Diabetes in Pets

Also known as "sub-Q" or "SC," this refers to giving an injection or infusion under the skin.

Administerring insulin

Regarding diabetes, subcutaneously is the most common form of administering insulin, though it can be given intramuscularly for faster action or intravenously for diabetic emergencies and the most rapid onset of all. Not all insulins may be given intravenously though!

Administering other fluids

Diabetic caretakers often find themselves in the position of giving subcutaneous fluids for other conditions, such as dehydration or chronic renal failure (CRF). Subcutaneous fluids[1] help rehydrate to the body, keep toxin levels down, and replenish some of the electrolytes that are lost in the urine and not replenished by drinking water.

Your veterinarian may prescribe one of several types of subcutaneous fluids. The fluid type[2] and volume to administer depends on your pet's condition. One of the most common fluids is Lactated Ringer's Solution[3], used to replace acute fluid and electrolyte losses and for correcting mild acidosis. A link below shows the manufacturer's label information for Lactated Ringer's Solution[4].

The link below[5] is a detailed explanation of the equipment and procedure from the caretaker of a cat with CRF. It includes pictures of the procedure and links to other sites where caretakers describe their procedure.

Personal experience

Here are some additional tips from a caretaker who gives subcutaneous fluids to her cat. Her main points are to give the fluids in a location where you can stand and the cat's neck is not bent down too far, that way the skin is more flexible.

First, you don't need to use the huge green needles (gauge 18) that the vet probably gave you. You can buy a smaller gauge like 20 or 21 and that will work just fine. Some folks like the 22 gauge, but I found that it went a little too slowly for our feisty cat, so we use 20 gauge. If your cat is more of a couch potato then 22 might be just fine. The higher the number, the smaller the needle, so the less the poke but the slower the fluids enter. Below[6] is a site to buy needles on line - many different gauges, but only buy Terumo needles, higher quality means less pain. A box of 100 will cost you $8.00 plus shipping. If the online ordering doesn't work, call and order. We do fluids at dinner time when the cat is really hungry. We get everything set up, we do it on the washing machine so we don't have to bend over or hold her on a lap. We put her food down in front of her on a phone book, or something that is about 4" high so her neck is not so stretched down and the fur is easier to grab. The fluids should be at room temperature. If they are too cold (test on your skin) you can warm them with a heating pad and the fluids wrapped in a towel for 15 minutes. Test on your skin after you warm them so you know they are not too warm. Pull up the scruff and make your tent, then scratch the skin where the needle will enter for 10 seconds so it numbs it. Insert your needle bevel up (very important) and open the valve slowly at first, if too much rushes in the cat will squirm. Once the cat is eating and distracted, I open the valve up all the way. Always change the needle every time. Avoid the risk of infection and a dull needle means more pain going in. Good luck, and yes, it definitely gets easier.

Further Reading