Monitoring Blood Glucose Levels in Cats

Your cat’s insulin needs can change—and probably will

Even after a long period of stability, you may notice a change in your cat’s glucose levels that could require an insulin dosage change. Reasons why your cat’s needs may change include:

  • Diabetic remission—eliminates the need for insulin
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Decreased or increased physical activity
  • The presence of other diseases
  • Medications for other conditions

Continued monitoring is important

Keep tracking your cat's progress—even after months or years of management. Your veterinarian can’t do it alone. Sudden changes in glucose levels should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention.

How to easily monitor glucose levels—in your own home

There are 3 main ways of monitoring glucose levels:

1) Glucose can be directly measured in the blood—either at the veterinarian’s office or at your home—to determine if levels are increased or decreased. This is the most accurate method.

2) Glucose is not normally found in the urine of a healthy cat. Examining the urine for glucose is an effective option, but not as accurate as measuring blood glucose levels. This test can be done in the veterinarian’s office or in your home.

3) Fructosamine can be measured in the blood to determine your cat’s average glucose levels over the past few weeks. This test is only available through your veterinarian.

Monitoring blood glucose at home

If you are afraid of blood testing, you should know that it only takes 1 drop of blood from the earflap of your cat. You are not putting your cat at risk and are unlikely to hurt him. If you are comfortable doing blood testing, there are 2 ways you can do it easily at home:

1) Blood test strips can be matched against a sample chart

2) A handheld glucometer can make monitoring even easier and the enhanced convenience and accuracy is worth an initial investment. Talk to your veterinarian about the best glucometer for your cat.

How to perform blood glucose testing in diabetic cats

  • Make sure that your cat's ear is warm. If not, hold it between your hands for about 1 minute to make blood collection easier.
  • Quickly prick a clean, hairless part of the ear with a sterile hypodermic needle or lancet.
  • A small drop of blood will appear. Collect the drop onto the glucose test strip and wait momentarily before wiping it.
  • If necessary, use a cotton ball to stop any additional bleeding.
  • Either use a glucometer to read the test strip automatically or match the color yourself against the chart on the container.
  • Record the results, including time of collection and times of insulin injections given for that day. You should also include comments in your recording chart, which can be used to track your cat’s appetite or note any clinical signs of diabetes. Report the results to your veterinarian regularly.

Monitoring glucose and ketones in your cat's urine

If you prefer urine monitoring, there are a few things that you will need to change. Your veterinarian will likely recommend replacing your standard litter box and litter with a clean box filled with material that won’t absorb the urine—usually Styrofoam peanuts or beads. This will allow the urine to pool on the bottom of the new litter box where it can be more easily collected. Another option is adding special litter crystals that soak in urine and change color to show your cat’s urine glucose levels.

If you choose to perform standard urine testing, you will also need containers to collect the urine, urine dipsticks, and a chart to record results. Here’s how to monitor your cat’s diabetes using a urine sample:

  • After your cat has urinated in his litter box, collect the urine in a container
  • Test the urine using urine dipsticks by soaking it in the urine and then tapping it dry. Follow the instructions on the dipstick container to determine when to read the result.
  • Compare colors against the sample chart on the dipstick container. Record the results including time of collection and times of insulin injections given for that day. You should also use your recording chart to track your cat’s appetite or note any clinical signs of diabetes.
  • You should contact your veterinarian if your cat’s urine glucose is negative more than twice in a row or if the urine ketones are ever positive. Otherwise, keep track of the trend of urine glucose and ketones and report the results to your veterinarian regularly.

Your veterinarian may also measure your cat’s fructosamine level

Evaluating serum fructosamine is another common way veterinarians can monitor cat diabetes using a blood sample. While a blood glucose test reveals the amount of glucose in the blood at the moment the sample was drawn, the fructosamine test shows your cat’s blood glucose trends over the previous 1 to 3 weeks. As many cats become very stressed at the veterinarian’s office, their blood glucose levels may be falsely elevated; therefore, the single glucose measurement is not always accurate. The fructosamine level can help your veterinarian see levels over a longer period of time. Because your cat’s glucose levels vary, the fructosamine levels will not usually be within the normal range, but your veterinarian will check to ensure that they remain within an acceptable level for a diabetic cat.

TIP: Blood testing is the most accurate method of glucose monitoring, and digital glucometers make it easier than ever. If the sight of blood doesn’t make you uneasy, give it a try.

 

 

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