Diabetes Mellitus (DM) occurs when the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin or the insulin it produces is ineffective. The body needs insulin to control blood sugar levels and use sugar for energy. Without insulin sugar accumulates in the blood and spills into the urine causing the animal to urinate lots and drink lots of water. The brain becomes sugar deprived without insulin meaning the animal is constantly hungry, yet may lose weight due to inefficient use of nutrients from their diet. The disease most commonly occurs in older dogs and cats and can be managed long term with insulin injections, which are given at home.
Compo, a 14 year old Norfolk Terrier cross, was diagnosed with DM in 2015 following some tests performed by vet, Catriona Laird. Catriona was suspicious from his clinical signs including weight loss, urinating more frequently and glucose & ketones in his urine, that he may have developed the disease. His owners had been managing his condition with insulin injections but routine blood tests suggested that his diabetes was not stable.
As his owners live over an hour away from the practice Catriona suggested they could monitor his glucose levels at home instead of having to come in repeatedly to perform a glucose curve reading here at the hospital. This can be done using a 'Freestyle Libre' glucose monitoring system, designed and well used by humans but relatively untested in pets. The monitor is attached using a small needle on the underside and will remain in place for about 14 days taking glucose readings every five minutes which can be read and downloaded onto a scanner which comes with the monitor. Traditional blood glucose curves in-practice can be affected by the stress of hospitalisation and only give readings over a 12-hour period.
A small patch of hair is shaved off where the monitor is to be located and it is pressed onto the skin using the applicator, which has been kept completely sterile. Compo was completely unaffected by the monitor being put in place. If anything they may feel a sharp scratch similar to a vaccination.
Once securely in place Catriona checked the scanner was working correctly and Compo was ready to return home with all of his technology in place! His owners were then able to take regular glucose readings and provide Catriona with some data equivalent to us doing repeated daily glucose curves in-house. Consistently high glucose levels would mean that he needs a change in insulin dosage and then the monitoring would be repeated to make sure that the condition is being managed successfully.
Thank you to Comp for being such a willing participant in the trial, we hope to use the system more widely in the future for diabetic patients.