The true cost of having a diabetic dog

There are days it feels like Bender is a drain on my wallet. And it really doesn’t help that every time I visit the vet I see the total amount that I’ve spent that year. But what does it really cost me?

Bender is a 50lbs dog. High energy and I’m giving him a lot of insulin. He isn’t an extreme case but he is worse than most.

For one month.
1 bag of W/D food 30lbs – $62
2 Vetsulin 10ml – $50 ($25/each)
62 needles – $7.13 (11.5 cents each)
5 testing strips – $5 ($1 each)

Total: Roughly $125 a month.

That doesn’t include if I need to take him to the vet or any other treats/general care items.

I’ve switched his food to natural home cooked food. I’m hoping to reduce the amount of insulin. Although the cost of his home cooked food will be about the same as his W/D.

The cost will probably be more if you have a larger dog and of course less if you have a smaller dog.

14 Responses to “The true cost of having a diabetic dog”

  1. so glad to find your blog,knowing others are struggling to take care of their baby’s is a comfort.Bender is adorable.
    I have a irish wolfhound,who was diagnosed two years ago.He is now four.I also use the AlphaTrak meter.It works much better than the True read.Leopold is quite big with big veins so I use a syringe to draw blood for glucose readings(and yes always a new one).Leopold eats six cups twice daily.High fiber releases glucose slower.Leopold has “crashed” four times in two years….very scary.I hope you keep your Karo syup close.
    I never use the very end of the insulin bottle,an internist specialty vet I took leopold to told me it can be more concentrated even with careful mixing.I keep the end bottle as back up incase I brake one.
    I would recommend a needle clip if you don’t have one.
    I really struggle to regulate him.He can be 500 and 200 in the same day.
    I would love any helpful hints or tips you have learned.


  2. I stumbled across your blog while looking for help in managing my Milo’s diabetes. What a pleasure to be able to share information. I read under your blog about Insulin that you are having difficulty in controlling Bender’s sugar and that he is on Vetsulin. Milo was on Vetsulin also but my vet moved him to the human insulin after the FDA informed of possible blood sugar management issues with Vetsulin. Don’t know if your vet discussed with you? The link is here:
    Also, I homecooked for Milo for the first year after his diagnosis. There is a program that you can access through your vet I believe, perhaps directly online, where a recipe is developed specifically for your pet based on breed, age, weight and medical condition, complete with supplements. If you are interested I will send you the link. There is also a great meatloaf recipe I used for Milo when he got bored with the other recipe at : I made this once a week, it made 2 meatloafs. I cut off a couple slices and he loved it. Then I switched him to the Science Diet W/D because I got tired of cooking after a year! But I know it is junky food.. and that’s what led me to find your blog. I really would like to find better dog food but not have to return to cooking if I can help it. Milo has pancreatits as well so that complicates the issue. The vet wants the total fat in his food to be around 5% which is hard to find in commercial food, even low-fat senior food. Anyway.. hope some of this info is of help to you! Thanks for creating this blog.

  3. Jeff Mendelsohn

    @ Heather: I’m curious to know why and how the insulin becomes more concentrated towards the end of the bottle especially with proper mixing.

    @ Rita: I am interested in the food program.

    I saw that recipe while looking around. From my research it doesn’t seem like its the best. Not because its unhealthy but because of the amount of certain problem foods for diabetics.

    I’m not an expert and this is totally from my own research, so check with your vet. But… I would change these ingredients or change the amounts.

    2 cups Corn Masa Harina Flour (corn flour)
    – Corn even though health and considered low on the Glycemic Index, it is a starch. Too much can cause problems.

    1 cups Rolled Oats
    – Can cause digestive problems.

    1 cup wheat germ
    -Dogs can be allergic and can cause digestive problems.

    3 tsp. garlic (granulated)
    – Poison. Just like onions. Very bad for dogs.

    1/2 tsp. salt substitute (potassium chloride) – a source of necessary potassium
    2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
    – Salt is necessary but the amount worries me. Food naturally has sodium in it. Adding more I think is unnecessary for a diabetic since salt can cause problems.

    1/4 cup ketchup (optional- not for use with diabetics)
    I’m glad it is noted not use for diabetics. Any thing processed is bad to begin with but ketchup is high in sugar.

    People tend to forget that even though diabetes is similar in humans and dogs. Not all food that is good for humans is good for dogs.

    There are other diabetic dog foods out there. But no major commercial food will be it.

    Look for smaller companies that specialize in natural dog food. I can’t remember the names of any at this moment, Maybe Evo, There was another Blue some thing.

    I chose to cook his food because I’m looking to reduce cost along with insulin amount. The natural manufactured diabetic foods I saw where pretty high in cost. :(

    I’ll keep an eye out for manufactured food.

