AlphaTrak vs Human Glucose Meter – Part I

The debate between using a human meter vs the AlphaTrak has been floating around the internet for a while now. Most of the theories I’ve read about is the dog/cat meters just cost more due to the fact that the meter is for a dog/cat (just a marketing ploy). But I’ve never seen any hard evidence that proves a human meter works just as well as the AlphaTrak for testing glucose levels on a dog.

As recommended by my Vet I’ve always used the AlphaTrak. As an inexpensive way of testing glucose levels for patients they tried several human meters before the AlphaTrak came out. The human meters all provided a rough accuracy but not the accuracy of the AlphaTrak.

To get to the bottom of this debate and see if human meters do stand up to the AlphaTrak I’ll be conducting tests and write a series of article over the next coming months. My friends over at American Diabetes Wholesale have sent me four meters to start testing with. FreeStyle Lite (made by Abbott, same as the AlphaTrak), Glucocard Vital, Nova Max Link, and Bayer Contour.

Unboxing and Reviewing.
After reading the instructions and testing out each meter, all of them pretty much function the same way. The test strip is inserted into the meter, meter turns on, blood sample is applied to the test strip, and then wait for results. All measurements are done in mg/dl. Some have advanced features such as downloadable results, meal timers, and more but I won’t be going into any of that.

Initial Results
I was able to do an all day test of Bender with the AlphaTrak and FreeStyle Lite. Here are the results.
AlphaTrak Vs FreeStyle Lite 1.11.2011

These results don’t tell the whole story. This is the first test and I was only able to test 5 times. With that in mind… Looking at the results the FreeStyle lite is off by roughly 50-75 points at these numbers. But what about higher numbers? or really low numbers?

You will also see I’m missing a few things. I wasn’t able to get enough blood from Bender after exercising him to test both the AlphaTrak and FreeStyle Lite. I try not to lance Bender too much, and after several tries I just stop. Especially since I only lance his ears. Which is why there isn’t a reading at 6:00pm when I feed Bender. I couldn’t get any blood out of him.

I will continue to test Bender over the coming months with all the meters vs my AlphaTrak and post the results. In the mean time if you have any results for the AlphaTrak vs other meters please share them.

70 Responses to “AlphaTrak vs Human Glucose Meter – Part I”

  1. P.s… I do have the alpha monitor…. I hadn’t used it too much up until the last few weeks, but anytime I feel the need to use it, I do the control test and usually very soon after, I take it to the vets office and have them compare to their reading in her. They are usually very close to the same. As we all know, it appears they will never be right on with each other…

  2. Jeff Mendelsohn

    Karen,

    I still monitor this blog. Just been too busy to post. :o(

    First, what food are you feeding Jodi? Do you exercise Jodi at all? Is she overweight?

    A few things from my experiences. Bender’s glucose levels fluctuate depending on a lot of things such as exercise, weather, his health. One day he was in the 400’s. Nothing changed. I was running him 3 miles, same amount of food. I upped his insulin. After a few days he was crashing and I had to lower his insulin.

    I’ve also had, I wouldn’t say bad insulin but maybe not as potent. I’m having to up his insulin but as soon as I open a new bottle, he crashes and I need to drop insulin amounts again.

    As for the loss of sight. I couldn’t say, I’m not a vet. But most dogs with age, lose their sight.

  3. I have a 7 year old pug/mini pinscher mix. She was diagnosed with diabetes a year ago and has been on a sliding scale of NPH insulin. Her sugars were good to begin with, but then slowly went higher and higher. The Vet kept changing her sliding scale, the dog would do better, then the highs would start again. I FINALLY got the vet to add Regular insulin to her sliding scale about three weeks ago and her numbers have vastly improved. Now she is much better. She also eats Orijen Adult and loves it.

