When it comes to pet diabetes, be a Jennifer

dvm360dvm360 November 2020
Volume 51
Issue 11

Teamwork is key to successful diabetes management in dogs and cats.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA.

November is Pet Diabetes Month, a time to help spread awareness and educate pet parents about the signs of diabetes in dogs and cats, as well as how to manage the disease in their furry friends. But it’s not just that. It is also a time for veterinary staff to brush up on the latest in diabetes mellitus diagnosis and management best practices. (Check out this article for the latest.)

Many practices have that 1 veterinary technician who is the guru on diabetes mellitus. Ours was Jennifer, and she consulted with clients of newly diagnosed diabetic pets in the exam room. These conversations involved the family coming together to learn about insulin administration and at-home blood sugar monitoring.

We all should be a Jennifer in our practice. The responsibility for client education shouldn’t fall on just 1 passionate and knowledgeable team member. We need to work as team from the very first phone call, to a diabetes diagnosis, to follow-up care. Confusion ensues quickly when clients do not receive the same message from all team members. One doctor may prefer to do a blood glucose curve in the hospital, whereas another prefers to measure serum fructosamine. Different associates may be passionate about different insulin type. Some doctors recommend at-home blood glucose monitoring frequently while others may recommend using the Keto-Diastix (Bayer). Can you imagine the confusion these divergent preferences might cause in a 4- to 10-doctor practice?

This month, why not take the time to develop a standard operating procedure for diabetes management at your veterinary hospital, so that all associates send a consistent message with regard to treatment, monitoring, and rechecks. To ensure uniformity, first create a doctors’ meeting to establish a well-defined written protocol. That way the support team has equal buy-in and greater compliance to execute successful follow-up care with your patients. This is also a good time to start streamlining your nutritional recommendations. Instead of 3 or 4 brands of prescription foods, recommend just 2 therapeutic diets and a good book on homecooked diets.

And getting back to our amazing technician, Jen. The strain she felt having to do all the diabetes consultations in a 10-doctor practice was enormous. So, we provided a lunch-and-learn so the entire hospital could be educated on doing this type of consultation. I strongly recommend this. Have your team write down questions they would want answered if they were the client. Develop an FAQ handout that they can take home to review later. During the lunch-and-learn, provide an opportunity for all support staff to do a mock diabetic consultation. With the rapid adoption of telemedicine, utilize all your team members to handle the basic questions clients ask.

Setting expectations early in the diabetic consultation is paramount. Not all pet parents can administer insulin themselves. Be sure to provide clients with options for how to assist with this. We have done YouTube videos on what to expect when your pet has diabetes and how to handle insulin. This type of video coming from a trusted source (you) will help ensure better compliance and effective communication.

Our patients and clients are all unique. To truly help move the needle toward better compliance with diabetes management, ask about clients’ experience with giving injections, and talk to them about their workday so you can make nutritional and insulin adjustments as needed. Make sure technicians are educated about the Somogyi effect, hypoglycemia, and blindness. These conversations could help make your time as a veterinarian more effective in the exam room with the understanding that all available scenarios are presented so pet parents aren’t surprised with an unanticipated hiccup.

Encourage pet parents to join a veterinary-moderated Facebook group on diabetic animals. There are fantastic resources out there for pet parents to feel more confident and empowered in making their diabetic patients comfortable and ensure a strong quality of life!

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