a bruise, an
infection, or a more serious injury that requires veterinary attention, but
in over three years of corresponding with other owners, I have never heard
of an owner having any problems with excessive
bleeding, bruising, infection, tearing, or any other problems. By taking proper
precautions, these methods can be safely used on your pet. If a
problem does arise, contact your veterinarian for advice.
Meter Should I Purchase For My Pet?
There are several very good meters
for use with pets. These meters require a very small blood sample and
have test strips that use capillary action to "suck" the blood into the
test chamber. Always
be sure to read, understand, and follow the instructions provided with your meter and the
Where to Prick
- Dogs and Cats
Clipping a claw too short in order to get blood is not recommended. This
is very painful for the pet and can not be used on a regular basis.
The edge of the ear, or a
well. You will have to determine the best site for you cat. Some cats hate their paws
being touched, while others hate their ears being played with. At first, we tried drawing
blood from a front paw vein, but our cat was not cooperative. Unless you have a very
cooperative cat, I would not recommend this method. You only need
one drop of blood, and one of the prick methods usually works well.
For the ear prick, there is a small blood
vessel that runs around the outer edge of the catís ear. To locate
the blood vessel hold a flashlight (or sit near a bright lamp) with
the light shining into the inside of the ear. Look on the back (furry
side) of the ear. You should see the a thin red line - this is the
blood vessel that you will prick.
How Donna does ear pricks on Barney.
How Barb does paw pricks on Rusty
usually do not work on a dog because they don't have the prominent
marginal vein that cats
do. Most dog owners who perform home bg testing prick the inside of the upper
lip. Have your dog lay on its side and gently lift the upper lip and roll it outward
so you can work on the inside surface. The area near the canine tooth is often a good
spot. Wipe the area with a clean cloth so all saliva is removed. Pricking towards
the edge of the lip often works well. You will have to figure out the spot that works best
for your dog. Dog owners who use the lip prick technique report it is very easy, and it
does not hurt the dog. Some even do it while the dog is sleeping. Be careful that
your dog will allow you to do this and you don't get bitten.
Another owner has success pricking the outside
of the lip.
Other sites that owners prick include: a paw pad,
the calloused area on the leg, the
chin area, a pinch of skin on the rump. Others have had their vet show them how to draw a tiny amount of blood
from their dog's leg vein. An unused insulin syringe is perfect for this - it has a very
How Pat does the inside lip sticks on Chance
How Joan does the outside lip sticks on Bayou
How owners stick the calloused area of a
How Majie pricks the quick of Cinder's nail
- Keep everything very
clean. Thoroughly wash your hands with
soap and water. Have a clean work surface or put out a clean towel to lay things on. Do
not touch the tip of the lancet.
- The prick site must be clean and dry before you prick it. If
the prick area is dirty wash it with warm water. You must wait until the
area is completely dry before you can perform the prick. Moisture will cause the
blood drop to spread out and it will be difficult to perform the BG test. Moisture will
also dilute the blood sample and cause a faulty BG reading.
If you are pricking a cat's ear, it must be warm. It is very hard to get a drop of
blood from a cold, or even cool ear. Warm the ear by massaging your cat's head and
ears or use a warm washcloth inside a plastic bag or a rice bag you can
heat in the microwave. Whatever you use, make sure it will not
burn your pet.
If you are pricking a paw pad, it will also help if the paw is warm.
- Gently restrain your pet. This procedure requires keeping the
pet calm and still for a few minutes. The pet must be relatively relaxed. If you cause a
lot of stress to your pet while trying to restrain it you may not get a
reading. This is particularly true of cats, because their bg can become elevated very
quickly just because of stress. Of course there may be a little struggling, but if the pet
becomes highly agitated, I would wait 15-30 minutes and try again. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to properly restrain
your pet. NEVER use excessive force.
- Controlling bleeding. After
you get the blood sample in the
meter, let the meter do its work and attend to the pets ear (or wherever you did
the prick). Hold a gauze square firmly (not too tight) at the
prick site for about 30 seconds. This should be more than enough time for the bleeding to stop. I
have never had a problem with excessive bleeding. If the site continues to bleed, keep
applying gentle pressure for another minute. Don't "peek" to see if the bleeding
has stopped. Just firmly hold the spot and keep your pet calm. If the bleeding does not
stop or if a large bruise forms, call your veterinarian for advice.