  4. Lauren Hoshoian

    My 9 year old Mini Schnauzer has recently been diagnosed with Diabetes, so much to learn!! 3 weeks into it, he is still not regulated, his blood sugar levels are up and down all over the place. just changed his dosage to 6 units and will curve hime in a week to see if he is levelling off. Our Vet (in Canada) says “no need to buy monitor” as once he is regulated we only need to check him every 3 months or so????? We will travel to Florida this winter for a couple of months and will order the Alpha Track 2 while there…Do I need a prescription in the US. Did you do a Part II or Part III to the Glucose Monitor testing…I would love to read it.

  5. Jeff Mendelsohn

    Lauren,

    You don’t need a prescription to buy an AlphaTrak 2. In fact you don’t need a prescription in the US to buy insulin.

    As for your Vet saying you don’t need a monitor and that your dog only needs to be checked every 3 months, I don’t believe that is correct. From personal experience, being able to check your dog’s glucose levels at home can help you keep them regulated even better and will save you a lot of money.

    Glucose levels can change drastically depending on the amount of exercise, food intake, and other factors such as stress. Depending on the dog, you might need to adjust insulin levels every day, every week, or every month.

    Being able to test at home will also help you understand your dog’s diabetes better. You will know when he peaks, when he is low, You will be able to figure out what his normal glucose cycle is.

    -Jeff

  6. Matt B

    First for those of you using human meters, you will not get a good reading. Though Abbott Labs makes the AlphaTrak2 Meter and Strips for animals they sure don’t offer any good pricing for the strips. Way overpriced and really no reason for it as they are basic strips used in a meter that uses manual coding. For those of you who test the blood from the dog’s ear it is much easier to bend up his/her lip and quickly lance there and take the reading. Mouth injuries heal much faster than skin and you are always assured of getting a reading the first time thus saving your pet a wee bit of pain. One trick to sometimes getting the strips for less is to look for a sale on the starter package that includes a new meter, bottle of strips and lances. Sometimes it is cheaper to just buy a new kit. For FREE Shipping all the time and a decent price always look at the pricing on Amazon.com. Again, at least the shipping is free which is not the case in so many places….. I have also been told but have not yet tried using freestyle strips in the AlphaTrak meter. The strip appear identical and since the AlphaTrak meter is manually coded any coding on the strip will be ignored. It really is a sin that those who make pet strips overcharge for them.

  7. Tracey Sepulvado

    I have a 45# healer mix that is newly diagnosed. Like around 24 hours ago.. Just starting my research. He stayed overnight for iv fluids and a “curve” was told his glucose was <250 prior to coming home but this afternoon it has been around 400. Vets office closed at noon and my dog is acting fine. The meter I am using at home is actually a human model. Any tips would be helpful.

  8. Jeff Mendelsohn

    Tracey,

    Take some time to read through my blog and every one’s comments. It has a lot of good information.

    In short the key is getting your dog on a schedule with proper food and exercise. Find a high protein, low fat, no filler (corn, white rice), with zero to no added preservatives food. Such as Wellness Core Grain free reduced fat. There are a lot of other foods out there that are similar, find one that works. Stay Away from Hill’s Science Diet W/D. Although your Vet will recommend it, it is terrible for diabetics. First ingredient: Corn = sugar. You will never get your dog regulated on it. Cut out people food and find some diabetic friendly treats.

    If your dog can exercise, that will help keep diabetes regulated. Daily structured exercise is the best. Like a 1-3 mile walk or run 1-2 times every day.

    I would suggest getting an AlphaTrak II for home testing. Your dog’s insulin needs will change. Depending on the dog, insulin needs might change daily or weekly. A human model meter will never be right for a dog. I’ve tried more than a few models and none are accurate.

    The key is figuring out what works for you and your dog. And as always consult your Vet.

    Feel free to ask any questions.

    -Jeff

  9. Maria A.

    We are using an AlphaTrak 2 monitor and I’m baffled as to what the dog setting is supposed to be on it. The strips’ container has the number 91 on it, so should that be the code setting for when we test our Corgi’s blood? Or should it be more like 14 or 19? In the booklet, they keep using 19 as their example setting and I am very concerned that we may be getting wrong readings because the code is not set properly.
    Any help you can give would be appreciated, since I have checked the booklets that came with our meter, watched the DVD and even watched their info video online trying to get an accurate sense of what his code setting should be.

