Home testing of your cat's blood glucose (sugar) levels provides the best means of getting the diabetes under control. Simple testers called glucometers allow home testing. Which one should you use?

At-home monitoring of blood glucose

Human diabetic patients typically use inexpensive blood glucose monitoring systems to check their blood glucose levels. This provides immediate feedback to the patient and provides the doctor with invaluable information for ongoing treatment decisions. and its subsidiary, FDMB, were on the forefront of recommending that owners of diabetic cats use the same glucose meters designed for human diabetics as a simple, rapid, pain-free method of getting immediate and accurate blood sugars on diabetic pets. There are abundant advantages of home glucose testing, especially that the cat is in its natural home environment, thus diminishing the role of stress on blood glucose values. Samples can be obtained easily in cats using an inexpensive "human" glucometer purchased in a pharmacy. Repeated sampling is easily performed. The results are a true measure of blood glucose at the time of the test (Proceedings of the 19th ACVIM Forum, Abstract #100).

Home testing with a glucometer is simple to do. Daily variations of blood sugar in pets can be taken into account and insulin dosages can be adjusted on a daily basis, if necessary. These methods have been described in the literature and have improved quality of glucose regulation and accurate assessments of insulin requirements. (Reusch CE, Wess G, Casella M: Home monitoring of blood glucose concentration in the management of diabetes mellitus. (Comp Cont Ed Pract Vet 2001;23:544-556.)

Please be aware that home glucose testing, although an excellent advancement in management of feline diabetes mellitus, should not be the sole method of evaluation. Your veterinarian should make treatment decisions with you on a regular basis based on home blood glucose monitoring and all other aspects of diabetes management such as the patient's weight, degree of polyuria and polydipsia, serum fructosamine levels, and some urine glucose and ketone monitoring.

Choice of Glucometers

Glucometers vary somewhat in their accuracy and the size of the blood sample necessary. The trend in recent years has been increased accuracy and smaller blood sample size so these factors are no longer as important. More important are the cost and availability of the meter and the test strips, the ease of use, and comparisons with the glucometer your veterinarian uses.

A number of places publish independent data on currently available glucometers.

  • Consumer Reports Magazine published their latest lab tests on glucometer in the November 2012 issue. A pdf file (rather slow to load so be patient) is found here: Glucometer Review 2012 .

  • Personal opinions about various glucometers are often posted in the FDMB on this website (see links to your right). Use the SEARCH function on the FDMB to search the entire site (including the FDMB) and also the Pet Diabetes Wiki and

  • Presented lower on this page are the results of a meter accuracy comparison study conducted by an FDMB community member on a diabetic cat. Her results reinforce the fact that many glucometers on the market are very good.

  • The website of Diabetes Well Being provides reviews of glucometers.

"Animal" Glucometers

Several companies are now marketing animal specific glucometers, claiming that human glucometers give inaccurate results. These glucometers include the GlucoPet® and the GlucoVet® by ADM, available since 1999, and the AlphaTRAKTM marketed by Abbott Laboratories since 2006.

On their web site, Abbott Labs provides the clinical data obtained in testing their AlphaTRAKTM meter against two human meters, the Bayer Ascensia ContourTM and the Roche Accu-Chek AdvantageTM. This clinical trail was not done independently of Abbott Laboratories. No mention was made of why these two meters were selected. The meters were tested in both dogs and cats. Results seem to indicate that the AlphaTRAKTM is a more accurate meter than the other two tested meters but in no way prove that other hand-held meters are not also accurate. It would have been very nice if Abbott had compared the AlphaTRAKTM to their own "human" meter, the Freestyle.TM

Do you need these "animal-validated" glucometers instead of the more readily available and much less expensive "human" glucometers? Probably not. What is more important is that your glucometer gives results that are comparable to the results obtained by your veterinarian's glucometer. You should always compare your readings against the readings obtained in the vet's office by directly comparing readings taken at the same time. Your veterinarian should also know how their glucometer compares to needle puncture readings. The blood obtained by each method is slightly different. You can read a nice explanation of this in the article published in DVM, a veterinary medicine newsmagazine.

