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Published: Sunday, 12/13/2009

Human insulin products being prescribed for pets

Dear Dr Thompson: My dog is 11 years old and was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008. Up until this time, we have been giving him 2 Vetsulin shots per day. I just called in to my vet this morning for a refill and the office said the prescription is changing. Are there any consequences resulting from the medication change?

ANSWER: Vetsulin is an insulin product for dogs and cats to treat diabetes which has had some production problems recently. From the information I have been given from the manufacturer, there is an issue with the potency of the insulin which can cause unpredictable fluctuations in blood sugar after the injections. The company has recommended to veterinarians that we work to find alternatives for our diabetic patients and transition them to another insulin product.

The main options are human insulin products which your veterinarian had suggested. NPH is a common choice since it is widely available still in pharmacies. The bad news is it will take some time and testing to establish what is your dog's new dose of insulin. I tell people it is not quite back to square one but it is close. Another important point is that the concentration of NPH is different than Vetsulin and you will need new insulin needles, so do not use your old syringes.

This may be frustrating for you if your dog's diabetes has been well controlled, but usually you can get the disease managed quickly with the new insulin product. If you have questions about the problems with the insulin you can go to www.vetsulin.com for more information.

Dear Dr. Thompson: I have a beagle that is allergic to almost all flea medicines. I have tried them all. Her skin turns bright red and she itches like crazy when I put them on her. What can I do?

ANSWER: It sounds like she may have contact sensitivity to one of the compounds in the topical flea products you have tried. Many have different chemicals so it is likely one of the common carriers like alcohol. There are a couple of very effective oral flea preventives that your veterinarian may be able to recommend. These are safe to use in pets that have had skin reactions to a topical product and are typically given once a month.

One product is in the monthly heartworm prevention you give so it is even more convenient. Ask your veterinarian what she thinks is best for your pet.

Questions for Dr. Thompson can be e-mailed to askthevet@theblade.com or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 North Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.

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