Send diabetic pets home with confidence

In-home blood glucose monitoring can improve prognoses and client compliance.
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Nov 18, 2010
By dvm360.com staff

Too many discussions of diabetes in pets start with horror stories—medical cases gone wrong, rapid decline in a pet's health, veterinary teams and clients disillusioned. Heather Lynch, LVT, supervising technician at Tatum Point Animal Hospital in Phoenix, would like to change that.

When Lynch presents a diabetes diagnosis, she explains to clients that a pet's insulin levels can usually be stabilized after six to 12 weeks. She gives them the option to test their pets at home and administer insulin themselves, and she says those who do are empowered by the process. They're thrilled to see their pets back to normal and glad to regain hope for a pet they'd worried was on its last legs.

HOOK THEM OR LOSE THEM

Lynch says a lot rides on that first conversation about the diagnosis. Be ready to explain the disease thoroughly, she advises, and discuss the care the pet will need in the practice and at home.

"The first time you talk to a client about diabetes is when you hook them or lose them," Lynch says. She tells clients that diabetes is a chronic disease with negative effects but that it can be managed. And when she delivers this talk along with her recommendations for in-home glucose monitoring, she's ready to explain how to draw blood.

NULLIFY FEAR OF NEEDLES

Few clients are immediately comfortable with the idea of drawing blood. Lynch advises being confident in your own skills so you can make it look manageable to the client.

"Practice beforehand and do a capillary blood draw," she says. "Make sure you've picked a spot you can draw from easily. If that first demonstration is difficult for you in the exam room, the client will wonder, 'How am I supposed to go home and do that?'"

Set realistic expectations for the client about monitoring the pet's blood glucose at home. The first few days can be tough. But after a week or so, most people get the hang of it.

SET UP YOUR SYSTEM

When Lynch's clients are willing to help manage a diabetic pet's care at home with an in-home blood glucose monitor, they then sign up for a quarterly diabetes program at Tatum Point. Each visit is roughly 2.5 times the cost of a regular consultation. That covers the appointment as well as any client phone calls if the blood glucose numbers are suddenly high or low. If the numbers bounce around too much, the veterinarian asks the client to bring the pet in for a recheck and charges accordingly.

"These regular checks and the freedom to call us tie clients to our practice," Lynch says. "They look to us for direction, but at the same time they feel empowered in the process by gathering data and being able to decide for themselves, within the parameters we give them, whether to feed the animal or give insulin when the numbers are high or low."

Seeing healthy diabetic pets doesn't just boost clients' enthusiasm for treatment and ongoing care—it improves staff morale. Every team member loves positive outcomes. "The good attitude eventually comes from everyone," Lynch says. "Even the receptionist is able to tell clients, 'It's OK. It's fine. We can handle diabetes.'"