When an animal consumes a meal, food is eventually converted to a sugar called glucose. Cells throughout the body require glucose for energy in order to function and survive. However, cells cannot absorb the glucose without some help from a substance called insulin. In healthy animals, insulin is produced by an organ called the pancreas. Diabetic animals for some reason do not produce enough insulin to allow cells to utilize the glucose, or they develop a resistance to the mechanism of insulin. As a result, the amount of glucose in the bloodstream rises, however the cells cannot function due to a lack of usable fuel.
Diabetics may be treated by supplementing their insulin with injections given once or twice a day. Blood-glucose tests are run to determine the correct amount of insulin needed. If you are using a glucometer to measure blood-glucose values at home, you should report the values to the veterinarian before making any adjustments to the insulin dosage.
Because insulin allows the cells to absorb glucose, if too much insulin is given or if the animal does not consume food regularly, the blood-sugar level can drop rapidly and the cells again become depleted of energy. This is called insulin shock or hypoglycemia. Symptoms include lethargy, immobility, incoherence, and very quickly – death.
If an animal misses a meal, seems lethargic or unwell, it is always better to skip the next insulin injection to avoid causing insulin shock. Monitor the animal closely until the veterinarian can be seen.
If insulin shock does occur or is even suspected, or if an accidental overdose of insulin occurs, try to feed the animal (only if they are conscious) honey or Karo syrup, or anything it will consume to raise blood-sugar levels. Then see the veterinarian or emergency clinic as quickly as possible. Do Not Give More Insulin!
Insulin and Syringes
Insulin is available in several forms and concentrations. Always verify the type and strength of the insulin with the prescription. The strength will be in units. Notice a U-100, U-40, or U-80 on the package. Compare with the syringe. The markings must be the same, e.g. U-100 insulin must be administered with a U-100 syringe.
The Veterinarian will instruct you on the technique of giving insulin injections.
Remember…if you have any questions at all regarding insulin administration, or if you suspect insulin shock, be safe and call the vet!