Caninsulin® FAQs for Dogs

Caninsulin® Frequently Asked Questions

"There's lots of answers for your questions about Caninsulin® here, but my pet owner likes to ask our veterinary practice things too!"


  • What is diabetes mellitus and what causes it?

    Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) occurs when a dog has inadequate levels of or an abnormal response to insulin, which results in excessive glucose (sugar) in the blood. Dogs with complete or partial lack of insulin are diagnosed with diabetes.

    Diabetes mellitus can develop from disorders of the pancreas, from other diseases, or from the presence of other hormones.

  • Are diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus the same thing?

    No. Diabetes insipidus, also known as water diabetes, is caused when large amounts of dilute urine are produced. It is a far less common condition than diabetes mellitus, known as sugar diabetes. Diabetes insipidus is caused by problems in part of the brain or in the kidneys. There is no glucose present in the urine of animals with diabetes insipidus.

  • What signs do dogs with diabetes typically show?

    The most common signs of diabetes mellitus in dogs are:

    • Increased thirst
    • Increased urination
    • Increased appetite
    • Weight loss
    • General signs, such as lethargy and poor coat condition
  • What do the terms polyuria, polydipsia, and polyphagia mean?

    Polyuria is the production of larger than normal amounts of urine in a given period. Polydipsia is excessive thirst. Polyphagia is excessive hunger.

  • My dog is having problems holding their urine; does that mean they have diabetes?

    No, your dog could have a bladder or kidney infection, or some other medical problem. If your dog is having problems holding his or her urine, you should schedule a trip to your vet as soon as possible.

  • How is diabetes diagnosed?

    Your vet will measure your dog's blood glucose and test your dog's urine for the presence of glucose and ketones. Persistently high blood glucose levels along with glucose in the urine usually means that your dog has diabetes mellitus.

  • Are all dogs susceptible to diabetes?

    Dogs of all ages can get diabetes, although it's most common in older dogs. Obesity, genetics, and other conditions can contribute to the development of diabetes.

  • How many dogs currently have diabetes?

    While believed to be underdiagnosed, diabetes mellitus affects an estimated 1 in 300 dogs.1

  • What common diseases are associated with diabetes?

    The most common problems associated with pet diabetes include recurrent infections and cataracts in dogs. Cataract surgery is available for canine diabetics and often can restore vision.

  • Did I do something to cause diabetes?

    No. Diabetes is due to a lack of insulin produced by the pancreas. Diabetes in dogs is thought to be an autoimmune disease. It is not caused by a virus or infection.

  • What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

    Type 1 diabetes is caused by the destruction of cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Dogs with diabetes almost always have diabetes like type 1, and require insulin therapy to manage. In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreatic cells produce inadequate amounts of insulin or there is resistance to the insulin that is produced. Cats are more frequently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

  • What is the expected lifespan for a dog with diabetes?

    With proper care and management of their disease, dogs with diabetes can have a lifespan similar to non-diabetic canines.

  • Is diabetes in animals similar to that of humans?

    Yes, it is very similar. Your dog will be using similar insulin, equipment, and monitoring methods specific for dogs, though the treatment goal may be different.

  1. O’Neill, D.G. Et al. (2016). Epidemiology of Diabetes Mellitus among 193,435 Cats Attending Primary-Care Veterinary Practices in England. J Vet Intern Med;30, p 964–972.
  • What is Caninsulin®?

    The first insulin licensed for treating both feline and canine diabetes mellitus1. Caninsulin® is produced by MSD Animal Health.

  • Is this a brand new insulin?

    No, Caninsulin® is registered in over 30 other countries. It was first registered in Australia in 1990, so there is a history of more than 25 years of experience with this product1.

  • Can Caninsulin® be diluted?

    No. If Caninsulin® is diluted the dosage of insulin would be wrong.

  • Does Caninsulin® really need to be shaken?

    Caninsulin® is a suspension of two insulin types - an aqueous and crystalline part. Shaking is the best way to make sure these are properly mixed and that your dog receives the right amount of insulin.

    Shaking should be performed on the first occasion that Caninsulin will be used to obtain a uniformly milky consistency. Thereafter before each subsequent use it should be inverted several times to obtain the same uniformly milky consistency.

  • Can I use 100 IU syringes with Caninsulin®?

    No, use of a syringe other than a U-40 syringe will result in incorrect dosing and it could be fatal.

  • How often does Caninsulin® need to be given to dogs?

