Thursday, May 4, 2006
By DR. MARTY BECKER
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
It’s important for pets that we be as accurate as possible to avoid hypoglycemia and other dangerous complications.
Data from the recently released National Health Interview Survey show that more than 50 percent of U.S. adults are overweight, and 1 in 5 is obese. That trend seems to transfer downward as well: “Like family, like pets” is the word when it comes to overstuffed bellies.
Just as we have king-sized our fast-food orders, our family pets have become super-sized. And while pudgy pooches and fat cats may be funny in cartoons, in real life obesity causes the same problems it does in humans: joint and heart problems and an increased risk of cancer and, especially, diabetes.
In the past, home monitoring of blood glucose in diabetic dogs and cats was difficult. But not anymore, thanks to the new AlphaTRAK, the first hand-held blood glucose monitoring system designed specifically for diabetic dogs and cats. The product retails for $80 and is available through veterinarian offices, and the test strips are $1 each.
This device allows veterinarians and pet owners to test blood sugar rapidly (15 seconds), conveniently (just lance the pet’s ear) and accurately (equivalent to outside laboratories). This measure is more accurate than those designed for humans, because in pets, more blood sugar tends to hide inside red blood cells compared with humans.
As with humans, it’s important for pets that we be as accurate as possible to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and other dangerous blood glucose complications, said Dr. Susan Salle, a veterinarian at Grayslake Animal Hospital in Grayslake, Ill.
Some people once thought owners willing to go through the upheavals of testing and injecting their diabetic pets were, well, a little weird. Not anymore! Not only are such highly dedicated pet parents much more common, their actions are considered normal — what you would do for any member of the family.
Dr. Rolan Tripp of animalbe havior.net reminds us, “Give a small tasty treat just before and just after the minilance, and most pets will look forward to the testing.”
“About 89 percent of American households consider their pet[s] family members and want to extend the duration and quality of the pet’s life,” said veterinarian Tom Catanzaro. “Routine wellness surveillance by the family’s veterinarian should be cost-effective, simple and accurate. This hand-held device starts to answer that need.”
The National Pet Wellness Month campaign of the American Veterinary Medical Association stresses the importance of twice-a-year wellness exams and regular life cycle screening for life-shortening conditions such as diabetes.
“The profession needs a series of simple testing devices, and the AlphaTRAK blood glucose monitor … joins other user-friendly devices like blood pressure and Lead II electrocardiogram monitors,” Catanzaro said.
In 2006, “high tech” is joining “high touch” in the veterinary practice working to maintain health for the family pet.
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