Easy at Home Glucose Monitoring for Diabetic Cats and Dogs – FreeStyle Libre

Life just got a little easier for owners of diabetic companion animals. The Freestyle Libre glucose monitoring is a faster, easier, and less painful way to monitor your diabetic pet’s glucose levels at home.

FreeStyle Libre is one of many “flash glucose” monitoring systems on the market. This system has been used by more veterinarians to date and has been studied and some veterinary universities.It’s also the only flash system currently that has a published study in dogs.

At this time, the company (Abbott), does not provide support for veterinary use (e.g. it is not approved in animals, and they do not answer questions about animal use on their support line nor do they replace the Sensor should it prematurely detach from an animal or fail to work on an animal.

That said, veterinary use with the Freestyle Libre allows you to monitor your pet’s glucose levels at home by simply scanning a sensor that can be placed at your veterinarian’s facility and usually stays on 6-10 days. This makes it easy to obtain many readings for many days in a row without additional stress for you or your pet.

Flash glucose monitoring systems measure the glucose in the fluid that is present in the tissues under the skin (interstitial fluid glucose). There is a small difference in this measurement as compared to the amount of glucose in the blood, but for the purpose of monitoring your pet’s overall trends in glucose, the difference is not significant.

How it Works

A sensor is implanted in your pet’s skin. Thesensor sends signals to a reader or to an app that can be uploaded at no charge to any iPhone device 7 or later. The sensor should be actively scanned svereal times a day (at least every 8 hours but hopefully more) to maximize the data and see what’s truly happening at all different times of the day and night. 

The sensor is about the size of a quarter and about as thick as two stacked quarters. Below is a picture of it on a dog.   

How the Sensor is Implanted

Implanting the sensor should be done by your veterinarian. Implanting the sensor takes only seconds and is less painful than a vaccination. Most pets don’t even notice when the sensor is implanted.

A small area on your pet’s back is shaved, the area is cleaned, and the sensor, which comes with its own implantation device, is pressed into the skin.

Dog with white sensor on shaved area

How do I Get One?

Your veterinarian will write a prescription for the sensor, which generally costs between $40 and $60 and the reader which usually costs between $60 and $90 (but again, in place of a reader you can use your iPhone). Each sensor is only used once and will generate up to 14 days of continuous glucose data (it lasts for 14 days in people but lasts for shorter periods in pets). You will need to purchase a new sensor any time your veterinarian recommends repeating the glucose monitoring. 

The reader should last for 3 years if you take care of it. A charging cord is supplied in the reader kit. Your veterinarian may have you purchase one or rent it from the hospital.

Interpreting the Information

Your veterinarian will work with you to make sure you can upload the data from the reader to your computer and send it to the veterinary hospital for review. From the iPhone, there is an app that allows you to share each scan with your veterinarian as well. Because the sensor lasts a while (usually up to 10 days in pets) your veterinarian can usually change the insulin dose (if necessary) while the sensor is still working and evaluate the results of that change.

This means you and your veterinarian need to figure out how data will be sent to them BEFORE the Sensor is activated, so you can take full advantage of the data.

Important Information about Hypoglycemia

The flash systems are sometimes not as consistently reliable for pets as they are for humans.

If the flash system indicates that your pet’s glucose level is low and your pet isn’t having signs of low blood glucose (trembling, weakness, panting, seizures, collapse etc.) you should check your pet’s blood glucose with a standard veterinary glucometer before offering any snacks to counteract the hypoglycemia.

If your pet is having signs of hypoglycemia and the flash system is registering a normal glucose level you should also double check the flash system against a standard glucometer.

Flash glucose monitoring systems are a big step forward in managing diabetes in our pets. With these systems your veterinarian has vital information that can provide more data and help them customize a treatment protocol to fit your pet’s metabolic needs.

About the author: Hilary Granson

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