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Why Home Testing Your Diabetic Dog is So Important!

For the past 8 months, Ella has been doing great. She’s had a healthy appetite, lots of energy, and hasn't shown any signs of abnormally high or low blood glucose numbers. Back in February 2014, she became hypoglycemic and my vet adjusted her insulin dosage from 12.5u per shot down to 8.5. Since then she’s been her happy, friendly self!

I know that there are some varying opinions on home testing; some of you have told me you test every day before every meal, and others have said they only test when their dogs show signs of low or high blood sugar. It is a personal decision, and one that I didn’t immediately take. However, recently I decided that even though I wasn’t comfortable with home testing every day, I felt that there have been times where I wish I knew how to do it, and decided to purchase the home testing kit (I recommend the AlphaTrak 2).

That decision recently paid dividends for Ella and myself. Over the holidays I traveled to be with family, and left Ella in the care of a good friend that owns a ranch in Eastern Colorado. Ella has been there several times over the past few years, and she enjoys spending time exploring their many acres of land and playing with my friend's 3 dogs. The big benefit for me is that my friend is comfortable with giving Ella her shots (other friends have tried, and Ella immediately shows she’s uncomfortable with a rookie giving her a shot).

I was gone for 6 days, dropping her off Tuesday afternoon and picking her up the following Monday morning. I could tell something was a little “off” with Ella; she didn’t greet me as excitedly as in the past, and she seemed very timid. My friend told me that Ella had done great while I was away, although the last night she did her business in the closet and not outside. The only thing that I was worried about was that she told me she had run out of food, and was only able to give her ½ portions of the wet food for the final meals, and just gave her more kibble to replace it.

Ella was tired when we got home, but that’s not unusual as she usually sleeps quite a bit when she gets back from the ranch. Later that evening, she only ate ½ her meal, and I gave her a full dose of insulin.

The following morning I decided it was time to home test to see what her glucose levels were at. Something wasn’t right, Ella wasn’t herself, and that usually meant either hypoglycemia or ketoacidosis.

I was right! Her fasting numbers (taken before feeding) were low--just 26--so I was able to make the decision to adjust her dosage down to 4 units. In the afternoon, timed directly between her 2 daily shots, I again tested and she wasn’t much better at only 52. I called my vet, and was instructed to not give her any insulin for the next 2 days. On Friday, I took her in to the vet and they did a glucose curve on her, and the decision was made that at 8.5 units per shot, she was receiving too much insulin, so we’ve now put her on 4units per shot!

The lesson I took from this is just how important home testing can be! Had I just continued to give Ella her normal dose, it would have dropped her levels even lower and could have caused seizures and even death. Even if you don’t want to test every day, I encourage all diabetic dog owners to learn how to home test, to purchase the kit, educate yourself, and give yourself the ability to test your diabetic dog when needed.

- Rob & Ella

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