    This can differ depending on your dog, but typically dogs only need one to two doses per day. Careful monitoring will help your vet determine the correct frequency for your dog. In all cases you should follow the dosing regime advised by your vet.

  • Where on my dog's body should Caninsulin® be injected?

    Injections should be given subcutaneously (under the skin) about 2 to 5cm (1 to 2 inches) below the spine or backbone. Constantly vary the injection location from behind the shoulder blade to just in front of the hip bone, and alternate injections between your dog's left and right sides. Your vet can show you the recommended locations for injections.

    Download the Administration Sheet for instructions on how to give Caninsulin® to your dog.

  • Can I still use a vial of Caninsulin® if it freezes?

    No, freezing will damage the insulin molecules and reduce the efficacy of the product. If a vial of insulin accidentally freezes in the refrigerator, it should be discarded and a new vial should be used.

  • Can I still use a vial of Caninsulin® if it was forgotten outside the refrigerator between doses?

    Caninsulin® should be stored upright, protected from light, between 2°C and 8°C (35°F and 46°F). Caninsulin® should always remain refrigerated. If you accidentally leave a vial out of the refrigerator, contact your vet for instructions.

  • What else should I know about Caninsulin®?

    • Always have a spare vial or cartridge on hand
    • Protect it from light
    • Keep it refrigerated
    • If it has got too hot, or frozen, discard it immediately
    • Discard contents after 28 days of the first vial puncture or first cartridge
    • Before drawing up a dose, shake the vial or the VetPen loaded with cartridges until a homogeneous, uniformly milky suspension is obtained
  • Should I feed my dog before or after an injection?

    Whether you feed your dog before or directly after an injection will depend on your individual circumstances. Some dogs are fussy eaters and may not eat after you have injected them, in which case for these individuals it is better to ensure they have eaten before you inject them. Ideally it is best that your dog has had something to eat before you give the injection of Caninsulin.

  • How do I dispose of insulin syringes?

    All syringes should be disposed of in an appropriate sharps/biohazard container.

  1. Caninsulin Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC).
  • What makes VetPen® unique?

    While insulin pens have been commonly used in the management of human diabetes for some time, VetPen is the first device designed for use in dogs and cats with diabetes. Previously, the only approved way to give Caninsulin® injections was to use vials and syringes, which some pet owners found inconvenient and overwhelming. While human insulin pens are used to administer insulin with a concentration of 100 IU per ml, VetPen works specifically with 40 IU per ml Caninsulin®, which is tailor-made for use in pets.

  • Is VetPen difficult to use?

    VetPen is ergonomically designed to make handling easy and the dosing process simple. It also reduces the time it takes to prepare and give insulin injections. It's easy enough to use even for a pet owner with poor eyesight, arthritis, or any other condition that may cause unsteady hands.

  • What type of needle is used with VetPen?

    VetPen uses 29 gauge, 12mm pen needles only, which are small, thin, and specially lubricated. These are the only needles that should be used with VetPen. Always use a new needle for each injection.

  • Can VetPen needles be reused?

    A new needle should be used with each injection. The needle should be removed with the needle remover and safely disposed of immediately after use. Reusing a needle may lead to insulin contamination, needle blockage, blunting of the needle, and/or inaccurate dosing.

  • Is VetPen reusable?

    Yes. VetPen uses a replaceable insulin cartridge that allows multiple doses to be provided with minimal preparation time. When all the insulin has been used, simply remove the empty cartridge and insert a new one. After inserting a new cartridge, it is important to prime the VetPen prior to use. (See instructions for Priming the VetPen)

  • Can VetPen be used with different insulins?

    VetPen has been designed specifically for use with Caninsulin®. To avoid dosing errors, other types of insulin cartridges for other types of insulin should not be used with VetPen.

  • Does VetPen offer any other benefits over U-40 insulin vials and syringes?

    VetPen helps enhance use by:

    • Lowering the risk of accidental needle stick injuries
    • Protecting the insulin cartridge from breakage
    • Reducing the likelihood of insulin spills
    • Reducing air bubbles that lead to inaccurate dosing
    • Selecting doses more accurately
  • What should the insulin cartridge look like after mixing and priming?

    Each cartridge contains 2 glass beads to help with the mixing of the Caninsulin® before use. The cartridge should be thoroughly shaken before inserting it into the VetPen. After shaking, the insulin should appear uniformly milky. Do not use the cartridge if clumps persist after shaking thoroughly. Do not mistake the glass mixing beads for air bubbles, which should be removed during priming.

  • How do I know when the injection is complete?

