How do I give my dog insulin?

Q: My newly adopted dog, Daisy, was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes. We will have to give her multiple shots throughout the day to control her sugar. How do you recommend I give insulin shots to her? 

A: Administering injectable medications to your pet can seem challenging, but for many owners of pets with special needs, it’s just a part of the daily routine. Here are some tips to help you administer your dog’s insulin safely at home.

Note: Always discuss your dog’s medical treatments with your regular veterinarian.

Overview of Diabetes in Dogs

Approximately 1 in 300 dogs will develop diabetes during their lifetimes. As in humans, diabetes mellitus (or “sugar diabetes”) occurs when the body does not produce sufficient amounts of insulin required to break down and process vital sugars that are needed as nutrients. Without sufficient insulin, the unprocessed sugars accumulate in the blood and cannot reach the cells. Untreated diabetes can have serious consequences including excessive thirst and urination, weight loss despite increased appetite, cloudy eyes, and fatigue. And, in extreme cases, diabetes can be fatal.

Insulin Administration Method (Pen vs Vial)

Choosing a method for administering your pet’s insulin is important. More recent products, such as insulin pens, offer time-saving and more accurate alternatives to the traditional syringe/vial administration. According to an article published in Veterinary Medicine Aukland, requirements for handling insulin pens differ from vials. These differences include:

  • Storage outside the refrigerator (for some insulin preparations) once pen cartridges are in use;
  • Priming of the pen to ensure a full dose of insulin is administered; and
  • Holding the pen still for several seconds during the injection process.

Insulin pens also offer some benefits over traditional syringes, including ease of use and improved dose accuracy, especially for pets that require low insulin doses.

Administering Your Dog’s Insulin Injection

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) offers step-by-step guidelines for administering insulin to your dog.

  • Feed your dog before administering insulin.
  • Prep the insulin according to your vet’s instructions.
  • Clean the rubber stopper on the vial or bottle using rubbing alcohol.
  • Invert the insulin bottle before inserting the needle.
  • Select an injection site (typically insulin injections are administered just below the skin given 1-2 inches from the spine, near the shoulder blade or hipbone. (Alternate injection sites to reduce the risk of soreness.)
  • Position your animal comfortably (you may need assistance to keep large or anxious animals still during the process.
  • Hold the syringe in your dominant hand. Don’t depress the plunger until you’re ready to inject the insulin.
  • With your non-dominant hand, gather a section of your pet’s skin in a tent shape.
  • When the needle is through the skin, gently depress the plunger fully, until the entire dose is administered.
  • Carefully remove the needle from the skin and dispose of in a sharps-safe container.
  • Reward your pet with a treat!

Other Considerations

If your dog is displaying symptoms of increased thirst and urination, cloudy eyes or fatigue, you may want to check your pet’s blood sugar at home. Fortunately, measuring your pet’s blood glucose is easy, and current tests require only a tiny drop of blood. You’ll need a glucometer and test strips, needle or lancing pin, cotton ball or gauze. You can sample from the inner lip, ear vein, or paw pad. Insert the needle and draw a tiny drop of blood. Press the strip from the monitor to the droplet to collect a sample. Then reinsert the strip into the monitor to obtain a readout. Normal values fall between 80–120 mg/dL. If your pet’s results are consistently outside this range, contact your vet.

Conclusion

Diabetes is a serious but manageable disorder in dogs. With proper practice and guidance, you can become adept at testing your pet’s blood glucose and administering insulin shots at home. Best of luck with Daisy! Hope you have long happy lives together!


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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