Following is a post from the FDMB ( Message Board) that contains valuable information about the efficacy of using the AlphaTRAKTM glucometer for home testing.

Meter chart comparison using AlphaTrak
Posted by: Hope + (((Baby)))GA
Date: May 3, 2006

Many thanks to Janet/Binky(GA) for doing these charts for me.

If anyone wants all the numbers from various tests, PM me and I will gladly send you Word Doc through your E-mail.

The reason I had fructosamine test run on both of mine was out of curiosity. I knew what their 14 and 30 day averages were on the OTU and they have been fairly consistent with those averages meaning - I could have run those tests weeks ago and come up with the same results but...when I first got Hope for some reason I cannot remember smiling smiley I started using the Elite XL and went by those numbers. Her fructosamine came back as only fair yet the meter numbers were excellent. I went back to my OTU and since I was doing all these meter tests figured I would do the fructosamine test just to see if OTU was giving me the correct info I needed.

Be aware of the fact that Abbott Labs makes the Freestyle meters along with the AlphaTrak. Bottom line, AlphaTrak is no better than using a human meter and not worth the cost of test strips. Stick with what you have and if you feel a fructosamine test would help you gain some knowledge as to whether you should stick with meter you are using or buy a different one, then do it.

The OTU and the ACAdvantage are almost identical. The XL and especially the Contour run much lower.

Another FDMB community member posted this experience.

I actually have an Alpha Trak and have used it.
Posted by: Mara and Max
Date: February 17, 2007

I have an Alpha Trak glucometer....the veterinarian I took my cat to for his ultrasound to see if he had pancreatitis or not wanted me to start hometesting and said that he would get the glucometer, test strips, and lancets for me at THEIR COST.

The Alpha Trak glucometer cost me $80, the test strips are about $50-$52 for 50, and the lancets are about $15-$20 for 100, and they are 29 gauge....all made by Abbott, who by the way, makes Freestyle Flash.

This particular veterinarian informed me that they have done comparison studies with human glucometers and have found that in lower numbers the human glucometers are calibrated to read lower than the actual reading to spur humans into doing something about hypoglycemia. The manufacturers apparently admitted doing this but would not change how they were calibrated. Max's current veterinarian also confirmed this information. I do not have any written proof of this, just their word.

Anyway, I took my Alpha Trak into Max's regular vet's office to compare to their blood analysis machine and it read higher than their machine by about 18 percent.

I was having problems getting my test strips and lancets in a timely manner from my regular vet and so went out and purchased a Freestyle Flash, which is very similar to the Alpha Trak since they are both made by Abbott. They both use a very, very tiny drop of blood, the test strips do not have to be removed from the glucometer to collect the blood, and they "suck" the blood up into the side of the test strip instead of having to place a drop of blood on the test strip, which makes them much easier to use especially with a squirming cat.

Anyway, the Freestyle Flash was reading about 20 percent lower than the Alpha Trak.

So I took both meters into Max's new vet's office. They did a test with both of my meters and their Freestyle Flash, which by the way they use not an Alpha Trak, and then with their big blood analysis machine. The two Freestyle Flashes were 1 mg apart in their reading and very close to the blood analysis machine, and the Alpha Trak read higher than all three.

So, in conclusion, to me the Alpha Trak reads higher than the true reading except perhaps at low levels. While I am able to obtain the test strips and the lancets at virtually the same price as the Freestyle Flash, they are more easily come by as I am not dependent on the vet to order them for me. When my cat has tested at really low numbers I have retested him using the Alpha Trak and conclude that his real number is probably somewhere in between.

Anyway, while I did like using the Alpha Trak, I think it was reading high and the test strips were not always easily had.




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Last updated October 2012