  10. Gina Oliver

    What do you consider people food to be? I read many dog food labels and decided making my dog’s food was a great idea. The cans had chicken, peas, carrots, potatoes, oates, all people food…I eat all that food. So what do you consider people food? Seems like the only differences is bone meal.

  11. Jeff Mendelsohn

    Gina,

    I would advise against making your own dog food. Besides the time involved to make the meals and the cost. You need to make sure to create a meal that is good for the dog, that has all the nutrition it needs which is difficult to do without the use of supplements. I would talk to your Vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet.

    People food is any thing edible that we have processed in any way that changes the state of the food to be less healthy or to make it more palatable for our tastes. Examples: plain grilled chicken OK, marinaded then grilled chicken, bad, people food. Breaded and Deep Fried chicken, bad, people food. Fresh peas, Ok, frozen peas, Ok, Peas with salt, pepper and butter, bad. Other examples include processed products like microwave meals, crackers, french fries, and fast food.

    If you do end up making your own food after consulting with your Vet, yes you will technically use “people food” to make it but you won’t be adding any spices or extras like salt or butter. It should be diabetic friendly and that should be the only thing they receive. Anything beyond their daily ration of balanced meals is a treat, and those should be diabetic friendly and balanced nutritionally as well and given in moderation. Plus factored in it how it will affect your dog’s diabetes.

    As some one who tried making dog food. Trust me, it is better and easier to find a quality diabetic friendly dog food. It makes regulating your dog so much easier.

    -Jeff

  12. Kim h.

    Jeff. I found your site tonight and am at my wits end dealing with glucometers. I have an 11 1/2 year old border collie/great pyrenees. He has had intermittent mild pancreatitis attacks since he was 4. In 2014 he quit eating and had bouts of vomitting and yellowish diarrhea. I repeatedly took him to vet and told his blood work was fine then in december i blew up at my vets office and when they rechecked his blood work it was so bad they told us he wasnt going to make it but after many thousands of dollars (we have exhausted our savings and credit cards) he is still here. He has done ok with bs readings in 200s up to 500s but mostly on lower end we thought but just found our meter was reading hundreds off. I am diabetic so used my freestyle meter which vet calibrated to add +40 but all if a sudden it is reading 200-250 points too low. I went to cvs pharmacy and bought new freestyle lite and cvs meters. I also have a one touch ultra. I tested all 4 machines at the same tine and they were not even close. I have been diabetic for 21 years so understand how to test with meters. I rechecked all 4 meters and got readings very different each time. I use my dogs elbow callus to get blood. I have not purchased a dog glucometer as i had the 2 at home with free test strips. Any ideas on what i am doing wring or is there something special special i should be doing? I researched the similarity between alphatrsk and freestyle lite before using the freestyle lite on my dog. I dont want his bs high but also dont want him to crash. Help!

  13. Jeff Mendelsohn

    Kim,

    It sounds like you are checking your dog’s blood correctly, but you will never see correct results with a human meter. You need a canine meter such as the AlphaTrak 2.

    -Jeff

  14. Kim h.

    Thanks for your reply. I had read quite a bit of info that said that the freestyle (made by the same people who make the alphatrak) and was told it would work. My vet actually the meter abd calibrated the freestyle to her alphatrak and she said it consistently read 40 points lower so to add +40. I have ordered an alphatrak meter anyway as i am concerned about correct readings. Is there anywhere that sells the test strips at a discounted price? Thanks again for your reply. I really appreciate it.

