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Sweet Success: Managing the Diabetic in Small Animal Practice. Wendy Blount, DVM. Wendy Blount, DVM. drblount@vonallmen.net Handouts and PowerPoints for these Presentations: http://wendyblount.com. Steps of Managing the Diabetic. As Simple as 1-2-3 Diagnosis & Stabilization

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wendy blount dvm

Sweet Success:

Managing the Diabetic

in Small Animal Practice

Wendy Blount, DVM

wendy blount dvm2
Wendy Blount, DVM


Handouts and PowerPoints for these Presentations:


steps of managing the diabetic
Steps of Managing the Diabetic

As Simple as 1-2-3

  • Diagnosis & Stabilization
  • Insulin Regulation & Treat Complications
  • Maintenance & Insulin Adjustment
  • Confirm Hyperglycemia
    • Stressed cats can have transient hyperglycemia
    • Critically ill non-diabetic dogs can also have marked hyperglycemia (>400)
      • Stress hyperglycemia due to glucocorticoids, epinephrine and insulin resistance
      • Hyperglycemia has adverse effects on the immune system, coagulation, heart and brain
      • Treat with judicious insulin PRN
      • Compendium June 2007

2. Stress Hyperglycemia or DM?

  • “No glucosuria” makes DM unlikely
  • Stressed cats can have glucosuria
    • Renal threshold 180 mg/dl
  • Ketones in the urine indicate catabolism – investigate DKA
    • DKA = Diabetic ketoacidosis
    • Any sick cat who has not eaten for days can have ketonuria
  • If all else fails, run a fructosamine
    • Fructosamine elevated with DM

3. Confirm PU-PD

  • Can’t always rely on the history
  • Urine specific gravity < 1.025
    • Often isosthenuric (1.012-1.018)
    • Or hyposthenuric (<1.012)
  • water intake > 100 ml/kg/day
    • 11 lb. cat > 16 ounces per day
    • 25 lb. dog > 1 quart per day
    • 45 lb. dog > 1 half a gallon per day
    • 85 lb. dog > 1 gallon per day

4. Initial Work-up

  • Prior to regulation – Why?
  • Assess for DKA and/or pancreatitis which complicate initial treatment
  • Assess for concurrent problems which might change long term prognosis
    • Chronic renal failure
    • Hyperthyroidism
    • Cancer
  • Identify urinary tract infection or other problems that will complicate regulation
    • UTI Common in new diabetics
    • Regulation will be difficult until UTI resolved

4. Initial Work-up

  • CBC – evidence of infection
  • General health profile
    • include phosphorus
      • If hypophosphatemic, put on IV fluids with potassium phosphates prior to first dose of insulin
    • Indications of pancreatitis/fatty liver
      • Elevated liver enzymes
      • Icterus without anemia
      • Hypoalbuminemia
      • hyperlipidemia

4. Initial Work-up

  • Electrolytes and venous blood gases
    • VetStat, iSTAT and Catalyst all provide in house blood pH
    • If hypokalemic, put on IV fluids with potassium phosphates prior to first dose of insulin
      • Insulin carries K+ and Phos into the cell
      • When insulin is given, low serum K+ and Phos go even lower when ushered into cells
      • Correcting acidosis makes low serum K+ and Phos even lower
      • Phos <1.5 can cause severe hemolysis
      • Low K+ can cause weakness and paralysis
k phos in dka patient
K+ & Phos in DKA Patient
  • Monitor PCV, K+ and Phos at least daily until stable, in DKA patients
    • More often if very low or unstable
  • Can use 0.5cc lithium heparin tubes to prevent exsanguination
  • Place jugular catheter for patient comfort
    • Draw blood without venipuncture
  • Replace K+ according to sliding scale
    • More K+ supplemented when acidotic
    • The lower Phos, the more KPhos:KCl you use
    • Don’t exceed 0.5 mEq/kg/hr potassium
k phos in dka patient11
K+ & Phos in DKA Patient
  • Eating is important to maintaining K+/Phos
    • Things usually begin to stabilize when the cat begins to eat
    • KCl contains 2 mEq/ml potassium
    • KPhosphates contain 4 mEq/ml potassium
    • Use half as much KCl as KPhos for the same amount of potassium added to fluids
  • Be VERY CAREFUL of bicarbonate therapy
  • Regular insulin given PRN to keep glucose 150-250, checking glucose q2-4 hrs
  • DKA articles