    To make sure the pet's dose is injected precisely and accurately, you need to hold down the release button until the arrow () points to the start line (–) on the dose selector. Then, wait at least 5 seconds before removing the needle from the skin. This allows for VetPen's internal mechanism to optimally deliver the selected dose.

  • What if there is not enough insulin in the cartridge to complete an injection?

    You can tell how many units of the dose were not given by looking at the number where the dose selector stopped. You may need to give the remainder of the dose. If so, write that number down. If in doubt contact your vet.

    Put in a new cartridge, prime (remove air from cartridge), and prepare the VetPen for use. Then, turn the dose selector to the number you wrote down and inject the pet as usual.

  • How do I take care of VetPen?

    VetPen should always be stored or carried with the needle removed and the cap on. To clean VetPen, simply wipe with a damp cloth. Do not immerse it in water. Keep Caninsulin® cartridges refrigerated and protected from light prior to use. Do not freeze.

  • What should I do if my VetPen isn't working?

    If you are experiencing any issues using VetPen, the first step is to confirm that air was properly removed from the cartridge through priming. If this has been done, check the other Q&As for more troubleshooting help.

  • What if insulin drips actively from the needle after injection?

    This may be a sign the needle may have been removed before the injection was completed, and your dog did not receive the full dose.

    To make sure your pet receives its full dose, be sure to press the release button down fully and hold it until the arrow () points to the start line (–) on the dose selector. Then, to allow the VetPen to deliver the full dose, wait at least 5 seconds before removing the needle from the skin.

  • What if the dose selector does not return to the start line after testing VetPen?

    There are 4 likely causes for this:

    1. The release button is not fully pushed toward the needle. This can prevent the dose from being released completely. Be sure to push the release button down fully during each injection so that the dose selector can rotate back to the start line. Then, wait at least 5 seconds before removing the needle.
    2. You're closing your hand too tightly around the dose selector. This can prevent it from fully rotating back to the start line. Avoid this by holding the VetPen like a pen so that the dose selector is able to rotate freely after the release button has been depressed.
    3. The needle is blocked. Replace the needle on VetPen with a new one. It is important to use a new needle for each injection for hygiene and safety reasons.
    4. The cartridge did not have enough insulin for the full dose. If the cartridge is empty, replace it with a new one and complete the priming process.
  • What if a dose too large for the pet is selected?

    If too high a dose has been selected, it is very important not to try to turn the dose selector back to a lower dose. This can damage or break the VetPen. Instead, release the insulin through the needle into a tissue or swab by pressing the release button. Then select the correct dose.

  • What if no insulin drips actively or squirts from the needle after priming or preparing for use?

    There are 2 likely causes for this:

    1. The needle is blocked. To fix, replace the needle with a new one. Remember to use a new needle for each injection.
    2. The cartridge plunger is stuck. To fix this, place the protective cap back onto the needle and unscrew the cartridge holder. Then slide the release button towards the internal plunger and hold it until the arrow points to the start line. Dial 2 units without screwing the device back together, then push and hold down the release button until the arrow points to the start line. Without rewinding the internal plunger, screw the cartridge holder and the VetPen body back together. This should release the cartridge plunger and expel some of the insulin.
  • What if I missed a full dose or part of an injection?

    If you missed a full or partial dose, it is best to wait until the next insulin dose is required and then continue as normal. A brief period of high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) due to too low an insulin dose is not as dangerous as the possibility of causing low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) by giving too much insulin.

  • What if I think I've given too much insulin?

    Contact your veterinary practice and explain the situation. Your veterinary practice may recommend feeding your dog extra food. Monitor your dog carefully for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia):

    • Hunger
    • Restlessness
    • Shivering
    • Unsteadiness
    • Very quiet or sleepy

    If you see any of these signs, try to encourage your dog to eat a small meal, or rub some honey or jam on your dog's gums.

  • What if I think my dog has very low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)?

    The following signs may indicate hypoglycaemia:

    • Restlessness
    • Trembling or shivering
    • Unusual movements or behaviour, including looking for food or scavenging
    • Unusual quietness or sleepiness
    • Loss of consciousness (coma)

    If your dog is conscious, you should immediately treat your dog by pouring a small amount of a sugar solution (like honey) onto your finger and then rubbing it onto your dog's gums. The sugar is absorbed very quickly and your dog should respond in 1–2 minutes. The sugar solution should never be poured directly into your dog's mouth since there is a risk that the solution will be inhaled into the lungs. Once your dog has responded to the sugar and is sitting up, it can be fed a small meal. Once stabilised, your dog should be transported to your vet for evaluation.

