Insulin Pens and Injection Sites


canine diabetes

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Like their human owners, dogs are not spared from diabetes, which is canine diabetes in this case. Insulin pens offer the advantages of ease, accuracy and comfort for both humans and pets. What’s more, insulin pens are safer to use than insulin bottles and syringes, especially when your diabetic dog finds injections stressful or painful and tries to struggle or escape.

These are good injection sites for dogs using insulin pens—its flank, armpit, side of the belly and side of the chest. Some include the scruff but others believe that this site is not conducive to insulin absorption. As with people, try to vary the exact injection site within the general area, such as the flank, to avoid the formation of lumps or nodules and scars. These also interfere with absorption of insulin.

Insulin Pens for Canine Diabetes

Vetsulin was the only FDA-approved insulin for dogs and cats. However the FDA stopped its production in March 2011 due to issues of  purity and stability.  Veterinarians were advised to switch to other products since production may or may not be resumed.  The remaining supplies are still being marketed and used, but owners are advised to take special precautions in such cases.

In the USA, Neutral Protamine Hagedorn (also known as N and NPH) is an intermediate acting insulin now used primarily for canine diabetes. It is usually given twice daily at meal time. NPH can control glucose level for a period ranging from 8-14 hours and is generally effective and affordable. Many vets have also been trying the long-acting insulin Detemir or Levemir. It is particularly suitable for dogs that need insulin more potent than NPH; one unit of Levemir is equal to 4 units of NPH. It is usually best to inject a diabetic dog with insulin twice a day after meals for better glucose control.

Regular insulin injections using insulin pens are not the only lifestyle change for diabetic pets. Many diabetic dogs gain weight and have to slim down. Aside from insulin therapy, feeding them with high fiber, low carbohydrate and quality protein food  and regular exercise help to control their weight and glucose level.


Preparations for Insulin Injection

  • Prepare the insulin pens and other supplies you’ll need to administer insulin, including some treats that you’ll “bribe” your dog with. Be sure that the insulin is at room temperature so your pet will experience less discomfort.
  • Keep your pet in a relaxed and calm state. If necessary, employ the assistance of a family member that the dog is familiar with.
  • Be sure that your dog has been properly fed before administering its insulin.

Step-by-Step Injection Using Insulin Pens

  • Uncap the insulin pen. Ensure that the insulin looks all right. Some types have a cloudy appearance, while others are crystalline clear. Carefully attach a pen needle. Mix the insulin well by lightly rolling the pen between your palms, or moving it from side to side about 20 times.
  • Be sure the pen cartridge is properly primed. Hold the pen with the needle pointing straight up, and lightly tap the pen to make the air bubbles inside rise to the top. Then make an “air shot” (releasing a drop or two of insulin into the air) which eliminates air bubbles and ensures your diabetic dog gets a full dose of insulin.
  • Dial the required dose of insulin.
  • Pinch up a fold of skin near the actual injection spot. Stick the needle into the fatty layer underneath the skin at the correct angle. Angle the needle that its bevel faces up to make the injection less painful. Make sure the needle doesn’t hit the muscle underneath. Inject it  just deep enough to penetrate the layer of fat.
  • Release the skin fold. Press the insulin pen’s injection button and wait a few seconds until the full dose is administered.
  • When you take out the needle, be careful it doesn’t twist or bend since it may cause some discomfort on your pet. Just pull it straight up. Press your finger gently on the injection site and rub lightly for a few seconds to inhibit bleeding. Praise and reward your dog with a treat afterwards.
  • Detach the needle from insulin pens after each use and dispose of them per your vet’s advice.

Always remember that your veterinarian is still your best source of advice regarding the choice and usage of insulin pens for your diabetic dog.