4. Initial Work-Up

  • Urinalysis and urine culture
    • Check for ketones
    • Glucosuria, dilute urine and immunosuppression predispose to UTI
    • 50% of new diabetics have a UTI, often without clinical signs
    • Immunosuppresion prevents active sediment
    • Dilute urine prevents detection of bacteriuria
  • Blood pressure
  • FeLV/FIV for cats, HWAg for dogs
  • For A+ Clients
    • Imaging “looking for trouble”
    • Chest x-rays, Abdominal US
    • Look for pancreatitis, IBD, infection, concurrent problems
  • If panel or exam indicates pancreatitis
    • cPLI for dogs (in house SNAP - Idexx)
    • fPLI for cats
    • Can follow these long term to monitor resolution of pancreatitis
    • Abdominal US
  • Middle aged to older cats
    • T4, FreeT4
  • Dogs with endocrine alopecia
    • After stabilization, during regulation
    • TSH, T4, FreeT4
    • ACTH Stim, Low Dose Dex Test, Abdominal US
insulin regulation
Insulin Regulation

Don’t be in a hurry

  • It can take a few months
    • Prepare the owner
  • Insulin needs often change over the first weeks of insulin therapy
  • Not quite enough insulin is usually better than a little too much insulin
insulin regulation15
Insulin Regulation

Start insulin at 1-2 units per 10 pounds

  • 1 unit per 10 lbs if glucose <350
  • 2 units per 10 lbs if glucose >350
  • Glucose curve after first morning dose
    • Rule out hypoglycemia
  • If well, send home that evening if curve shows no hypoglycemia
    • Even if glucose values are high
  • If DKA, keep in hospital until stable
  • Recheck one week for glucose curve
    • Recheck sooner if problems
which insulin for dogs
Which Insulin for Dogs?

NPH (Humulin N)

  • Reasonable first choice

Lente (Vetsulin)

  • Used to be an excellent first choice
  • Recent problems with manufacturing have made less popular
  • Wide swings in blood glucose

Protamine zinc (PZI, ProZinc)

  • no data in dogs – too early to tell

Glargine (Lantus)

  • Erratic absorption in dogs
  • Not a good first choice, as regulation is often difficult
which insulin for cats
Which Insulin for Cats?

NPH (Humulin N)

  • Usually too short acting for cats

Lente (Vetsulin)

  • Used to be a reasonable first choice
  • Recent problems with manufacturing have made less popular

Protamine zinc (PZI, ProZinc)

  • Initial data are encouraging
  • 2.5x more expensive than Lantus (>$60 vet cost for 400 unit vial)

Glargine (Lantus)

  • Excellent first choice for cats, curves are smoother
  • $100 retail for 1000 unit vial
  • No need to discard after 28 days, good for at least 6 months
  • <$20 a month if giving 3 units BID or less (10 cents a unit)
nutrition for diabetic cats
Nutrition for Diabetic Cats
  • For many years, we fed diabetic cats high fiber, low fat diets, just like dogs & people
  • 2001 - ACVIM – carbs also important
    • 31% fed Low Carb diet were able to d/c insulin, and an additional 46% decreased insulin dose
    • None of the High Carb cats were able to reduce or discontinue insulin
    • Confirmed by numerous studies since
    • Remission achieved by using low carb-high protein diets with long acting insulin (glargine - Lantus)
    • Some papers have reported remission rate as high as 68%
    • Chances of remission increases four-fold by feeding low carb-high protein diet
nutrition for diabetic cats19
Nutrition for Diabetic Cats

Ideal diet for diabetic cats

  • >40% protein and <8% carbs, as % of calories
  • A little different from % of Dry Matter basis (fat is 2x as calorie dense as protein & carbohydrate)
  • Only two dry diets on the market that fit the bill
    • Innova EVO (California Naturals - Natura)
    • Wellness Core
    • Purina DM and Hill’s Rx Diet M/D dry (15% carbs) are much better than other dry cat diets (25-35% carbs), but not ideal
  • Many commercial canned diets fit the bill
    • Complete Handout for VetsPercent Calories Calculator
    • List of foods OK for cats with DM – for clients
    • List of Foods Low Carb Moderate Protein food for cats with DM and CRF – for clients
nutrition for diabetic cats20
Nutrition for Diabetic Cats

Myth #1: Diabetic cats should be meal fed if they are to be well regulated

  • Fresh food BID – allowed to eat ad lib
  • Multiple small meals eaten throughout the day and night
  • 24 hour glucose curve done (q2h)
  • no correlation between blood glucose and the amount of food consumed over the previous 2 hours
  • overnight fast did not significantly alter morning blood glucose

J Feline Med Surg. 1999 Dec;1(4):241-51. Food intake and blood glucose in normal and diabetic cats fed ad libitum. Martin GJ, Rand JS.

nutrition for diabetic cats21
Nutrition for Diabetic Cats

Myth #2: You shouldn’t give insulin to pets who aren’t eating

  • If glucose >300 for any period of time, insulin needs to be given to prevent diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Dogs and cats with DKA will remain acidotic until they get insulin
  • If you are chicken, give small amounts only as needed
  • A small amount of insulin can do a great deal of good in a DKA patient
nutrition for diabetic cats22
Nutrition for Diabetic Cats