  4. I do not know, the specialty vet told me that in their practice they always throw away the very end of the insulin bottle.Perhaps it factors in human error when mixing a solution.

  5. Jeff Mendelsohn

    It just doesn’t make sense is all. I’d ask your vet why, seems like you are wasting money.

    Insulin settles in the bottle so before every shot you need to mix up the bottle. Not shaking it. But gently rolling it or turning it. (Insulin is rather delicate and shaking it can cause damage to it, and if it warms up above the recommended temperature).

    Poor mixing might account for some concentration of insulin. But enough to not use all of it?

    How much insulin do you leave in the 10ml bottle when throwing it out?

  6. Cloudy insulins such as NPH (Humulin N and Novolin N) are to be discarded at approx 30 days from the time of opening.
    No matter how hard we try to carefully mix the vial before administering the insulin we just can’t mix it thoroughly enough that the end of the vial will be the same as when we first open it, the concentration changes.

    Novo Nordisk (Novolin N) states in their package insert to discard at 42 days whereas Eli Lilly (Humulin N) states to toss at 28 days.

    I home cook using 1/3rd protein (white fish, talapia), 1/3rd barley with the remaining 1/3rd being fiber, pure canned pumpkin and broccoli.
    Weighing each ingredient so it will be exactly the same from meal to meal.

    Anytime home cooking is fed it is important to add the proper supplements.
    Usually recommended, a good quality fish oil (Omega-3 only), vit-E, a multi vitamin along with calcium carbonate or citrate.

  7. Jeff Mendelsohn

    I figured insulin went bad after a while. Reading the instructions that came with my Humulin N, it doesn’t say any thing about it going bad after 30 days or so. I actually found the information buried on their site.

    But I honestly wonder how accurate that number is. Do you have any numbers on glucose levels when you first open a bottle vs 20, 30, 40 days in?

    I only wonder because expiration dates are only there because they can’t guarantee quality after a certain amount of time. But does that mean the product is bad?

  8. This was very helpful, my dog was just diagnosed with diabetes and unfortunately I lost my job in November. I have a difficult decision to make : (

  9. Jeff Mendelsohn

    Kathy, Don’t do give up on your pup!

    What kind of dog do you have? Weight? Current food? Exercise regiment?

    Looking at this post, since then I’ve be able to get the cost down.

    Remember this is for a 45lb dog (he was 50lbs).

    So here’s what I’m at right now for TWO months since a bottle of insulin lasts about 50-60 days and the fiber lasts months.

    2 bags of Blue Buffalo Healthy Weight – $100
    1 Humilin N (Walmart’s ReliOn N) 10ml – $25
    124 needles – $14.26 (11.5 cents each)
    10 testing strips – $10 ($1 each)
    1 teaspoon of fiber (generic kind of Benefiber powder)

    Total: Roughly $150-160 a month.

    Compared to the original post, $250 for TWO months.

    Just have to be smart, Look for deals. Also read through my blog, lots of information to help manage your diabetic dog.

  10. Marcela

    i just found out today my little pug has diabeties. I don’t know anything about this, I have no idea how much it will cost and he will need insuline x2 a day. I guess I have to give up my job as I work early/late shifts different days etc.
    I never tho doggies can be diabetics :(
    I wish all of you good luck and hope you find the way how to afford to keep your doggies.
    I will do anything for him.
    Thank you for information provided

  11. Jeff Mendelsohn


    Having a diabetic dog isn’t the end of the world or your job. You just need to find a schedule that works for you and your dog. There is a ton of information on my site, so read around. If you have any questions please let me know.

    Depends on the Insulin you use. I get Humilin N from Walmart, their ReliOn brand for $25 per bottle. Depending on how much insulin you use depends on how long it will last. For Bender it will last about a month at 20/u a shot. Insulin does go bad after a while once opened, roughly 60 days.

    I buy my insulin needles through American Diabetes Wholesale. I usually buy a years worth or more in bulk.

    In general you need to get on a schedule for feeding and exercise. Find good food that is higher is protein, low in fat, high in fiber. Some good ones are Blue Buffalo Healthy Weight, Wellness Healthy Weight, to name a few. Learn to do a glucose curve, Abbott just recently came out with the AlphaTrak 2 glucose meter. I highly recommend you get one. Have honey on hand for crashes.


  12. Becky Watson

    My pug Pearl was diagnosed with diabetes last week. I see many of u purchase insulin through walmart. Do you get a prescription from vet, and what is the vets reaction when asked to provide a script?

  13. Jeff Mendelsohn


    You don’t need a prescription. You can just get in line as if you are picking up a prescription. When they ask you for your name or what ever, just tell them you want ReliOn N or what ever insulin you want. No questions asked. Also I buy 4 bottles (as much as they will sell at one time) at a time so I don’t have to go to Walmart as often.

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