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Can I Check My Dog’s or Cat’s Blood Sugar with My Meter?

It can be confusing enough for you if a family member is diagnosed with diabetes and you have to help them manage their condition. But when it’s a pet, it can be even harder. Unlike with a human family member, you can’t sit your pet down and explain to them what diabetes is and how to manage it.

You may also wonder if diabetes in a pet can be managed the same way and with the same equipment that humans use. There are some similarities in managing diabetes in pets, but there are some crucial differences you need to know. Here’s the breakdown.

Difference Between Human Blood Sugar and Pets Blood Sugar

While both humans and pets can get diabetes, and the base case (the body not producing insulin) is the same, there are some differences in how they are managed. This is because of the differences between blood sugar in humans and blood sugar in cats and dogs. Among these differences are the following:

The Distribution of Glucose in the Blood

Blood glucose ratios are very different in humans than in cats or dogs. Humans have a roughly equal distribution of blood glucose between the red blood cells and blood plasma. For dogs, 12.5% of glucose is in red blood cells, and 87.5% is in plasma. [1]

In cats, the distribution is even more imbalanced; 7% of blood glucose is in red blood cells and 93% in plasma. If human monitors are used for cats or dogs without being adjusted for their glucose distribution, they can drastically underestimate total blood glucose. [2]

The Size of the Red Blood Cells

Human red blood cells are anywhere from 6.2–8.2 µm in diameter. Dogs have similarly sized cells, ranging from 6 to 8 μm in diameter. Cats have a smaller range of red blood cell size, and 6 μm is considered typical. [3]

PCV (packed cell volume)

Packed cell volume, or PCV, is the percentage of blood volume taken up by red blood cells. [4] Normal readings for cats are 25-45% [5], and normal readings for dogs are 35% to 55%. [6] For humans, normal readings are divided by sex; males usually have between 38.3 and 48.6%, and females: 35.5 to 44.9%. [7]

What does PCV have to do with blood glucose? Red blood cells, among other things, carry glucose and other nutrients to various parts of the body. The amount of insulin you take is based on this volume. Since pets have different average PCV than humans, they take different doses of insulin. [8]

Can I Check My Dog’s or Cat’s Blood Sugar with My Meter?

With those differences mentioned above, you may wonder if it is possible to use a human blood sugar monitor on your cat or dog. In fact, it is possible to do so. One study that looked at diabetic dogs and cats in South Korea found that the samples tested by personal blood glucose meters designed for humans were just as accurate as the ones designed for pets. [9]

Why use a human blood glucose monitor on your pet? Many of the blood glucose monitors available for pets are designed for use in a vet’s office and require large amounts of blood to test. Meters for humans require less blood and are thus easier to use. For most pets, you will need to test blood glucose twice a day while you are trying to establish the levels of insulin they need. [10]

Systems that test urine for blood sugar levels are not recommended for pets, as they have been found to not be as accurate. [11] Continuous blood glucose monitors, which have proven to be very useful in humans, have not been fully tested in dogs or cats, so they are currently not an option for a diabetic pet. Some studies have been done to indicate continuous monitoring is a potential option, but no monitors have been approved yet. [12]

How to Calibrate My Glucose Monitor for My Pet?

The differences in human blood sugar versus a dog or cat blood sugar mean that when you want to monitor your pet’s blood sugar, you can’t just use the settings you would use for a human. However, most blood glucose monitors that are designed for humans don’t have a separate setting for pets. So how do you get pet-specific settings?

One way to do this is to bring the glucose monitor that you plan on using to your vet’s office. Your vet can run their own tests for blood glucose levels at the same time those tests are run on your own monitor. While this is ongoing, you can compare what average levels your vet gets look like on your monitor and what equals safe levels in your pet. [13]

The good news is that once a pet is stabilized on insulin doses, they usually require less testing of blood glucose than a human would. Testing every two weeks or so is often enough. If your vet recommends more frequent testing, then you should test at their recommended rate. [14]


What is the Normal Blood Sugar Range for Dog and Cat?

The normal blood glucose reading for dogs and cats is 80 to 120 mg/dl. The upper levels of acceptable vary by pet species; for dogs, it is 200 mg/dl, and for cats, readings of up to 300 mg/dl are acceptable. [15]

How Does the Blood Glucose Curve Helps me Analyze My Pet’s Health Condition?

Monitoring your pet’s blood glucose level helps to determine whether the level of insulin they are getting is adequate to control their diabetes. It can also notify you when blood glucose may be dangerously high or low. Unlike with diabetes in humans, you may not need to test your pet’s blood glucose every day or even every week.

Are there other Ways to Monitor my Pet’s Glucose Level?

Watching for clinical signs of diabetes is one of the best ways to monitor blood glucose levels in your pet, even without taking blood glucose readings. If your pet is not gaining or losing weight and has no signs of untreated diabetes (excessive thirst or appetite, increased urination, vomiting), this is usually a sign their diabetes is being managed successfully.

It is especially important for cats to monitor their water intake over 24 hours; thirst is the biggest sign that a cat’s diabetes is poorly controlled. [16]

Final Thoughts

Since your dog or cat can’t tell you about the signs of diabetes they are experiencing, it can seem like a difficult thing to manage. Fortunately, if you have been vigilant enough to notice the first warning signs and you get your pet on an insulin regimen that works, it becomes much easier to deal with.

If their diet is consistent and you check their blood glucose as often as your vet tells you to, any potential problems can be caught before they become a serious issues. That’s exactly what you would want for any member of your family, whether they have two legs or four.


  1. Coldman, M. F., & Good, W. (1967). The distribution of sodium, potassium and glucose in the blood of some mammals. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, 21(1), 201–206.
  2. Surman, S., & Fleeman, L. (2013). Continuous Glucose Monitoring in Small Animals. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 43(2), 381–406.
  3. Aarts, P. A., Bolhuis, P. A., Sakariassen, K. S., Heethaar, R. M., & Sixma, J. J. (1983). Red blood cell size is important for adherence of blood platelets to artery subendothelium. Blood, 62(1), 214–217.
  4. AMCteam. (2018, January 17). Everyday Medicine: Packed Cell Volume. The Animal Medical Center.
  5. Anemia. (2017, October 9). Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
  6. Anemia in Dogs. (n.d.). Vca_corporate.
  7. PCV (Packed Cell Volume) or Hematocrit Test | Uses & Procedure. (n.d.). Yashoda Hospitals.
  8. Dacombe, C. M., Dalton, R. G., Goldie, D. J., & Osborne, J. P. (1981). Effect of packed cell volume on blood glucose estimations. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 56(10), 789–791.
  9. Kang, M.-H., Kim, D.-H., Jeong, I.-S., Choi, G.-C., & Park, H.-M. (2015). Evaluation of four portable blood glucose meters in diabetic and non-diabetic dogs and cats. Veterinary Quarterly, 36(1), 2–9.
  10. Managing canine diabetes. (2022, March 22). Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
  11. Blood glucose curve: interpretation. (2011, July 17).
  12. Del Baldo, F., Fracassi, F., Pires, J., Tardo, A. M., Malerba, E., Manassero, E., & Gilor, C. (2021). Accuracy of a flash glucose monitoring system in cats and determination of the time lag between blood glucose and interstitial glucose concentrations. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 35(3), 1279–1287.
  13. AVMA. (n.d.). Diabetes in Pets. American Veterinary Medical Association.
  14. Diabetes. (2016, July 12). MU Veterinary Health Center.
  15. Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats (2018) American Animal Hospital Association (2018).
  16. Monitoring principles. (n.d.). American Animal Hospital Association.

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