If your dog has been diagnosed with canine diabetes, your vet has probably prescribed insulin injections. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate the body’s blood sugar, or glucose, levels. Dogs with diabetes can only regulate their blood sugar with insulin injections, so you’ll have to learn to give a shot of insulin to your dog.
Diabetes affects as many as 1 in 500 dogs. It’s a common health problem, and one that is manageable with consistent treatment and lifestyle changes. Many pet parents are understandably nervous about giving their dog shots, but when properly given they cause only minimal discomfort. Once you master these steps, the process will be a quick part of your—and your dog’s—routine.
Your veterinarian will give you the proper dosage and the number of shots a day your dog needs –it’s important to give the injections at the same time each day.
Step 1. Store the insulin carefully
- Insulin can be a fragile substance. It should not be exposed to direct sunlight or stored in high temperatures. Keep your unused bottles in the refrigerator, not frozen. Storing it in the fridge door is often recommended.
- If the insulin bottle looks frosted, was possibly exposed to heat, or the liquid seems unevenly colored, start with a new vial to be safe. Do not use insulin past the expiration date on the bottle.
TIP: Although insulin is sensitive to extreme temperatures, bringing it to room temperature before use will not harm the hormone and may be more comfortable at the injection site for your pet.
Step 2. Draw up the insulin
- Mix the insulin by gently rolling the vial between your hands. Do NOT shake it.
- Remove the needle cap and pull the plunger back to the correct dose.
- Holding the vial upside down, insert the needle into the bottle through the stopper. Depress the plunger to force air into the bottle.
- Pull back on the plunger and draw the proper dose, measuring from the needle-facing end of the plunger stop. Remove from the bottle.
- Double check the dosage and that there are no air bubbles in the syringe. Cap the needle again until you are ready to give your pet the shot.
- Return the insulin to the fridge.
TIP: A pet parent may occasionally need to ask someone else to administer an insulin injection. If you need a pre-filled insulin syringe, fill with the known dose, recap the needle carefully, and store needle-side-up in the fridge to avoid clogging. But remember: it’s always safer to skip an injection than risk overdosing your dog on insulin.
Step 3. Inject the insulin
- Hold the syringe in your dominant hand. With your free hand, grip a fold of skin on your dog’s shoulders or back. Pick a slightly different spot each time for the injection; some people find it easier to establish a routine such as always injecting the left side in the mornings and the right side at night.
TIP: You may want to have someone else hold or distract your dog until you are more comfortable administering the insulin. Scratching your dog’s head, teasing a favorite toy, or offering a small treat can be great distractions.
- Push the needle through the skin at a 45 degree angle. You’ll want to avoid coming out the other side of the fold or hitting your fingers.
- Pull back slightly on the plunger to confirm you are not in a blood vessel. If you see blood, remove the needle and start again with a fresh syringe in Step 2.
- If there is no blood, depress the plunger to give your dog the insulin.
- Withdraw the needle and immediately replace the needle cap to prevent accidents.
- Reward your dog! This can mean praise, petting, or a treat. This is an important step to developing a calm routine for you and your dog.
Soon regular insulin injections will become second nature for you both.
More on Diabetes
Know the Different Types of Insulin for Dogs and Cats
Living with Diabetic Dogs
Do I Need a Prescription Dog Diabetes Diet?
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.