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Giving Insulin Injections in your Diabetic Cat

Here is a step-by-step illustrated guide to safely inject insulin in your diabetic cat.

[From Tufts January 2011 Issue]

Diabetes ranks as one of the most common health conditions in cats, especially those who are overweight. As treatment, many cats will require twice-daily insulin injections.

In two recent issues, we provided step-by-step guides to administering pills and liquid medicine. Now, our experts offer tips on developing confidence and proficiency in administering insulin injections to your diabetic cat.

“It’s important to recognize that animals do not have anxiety about needles — people have anxiety about needles,” says Scott Shaw, DVM, Assistant Professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. “The gauge of the needle is very small and your cat will feel just a prick in her skin. It should not be painful to your cat.”

1. Place your cat on a sturdy surface like a table or bathroom countertop. To make your cat more comfortable, consider placing her on top of a thick bath towel.

PHOTOS COURTESTY OF SOPHIA YIN, DVM

2. Many cats will hold still with light scruffing. Scruff your cat and locate where the injection is to be given.

Match syringe with insulin
Make sure that you match the right syringe with the right insulin. Use U40 syringes with U40 insulin; use U100 syringes with U100 insulin. Never reuse needles because bacteria from a cat’s skin can contaminate the remaining insulin in the vial.

It is vital that you make this a rewarding, calm experience for your cat. She should equate receiving her injections with rewards, such as healthy treats or affection. Don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you have any questions about administering the insulin at home.

Keep the insulin in your refrigerator. At dosage time, gently roll the vial between your palms to re-suspend the crystals. Insulin is fragile, so do not shake the vial, cautions Dr. Shaw.

Withdraw the specific dose into the syringe. Calmly and confidently approach your cat and establish the connection between injections and rewards by offering tuna or canned food.

3. Use your thumb and index finger to tent the skin. Help desensitize your cat to the needle right before injection by tapping the injection site a few times. Your cat should not react to this tapping.

4. Inject the needle assertively and then inject the fluid. Slow placement of the needle is more likely to cause your cat to struggle.


†Skin tip offered
“The trick is to pinch and move the skin just enough so that your cat doesn’t care about this action and just cares about eating,” says Sophia Yin, DVM, the author of Low Stress: Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats (CattleDog Publishing). With more than 1,600 how-to photographs, the book is a resource for veterinarians and veterinary technicians.

She continues, “Pinch for a few seconds, give the injection and pinch the skin again for a few seconds after you give an injection while your cat continues to eat. The goal is for your cat to understand that pinching is associated with good things, like receiving food rewards.”

The photographs accompanying this article illustrate the proper technique for injecting insulin.

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