  15. Kim h.

    Hi. I received the alphatrak meter today. I do have a question. The test strips are identical to the freestyle lite meter test strips. Do you know if they will in the alphatrak meter as long as i change code and do a control test with the control solution? It would save me a lot on test strips if the freestyle lite test strips work. Thanks for any help. Kim

  16. Hi, I need to ask about the Alpha Trak 2 and the freestyle lite strips. I just got a pack of the Freestyle Lite to use in my AlphaTrak2. First the code on the FSL is 16. My meter won’t let me put 16 in as the code! It goes from 15 to 17. Is it me or do they all do that? Also, I just read somewhere I’m supposed to set the code at 7 or 19 (I don’t remember what the #’s were, just made these two up) Do you know the #’s? Also can someone explain to my significant other the importance of a steady diet (no major changes)? Thanks for the help

  17. Jeff Mendelsohn

    Frank,

    I honestly don’t know what to set the code to. I don’t even know if Freestyle Lite strips will work in the AlphaTrak 2, let alone give accurate/decent results. When I was using the FSL strips with my AlphaTrak 1, the AlphaTrak strip code was always the same no matter what bottle I got so I just used the same code with the FSL strips, even though the bottle said a different code. But also back then, the FSL strips all had the same code on the bottle. I’ve noticed now that the codes change for each bottle.

    Also when I originally tried the FSL strips I would test against an AlphaTrak strip for 10 out of the 50 strips that came in a bottle. When I would test Bender at 8am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, 12am, etc, I would test with both strips each time to see how accurate the strips were for the bottle. Some times the FSL strips were fine, other times when Bender’s glucose levels were higher, the strips would be off.

    As for a steady diet the short answer is it helps keep your dog regulated and easier to manage their diabetes. The more it is out of control the worse it is for the dog and for you. If your dog’s diabetes is out of control it can cause liver, kidney and other problems that will greatly shortly your dog’s life.

    The key is getting your dog on a schedule with proper food and exercise. Find a high protein, low fat, no filler (corn, white rice), with zero to no added preservatives food. Such as Wellness Core Grain free reduced fat. There are a lot of other foods out there that are similar, find one that works. Stay Away from Hill’s Science Diet W/D. Although your Vet will recommend it, it is terrible for diabetics. First ingredient: Corn = sugar. You will never get your dog regulated on it. Cut out people food and find some diabetic friendly treats.

    If your dog can exercise, that will help keep diabetes regulated. Daily structured exercise is the best. Like a 1-3 mile walk or run 1-2 times every day.

    -Jeff

  18. Linda Milberg

    Found your site while looking for info regarding comparison of human vs. animal pet meter readings. I am the pet parent of a diabetic feline.

    The Freestyle human strips will always show code 16. This is the code to be used by humans with the older Freedom Lite meters that required coding. The newer Freedom Lite meters do not need to be coded. There is no specific coding in the AlphaTrak2 strips or the Freedom Lite strips (confirmed with Abbott Human and Animal divisions – June 2015).

    The code on the AlphaTrak2 strip vial must be set on the AT2 meter for each new vial. The code on the vial is NOT always the same for each species. Batch testing is done with the AT strips to determine which algorithm within the AT2 meter will produce the most accurate results for the intended species. (confirmed with Abbott Human and Animal Divisions – June 2015). I presume it is this batch testing that accounts for the excess cost of the strips because the strips themselves contain no coding, the strips are identical in appearance (if they were actually different in any way I would expect FDA and Canada Health etc. to require them to change the appearance in some way so they could be differentiated), it appears to be the same chemical on both strips, they are all manufactured in Ireland, and all the patents on the human strips are on the animal strips. The animal strips however have 4 extra patents…3 in US and 1 in Europe.

    My conclusion:
    I’m of the opinion that the Freestyle strips and AT strips are one and the same. You can use FS strips in the AT2 meter with a valid AT strip code however without the benefit of the batch testing, your AT code may or may not be right for those particular strips and therefore the your results may or may not be accurate and you have no way of knowing what that difference is without doing your own cross checking with each new vial of strips.

    I use the pet strips and have found even the test results using test solution will differ between vials of strips with the same code. Therefore given the allowable variances on all glucometers, adding another variable by using strips without the right code is, IMHO, a little too risky to me.

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