  • What is stress hyperglycaemia?

    Stress hyperglycaemia is caused when a dog is frightened or stressed. Glucose in the urine is usually absent with stress hyperglycaemia because the blood glucose does not stay high for a long enough period to spill into the urine. Stress hyperglycaemia does not influence the diagnosis of diabetes because the blood glucose level does not stay elevated long enough to cause glucose to spill into the urine. Stress hyperglycaemia is more common in cats than dogs.

  • What is fructosamine?

    Fructosamine is a type of protein in the blood that can be used to measure glucose control over a longer period. Unlike blood glucose measurements, fructosamine is not affected by stress or the timing of the insulin injection. Your vet may recommend periodic measurements of fructosamine to evaluate how well your pet's blood glucose level has been controlled over the last few weeks.

  • How much water should I let my dog drink?

    If your dog has diabetes, and drinking excessive amounts of water, give him/her all they can drink. Your dog's body is trying to combat the high blood glucose level by expelling the excess sugar out of its body through the urine. Once your dog is regulated, this will subside.

  • What is the importance of making sure my pet is regulated?

    If diabetes is left untreated or unregulated it could cause many complications. These include infections, ketosis, and ultimately death.

  • How long does it take to stabilise my pet with diabetes?

    There is no way to put a specific time on it since each dog is different. Sometimes the stabilisation process will require you to try different insulin dosages, diets, or injection frequencies. Stabilisation can be achieved sometimes within a month, or other times over a year from when therapy first started. It is very important to work closely with your vet during this process to avoid further complications. Even after your dog is stabilised, frequent vet visits will be necessary to maintain good health.

  • What can I give my dog as a treat?

    Your vet will be the best person to determine your dog's diet. Ask about appropriate treats your pet can still enjoy!

  • What does the typical diet consist of?

    To keep constant from day to day, it is best to use commercially produced rather than homemade foods.

  • What is a blood glucose curve?

    This is where the blood glucose is measured every 2 hours through the day. This is usually performed at the vets but can be done at home. If at the vets, the dogs should be on the same food schedule as at home. For most dogs, a 10–12 hour curve is adequate but in some instances a longer curve may be needed, if the dog is on a once daily Caninsulin injection schedule then a longer blood glucose curve will be necessary. A glucose curve helps you see insulin effectiveness, glucose nadir (the lowest glucose reading), and duration of insulin effect. The insulin dose, frequency of administration and feeding times may be altered based on these results.

  • What are some problems with blood glucose curves?

    The results of the curve can be affected by several factors, and measuring the curve at the veterinary practice can give an inaccurate portrayal of what is occurring at home. Not eating or stress (causing hyperglycaemia) may occur at the vet clinic. If your dog won't eat at the clinic then feed your dog at home before going to the clinic for the blood glucose curve.

    In addition, it is not uncommon for curves to vary from day to day because many things can affect blood glucose levels such as appetite, digestion, metabolism, exercise, hormones, stress, etc., even in well-regulated dogs.

  • How often should a blood glucose curve be done?

    Once stabilised, a blood glucose curve is done every 3 - 6 months on average. Your veterinary practice will advise you on the best frequency for your dog.

  • My dog is ill and not eating. Should I still give him/her an insulin injection?

    If your dog is not eating do not give Caninsulin® or any other insulin! Consult your vet on how to proceed with insulin injections.

  • How often should a dog with diabetes see the veterinary practice?

    If healthy and well regulated, most experts recommend every three to six months, but your veterinary practice will recommend what is best for your dog.

  • Should my dog with diabetes still receive vaccinations?

    It is perfectly safe for a dog with diabetes to receive vaccinations. In fact, it is important to help prevent infectious diseases in your diabetic pet, and this annual visit also gives your veterinary surgeon a good opportunity to give your dog a complete checkup. By keeping your dog healthy, there will be fewer fluctuations in insulin requirements.

  • Is it safe for a dog with diabetes mellitus to receive a general anaesthetic?

    Normally animals need to have an empty stomach before they are anaesthetised. A dog with diabetes that has not been fed needs far less insulin. Your vet will advise you on how to manage your dog's diabetes if it needs to have an anaesthetic. Usually a dog with diabetes is given intravenous fluid therapy while under anaesthesia. This hydrates the animal when it cannot drink on its own. If stable, your dog is not at any additional risk from anaesthesia than a dog without diabetes of the same age.

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to learn more about pet diabetes, and how cats and dogs can lead a happy, healthy life with proper management