Diabetes mellitus is a disease that is common in both humans and animals like dogs and cats. Keeping a diabetic dog or cat healthy requires hard work and dedication, and can often feel overwhelmed, particularly when your pet is newly diagnosed. Some pets will need insulin therapy, which is administered via injection. To ensure a safe and consistent dosage for your dog or cat, avoid making the following mistakes.

Choosing the Incorrect Insulin

When your dog or cat has been diagnosed with diabetes and prescribed insulin, it is important to only administer the correct type. While many pet parents will administer insulin without veterinarian management, this is not recommended and is very unsafe.

Veterinary insulins include Neutral Protamine Hagedorn (NPH), which is an intermediate-acting insulin that can be used for dogs. Due to its short duration of action, it is not recommended for cats. Protamine Zinc Insulin (PZI) is a commonly used long-acting insulin for cats that is more appropriate, as they spend much of their time sleeping or relaxing.

While veterinary insulin can be quite expensive, some forms of insulin that are designed for humans can also be used for the treatment of pets. These include Levemir, Humulin and Lantus.

Administering the Incorrect Dosage

An incorrect insulin dosage can put your pet’s life at risk. The starting dosage of Protamine Zinc Insulin (PZI) is 0.25-0.5 U/kg every 12 hours for dogs and 1-2 U for cats every 12 hours. It is important to note that the weight of the animal plays a factor in the dosage. The starting dose should be rounded to the nearest whole U. Always follow your veterinarian’s instructions.

Handling it Improperly

There is a common misconception among pet owners that insulin should be diluted prior to injecting, which is not the case. Insulin should never be diluted, as it changes the product’s pH, stability, and pharmacokinetic action.

Prior to administering insulin to your pet, shake the vial vigorously (zinc suspension – Lente) or turn the vial upside down once or twice (PZI and NPH). Next, examine the insulin to ensure that it is cloudy in a uniform pattern and free of any crystals or particulate matter. If you see anything abnormal, refrain from using it.

While most insulin formulations remain stable at room temperature, it is ideally stored in an upright position in a refrigerator.

Administering Insulin

One of the trickiest parts of managing diabetes in pets is administering insulin. Some pets can become afraid or even aggressive during the injection process, which may be due to a painful or unpleasant past experience.

It is essential to request that your veterinarian or veterinarian’s assistant properly train you to administer insulin. This includes the correct location to inject the drug. If your pet is not cooperating, do not use physical force to restrain them. The best way to calm your fur baby is by temporarily hiding the syringe. Allow your pet to relax, praise them and give them low-carb treats.

Once your pet has settled down, move slowly and deliberately to administer the insulin without making them alarmed. After you deliver the drug, shower them with additional praise and treats. This allows you to establish a strong bond during the process, and your pet will learn that you are not causing any harm.


The management of diabetic dogs and cats requires consistency, dedicated and commitment. Ensure that you monitor your pet’s blood glucose levels regularly and feed them a high protein, low carb diet. With proper dosage and care, your pet can lead a healthy and happy life.


Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.