Supplies You'll Need to Treat Canine Diabetes


  1. Insulin
  2. Syringes
  3. Sugar source

Insulin: Most dogs are intially started and remain on a type of insulin referred to as "N." The insulin is actually human NPH insulin, but every veterinarian and pharmacist will know what you mean when you ask for N insulin. This insulin can be stored at normal room temperatures or in a warmer place of your refridgerator, such as the upper door shelves. There are several manufacturers, including Lilly, Novolin, and Reli-On. All are equivalent in action but vary in price. Check around and you can get N insulin for as little as $12 a vial.

Syringes are also made by a number of manufacturers and vary widely in price. Do not use a syringe more than once. Not only can you contaminate the insulin with a dirty syringe, you increase risk of an infection, plus the needle dulls very rapidly and will be uncomfortable for your pet.

Syringes: Recommended syringe (barrel) size is based on the dose you dog will be receiving. Most manufacturers offer syringes in 1 cc, 1/2 (0.5) cc, and 3/10 (0.3) cc. A 0.3 cc syringe is good for 30 units or less of human insulins. 30 units is the maximum capacity of 0.3 cc syringes, so they are best for doses of 20 U (units) or less. This syringe will have half unit markings for precise dosing. Over 20 U per dose, increase the syringe size accordingly. The 0.5 cc syringes hold 50 units maximum, the 1 cc syringes hold 100 units or less.

If you are using a special veterinary (non-human) insulin, it is probably a different strength than human insulin and you must use special syringes. Your vet or pharmacist will let you know if you need the special syringes.

Needle thickness is referred to as gauge. The larger the gauge number, the thinner the needle. Insulin needles can be as small as 31 gauge but dogs have pretty tough skin. 29 gauge is a good choice for a terrier but larger breeds such as labradors will do better with the sturdier 28 gauge.

The length of the needle should be 1/2 or 5/8 inch for a dog. The short and ultra-short needles are less scary to you but they just won't adequately penetrate into the dog's subcutaneous layer of skin. Insulin must be injected into the subcutaneous layer to work properly. You'll learn more about this in the TECHNIQUES section.

Sugar Source: If a dog's blood sugar gets too low (hypoglycemia) this can be dangerous. You'll learn to recognize the symptoms but you need to know how to treat hypoglycemia, too. For treatment, you will need a source of easily absorbed sugar. Most diabetic pet owners use Karo corn syrup, honey, or maple syrup. Always have these on hand. And be sure to read up on hypoglycemia.


  1. Urine testing strips
  2. Glucometer
  3. Sharps container
  4. Needle clipper

Urine testing strips: Monitoring your dog's urine for the presence of glucose (sugar) can help you get and keep the diabetes under control. You can also monitor less accurately by just observing how much your dog drinks and urinates but even if that is your main method of monitoring, you may still want to check the urine once in a while. Urine strips are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. Buying a smaller quantity may be a better idea since they do expire. Once expired, their accuracy cannot be trusted.

Reviewing the section on MONITORING is recommended.

Glucometer: Testing your dog's blood glucose level is much more accurate than testing the urine level of sugar. The glucometer you need is the same as used for a human diabetic. Typically, you can find these monitors free with purchase of the test strips. They are easy to use, require very tiny amounts of blood, and are well-tolerated by dogs. Even if you choose to infrequently use the glucometer, it is a minimal investment that is highly recommended. One Touch Meter


Sharps container

Sharps container: This is simply a rigid plastic container for discarding used insulin syringes ("sharps"). You can buy these containers from your vet or at a pharmacy. Wal-Mart sells them for $1.99 for a small one. An even cheaper method is to use a coffee can or an empty laundry soap container. Just make sure that you label it appropriately and have a lid for it. If you have small children, you absolutely must store the container out of reach, even with a lid.

Some veterinarians will allow you to bring used sharps back to them for disposal, some residential disposal companies will allow you to discard appropriately sealed and labelled containers, or B-D manufacturers will accept sharps by mail for disposal. Some recycling companies will accept them although manufacturers state that the syringes are not recyclable. Needles must be removed before recycling. You will need to check with your local agencies.


Needle clipper: These are small and extremely inexpensive items that clip the needle off the syringe and safely store the clipped needle inside the device. One needle clipper will easily last 2 years or more. Once the needle is removed, you can recycle or discard the remaining plastic syringe. The two major brands are the BD Safe Clip needle clipper and the Clip & Stor needle clipper. Both are excellent. It can be difficult to find the clippers except on-line, but your pharmacist will be happy to order one for you. BD clipper







BD Diabetes.com http://www.bddiabetes.com/us/

Wallace MS, Kirk CA. The diagnosis and treatment of insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in the dog and the cat. Probl Vet Med. 1990;2:573-90.



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This site is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your veterinarian about treatment for your diabetic dog.

©2006-2007 RA Price MD