- Bruising. A small red spot may form after the prick. This is
where a small amount of blood has leaked from the blood vessel and is trapped beneath the
skin. A small bruise is ok (the size of a grain of rice) and will go
away in a day or two. Watch for any large bruising, swelling, fluid accumulation, warmth in the area, or infection. If you
think any of these are happening call your veterinarian for advice.
The Numbers Mean
The BG value tells how much glucose is in blood.
Meters in the U.S. report the units in mg/dL - that is milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood.
Normal values are around 80-120 mg/dL. Meters in other countries
(U.K., Canada, Australia) may report in millimoles per liter
(mmoles/L) and normal values range from about 4.4 to 6.7 mmoles/L. When
discussing bg values on the internet, be sure you are talking in the same
units. You can use the information and chart to
convert the values. The difference in units won't be a problem
when you're talking with your vet because you'll be using the same
This section is not to give advice on what to do when you get a
specific BG value. That is for you and your veterinarian to discuss. Your vet should have
told you what the signs of hypoglycemia are and what to do to treat it. I will say that
our cat has had a few low BG readings. We immediately fed him and watched him very closely
for any signs of hypoglycemia. Be aware that your pet can have very low BG and not show
any outward signs of hypoglycemia. Again, it is very important that you have discussed
hypoglycemia and the immediate treatment with your vet.
Your vet will help you interpret the bg numbers and decide if any changes
are needed in your pet's insulin dose, insulin type, or other aspects of
the daily care routine.
- Follow the instructions that come with the meter and the test strips.
Failure to follow the instructions may result in a faulty BG reading.
- Make sure the
meter is calibrated according to the instructions.
- Try to repeat the BG test if a result seems
faulty - either high or low. Some meters (notable
Bayer's glucometer elite) will give you a faulty low reading even if you
didn't get enough blood into the test strip.
- DO NOT base any decisions on just a few tests. An exception is if you
get a very low bg reading. Then you should immediately treat your pet for
- Consult with your veterinarian.
This is how some owners perform BG tests on
their pet. The ideas are for you to use or modify to best suit the needs of
you and your pet.
The Glucometer Elite
This is a great meter for doing home bg tests on pets.
It is easy to use and requires a very small drop of blood. The test strip automatically
pulls the drop of blood into the test chamber, so you don't have to try to drip the blood
onto the strip. Also, you can move the meter up to the pet - you don't have to keep the
meter laying flat on a table.
Partially insert the test strip before the pick, then fully insert it (you hear a beep)
just before you are ready to do the prick. The meter beeps when the test strip is
correctly inserted. After the beep, the meter allows 3 minutes to get a drop of blood. The
3 minute time is a battery saving function of the meter. The test strip is still good
after 3 minutes.
If you can't get a drop of blood in 3 minutes, remove the test strip, wait a few seconds,
then re-insert the strip. This will give you another 3 minutes.
You must get the required amount of blood into the test strip all at once. The meter beeps
when it has enough blood. If you try to get blood into the meter and the meter doesn't
beep, you can NOT do another prick, then get more blood into the strip until it beeps. The
BG value may be invalid. If you don't get enough blood on the first try, discard the test
strip, use a new test strip, and try again. One "fault" of the glucometer elite
is that is can "beep" to tell you it has enough blood, when it really doesn't.
Look at the test strip and compare it to the picture of a "full" test strip in
the gluc. Elite users manual. If you question the validity of a test, try to repeat it.
Also, be sure your meter is properly coded to the right "F code". A
coding strip comes with each new box of test strips.
Bayer has a new meter, the "Dex". Some owners prefer this
model because it has a wheel of test strips that stay in the meter, so you
don't have to fuss with a test strip for each test. The Dex is more
expensive than the elite, but both models work very well.
Sources Of Information
Your vet should be able to help with most questions about your
If you have questions about the meter, read the instruction book or call the 800 phone
number for the manufacturer. Many
of the popular meters, the web site, and users manual link are available
here. Most manufacturers have an 800 number that you can call for
Many members of the Petdiabetes E-mail list
perform home bg testing. If you would like to discuss the pros and cons of home
testing with people who actually do it, they are a great source of
are also members who do not do home bg testing, so you can get both sides of the story.
Updated August 2001
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