Nervous about giving your cat his or her first dose of insulin at home? Don’t worry, both of you will become accustomed to the process in a week or two. But before we explain the step-by-step process of giving your cat insulin, here are a few general tips:
Keep insulin refrigerated.
Insulin manufacturers recommend that insulin be refrigerated at a temperature between 36 and 45 degrees F.
Gently mix insulin before injection.
Insulin needs to be gently resuspended before administering. In general, the insulin bottle should be gently rolled between the palms of your hands to resuspend; avoid vigorous shaking as this can denature proteins or risk frothing, both of which can affect your ability to deliver a safe dose. The only exception to this rule is when using Vetsulin which instructs owner to vigorously shake prior to administration. Read more on the mistakes you can make when handling insulin.
Pay attention to the insulin’s expiry date.
Usually insulin has an expiry date of around 28 days. Ensure that the insulin you are giving your cat has not reached its expiration date.
Keep a visible log of when you gave your cat’s injection
In a common area of the home, keep a log of when you gave your cat his or her injection and confirm the dose. This will help you remember whether or not you administered the dose or alert you if it was done by another member of the family. We also strongly recommend using the RVC Pet Diabetes App (https://www.rvc.ac.uk/clinical-connections/pioneering-pet-diabetes-app); it is an excellent tool to help manage your pet’s diabetes.
Ensure you have the right insulin syringe.
It is very important that you have the right insulin syringe. In general all insulin labeled for veterinary use are U-40, which measures 40 units per milliliter. Human insulin, however, uses U-100, which measures 100 units per milliliter. Using the wrong syringe for the insulin that you have been prescribed can be a critical mistake. If you have any questions, call our office.
Handle the syringe safely.
- Don’t touch the needle or allow it to touch anything but the cap of the insulin vial prior to injection.
- Never dispose insulin syringes with household waste.
- After you have finished the injection, replace the cap on the syringe using the one hand scoop technique
Properly store medical waste.
Do not reuse insulin syringes or throw them into the regular trash. You can purchase a medical waste container to keep syringes safely out of harm’s reach or you can make your own. A coffee can with an opening cut in the plastic top or a large tin soda will work well as makeshift containers for used syringes. When the can is full, you can bring it with you to your next visit and we will dispose it for you.
Try to administer insulin in a calm setting.
If your cat is food driven, offer him or her a favorite treat and use the food to help distract from the injection. Some pet owners sit with their cat in their lap and combine the injection with time together to ensure the experience is pleasant for the cat. Avoid administering the injection over the shoulder region. Preferably, use the flank region where there is less fat that will interfere with consistent absorption. It is advisable to avoid repeated injections in the same location.
Monitor your cat’s food intake before and after injection.
Since insulin regulates the amount of glucose in the blood, it is imperative that your cat’s caloric intake remain fairly steady before and after the injection. If your cat has not eaten prior to the injection, withhold the injection and call our office for advice.
Stick to the food we prescribed for your cat.
Most diabetic cats are type II, a relative insulin deficiency, which occurs due to obesity and consumption of excess carbohydrate calories. It is most likely that we prescribed a special diet for him or her that is low in carbohydrates designed to improve your cat’s glucose regulation. Please continue to give it as recommended. If at any time, your cat refuses to eat the food, please call our office for additional help.
How to Give Your Cat Insulin
Gather what you need.
You will need:
- A vial of insulin
- An alcohol swab to clean the injection cap of the vial
- An insulin syringe (make sure that it is the right size for the insulin you are giving)
- Treats or a snack if your pet is food driven
Load the syringe with the appropriate amount of insulin.
- Remove the insulin from the refrigerator, gently agitate the vial by rolling it between the palms of your hands (or shake vigorously if using Vetsulin).
- Wipe the injection cap of the insulin vial with an alcohol swab to clean it.
- Remove the cap on the syringe by holding the barrel of the needle in one hand and twisting the cap and pulling it off with the other. Place the cap on a surface.
- Pull back the plunger on the syringe to the dosage amount marked on the barrel.
- Turn the vial upside down, insert the syringe into the vial, and draw back the correct amount of insulin. It is sometimes necessary to flick the barrel of the syringe once or twice to push any air bubbles out of the barrel to ensure that your pet receives the correct dose. Replace the cap using the one hand scoop technique described above. The video below is cued to the right section so that you can view this.
Prepare for the injection.
Hold your cat in your lap or if your cat is food driven, allow him or her to eat. When you are ready to inject, remove the cap from the syringe.
Choose the injection site.
It is recommended to administer the insulin in the flank where there is minimal fat deposits. During your first lesson with us, we’ll help you to identify what injection site will work best.
Administer the injection.
- Lightly pinch a ‘tent’ of skin on the nape of your cat’s neck or thigh.
- Insert the needle into the area of skin just below your finger tips
- There is no need to draw back on the syringe; injecting into a blood vessel is not an issue when using insulin syringes.
- Push the plunger to inject the insulin into your pet.
- Remove the syringe
- Reward your cat with praise.
- Recap the syringe using the one hand technique described above and dispose of the needle in your medical waste container
Monitor your cat.
Watch your cat after the injection. Ensure that he or she is eating and drinking normally. Immediately call our office if your pet appears to be reacting adversely to the injection. According to Merck animal health, signs of an adverse reaction to insulin can be:
- Convulsions and seizures