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Diabetes Disaster Averted #15: Handling Accidental Insulin Injection

Dec 13, 2010

I am a diabetes educator and have built a small business helping senior citizens care for their animals with diabetes. It seems that most of the pets I see are small dogs…

and their owners use insulin to manage their animals’ diabetes. I often have to show an older adult how to give the insulin injection and will do a glucose reading for them so they don’t have to take their pet to the vet’s office. Since dogs use more insulin relative to weight than humans there is always a chance of an accident occurring. I recently saw an 18 lb Scottish Terrier who was on 5 units 1 time a day (average dose is 0.4 to 0.7u/kg). The owner, who had some vision challenges, accidently stuck herself in the hand and injected the entire 5 units there. She did not feel concerned because she was so much bigger than the dog. She started to feel somewhat disoriented about an hour later and finally called 911 when she was not able to get up off the couch. When the paramedics arrived 20 minutes later she was asleep on the couch with a glucose level of 44mg/dl. They immediately injected glucose and prevented her glucose from falling any lower. Now I let all my clients know what to do if they accidently stick themselves.

Eden Atwood RN, CDE

Take home lesson: Many of our patients who have pets may be giving them insulin, but the owners themselves do not have diabetes so they have no idea what an accidental stick and dose can do to them. It would be good to ask our older patients if their pets use insulin and to make sure they understand how potent their pets’ insulin is. – DJ

Report Medication Errors to ISMP:

Diabetes in Control is partnered with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) to help ensure errors and near-miss events get reported and shared with millions of health care practitioners. The ISMP is a Patient Safety Organization obligated by law to maintain the anonymity of anyone involved, as well as omitting or changing contextual details for that purpose. Help save lives and protect patients and colleagues by confidentially reporting errors to the ISMP.



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