  • Day 0
    • not feeling well, abscess on toe, Tx clindamycin PO BID
  • Day 3
    • still not feeling well, not eating
    • UA shows ketones and glucose, blood glucose 298
    • Treated with IV fluids and IV antibiotics
    • No insulin given because not eating
  • Day 6
    • Very weak, vomiting blood, collapsed on abdominal palpation
    • BUN 41, glucose 290, venous pH 7.035, K+ <2.0, Phos 1.6
    • Diabetic ketoacidosis with pancreatitis

Weekly Rechecks

  • Weight and exam
  • If still showing clinical signs of DM, do glucose curve without fructosamine
  • If clinical signs under control, do Fructosamine (FRA)
  • If FRA high or low, do glucose curve
    • Adjust insulin and recheck 1 week
  • If FRA normal, no curve needed
    • send home on that dose and recheck in 1 month
    • Sooner if problems


  • Averages blood glucose levels over the past 10-14 days
  • In house – HESKA Spotchem
    • Control is a healthy cat or dog
  • Or send out

Glycosylated Hemoglobin (HA1c)

  • Average blood glucose levels over the past 4-6 weeks
  • Not as reliable as fructosamine in dogs and cats
  • Send out

Fructosamine High

  • Significant period of hyperglycemia
  • Not enough insulin
  • Too much insulin
    • Hypoglycemia, rebound hyperglycemia
  • Adjust insulin according to curve

Fructosamine normal range (200-400)

Fructosamine Low

  • Mild to moderate hypoglycemia
  • Not enough to cause Somogyi (65-80)
  • Decrease insulin by 10-15%
glucose curve protocol
Glucose Curve Protocol
  • Owner feeds and gives insulin
  • Bring pet to clinic within 2 hours
  • Glucose (+ fructosamine) on arrival
  • Glucose every 2 hours when >100
    • Once you know the insulin duration, you may be able to take the first glucose 4 hrs after insulin
  • Glucose every hour when <100
    • Can miss nadir (low point) if you don’t do this
  • Continue until you get 2 values 2 hours apart that are upwardly trending
    • If nadir not <120, it’s difficult to determine duration
  • Usually can be completed in a business day, but not always
    • Some require 12-24 hours
    • Have owners finish at home or take to E-clinic
home glucose curves
Home Glucose Curves
  • Really are better than “in clinic”
  • Stress increases glucose
    • Especially in cats
  • Many owners can learn to do it
  • It’s very helpful for owners to be able to check blood sugar in an emergency
  • Entire curve does not have to be finished the same day
  • Have owners come in for appointment to discuss the glucose curve
home glucose curves28
Home Glucose Curves
  • Warm the ear or area to be pricked
    • Lateral ear vein in cats
    • Dog lip
    • Foot pad, elbow callus
  • Apply vaseline if area is haired
  • Prick with human lancet
    • Can use 27 gauge needle
    • Use roll of gauze inside the ear for cats
  • Use low volume glucometer

Ear PrickLip Prick

Feline DM HandoutCanine DM Handout

home urine testing
Home Urine Testing
  • I don’t use urine strips for glucosuria
  • Renal threshold can vary from pet to pet
  • Many well regulated diabetic dogs and cats will have daily glucosuria
  • It is reasonable to have owners keep KetoDiastix
  • Ketonuria indicates seeing the vet ASAP
spot checking diabetics
Spot Checking Diabetics

Quiz – Spot glucose checks at insulin time

What Would you do?

  • 250, 260
  • 350, 335
  • 245, 265
  • 200, 200
spot checking diabetics31
Spot Checking Diabetics
  • Which values in a glucose curve are used to determine dose?
    • Nadir (lowest glucose values - insulin peak)
    • Lowest glucose value should be around 100
  • Which values on a glucose curve are used to determine interval and insulin type?
    • Peak glucose values (insulin nadir)
    • If glucose nadir is ideal, and glucose peaks are too high, then you need to give insulin more often, or you need a longer acting insulin
  • Ideally, a majority of the time, glucose should be between 100 and 250
    • Never go lower than 80-90
spot checking diabetics32
Spot Checking Diabetics

Interpreting glucose curves

  • Duration of curve –
    • If your curve is 12 hours or less, you need to give insulin BID, not SID
  • Glucose range
    • If all values are 100-200, leave it alone
    • Consider the same if 100-250, if clinical signs are controlled
spot checking diabetics33
Spot Checking Diabetics

Interpreting glucose curves

3. Glucose nadir

  • If < 80-90, reduce the insulin dose
  • If >100-150 and glucose peak too high, increase insulin dose
  • If >100-150 and glucose peak <250, leave dose alone

4. Glucose peak

  • If nadir OK and peak too high, change to longer duration insulin
  • NPH – shortest
  • Then Vetsulin (Lente)
  • Then PZI
  • Lantus longest (not for most dogs)
spot checking diabetics34
Spot Checking Diabetics

If you were only allowed two glucose checks in every 24 hour period, when would you want to take them?

At Insulin Time?

5-7 hours after insulin?

One of each?

spot checking diabetics35
Spot Checking Diabetics

Correct Your Quiz

  • 250, 260
    • Need to decrease insulin
  • 350, 335
    • Increasing insulin would probably make this dog or cat hypoglycemic
    • Need to change insulins instead
  • 245, 265
    • Need to increase insulin
  • 200, 200
    • Insulin should not be changed

Glucose Curve article


Recheck Every 3-4 months

  • Exam, weight, urinalysis

Every 6 months

  • Exam, weight, UA
  • CBC, panel electrolytes, urine culture
  • fructosamine
  • Blood pressure


  • Thyroid testing for middle aged to older cats

Regular dental cleanings

Glucose curves only when clinical problems or FRA abnormal

  • Not uncommon in cats
    • Endogenous insulin production varies with the state of chronic pancreatitis
  • More common with Lantus insulin in combination with high protein/low carb diet
  • Rare in dogs, except after recovery from severe acute pancreatitis
  • Temporary or permanent
  • Short or long
  • Individual cat can have multiple remissions
insulin resistance
Insulin Resistance
  • Insulin receptors are blocked
  • Greater than 1-2 units/lb, with all curve values remaining very high
    • No values below 250
  • True insulin resistance is very rare
  • Common reasons for high curves
    • Not giving enough insulin
    • treatable problem causing dysregulation (reversible insulin resistance)
  • Insulin resistance in cats
    • Acromegaly
    • hyperadrenocorticism
insulin resistance39
Insulin Resistance
  • Dysregulation in cats
    • Hyperthyroidism
  • Dysregulation in dogs
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Hyperadrenocorticism, hypoadrenocorticism
  • Dysregulation in dogs or cats
    • Pancreatitis
    • Infection (dental, UTI, pyometra, etc.)
    • Glucosamine administration, theoretically
    • Change in diet
    • Glucose toxicity
    • Insulin or administration problems
  • 17 year old DLH, has been a diabetic for about 3 years
  • Had an “insulin vacation” for about six months during the first year
  • Was taking 2 units NPH BID for about a year prior to boarding for 10 days
    • Eats Innova EVO dry free choice (crunchy junkie)
    • He doesn’t eat well when he boards
  • Since coming home from boarding a month ago, Willie has felt terrible
    • PU/PD
    • Doesn’t eat chicken jerky snacks as voraciously
    • Very lethargic
  • In the past month
    • Weekly visits to regular vet for spot checks at insulin time
    • Fasted overnight and no insulin prior to coming in for glucose checks
    • Insulin given at clinic, Willie doesn’t eat all day
    • All glucose values > 400
    • Insulin gradually increased to 6 units BID
    • Willie just keeps getting worse, now he won’t eat, still PU-PD
  • No new findings on exam, except weight loss of 1.5 lbs over past year
    • Other than glucose, last bloodwork done 2 yrs. ago
  • Bloodwork at 2pm (insulin 7am)
  • CBC – NSAF
  • Profile & electrolytes – BUN 68, creat 4, phos 9, glu 31
  • UA – SG 1.015, no bacteriuria
  • Urine culture negative
  • T4 – 6.5, FreeT4 – 63
  • No chest x-rays or abdominal US
    • This may have sent Willie over the edge
    • Sedation might compromise the kidneys
  • New Diagnoses – hyperthyroidism, CRF, insulin overdose
  • Plan
    • 100 ml LRS SC (owners not ready for home fluids)
    • No insulin tonight, reduce insulin to 4 units BID
    • Recheck in 1 week, or sooner if problems continue
    • Provide owner with list of canned moderate protein, low carb foods – wishful thinking
  • 1 week later, Willie “is a new cat” ;-)
    • Eating well and happy, but still PU-PD
    • With CRF, we likely won’t be able to use PU-PD as a marker for good regulation
    • 2 pm glucose 67, BUN 49, creat 2, phos normal
    • Reduce insulin to 3 units BID, recheck 1 week
  • 1 week later, Willie still feeling good
    • still PU-PD
    • Fructosamine high
      • BUN 59, creat 5, phos normal
    • Glucose curve
      • Time 0 – 365
      • 2 hours – 71
      • 4 hours – 143
      • 6 hours - 310
    • Change to Lantus 3 units BID, recheck 1 week
  • 1 week later, Willie still feeling good
    • still PU-PD
    • Fructosamine within normal range
    • Begin methimazole 2.5 mg PO SID
    • Decrease Lantus to 2 units BID, recheck 1 week