Insulin shots- what no one told us when our dog was diagnosed.

Perfection. That is what my husband and I shout out to each other when we give our dog her insulin shot after finding the perfect tent and injecting the insulin without her yelping. But is there ever really such a thing? It’s been about 4 years since our Sunny was diagnosed as a diabetic and sometimes I feel like I can’t catch a break. I mean, sometimes giving her the injection can be stressful.

Four years ago, when we were in with the vet tech to learn how to give the shot, the focus was on “the tent”. A tent that seemed to appear effortlessly at the scruff of Sunny’s neck when the tech pulled it up to inject her with the test shots. And every single time the tech gave the injection, Sunny didn’t even flinch. When my husband and I tried, same thing. It seemed like giving Sunny an insulin shot was natural for her and we (my husband and I) only needed to get used to it as part of our routine. We were advised to focus on aiming the syringe at the base of the tent underneath the skin so as to make sure the needle didn’t break through and that the syringe wasn’t actually inserted into the skin layers themselves. We thought it would be totally fine as the injection obviously didn’t hurt Sunny. So we had nothing to worry about but to make sure we had good aim. Unfortunately, that wasn’t exactly the case. Here is what the vet tech didn’t tell us:

  • Location
    • Position to administer the shot – a comfortable location is key. Not just for us, but for Sunny too. When we got home and it was time for her first shot, I simply couldn’t get comfortable. We tried putting her on a table to mimic the setting at the vet’s office – putting her at our level. That did not work, not even a little bit. Sunny was confused as to why she was on a table, I couldn’t keep her from sliding and fidgeting, and looking down the entire time only made my neck hurt and my shoulders stiffen. We put her back on floor level but a smooth surface only made her slide around too so back to the carpet. The next question to answer was, how was I supposed to sit? My husband and I both sit very differently when giving the shot and don’t know how the other does it. Where my husband kneels beside her, I actually have one of my legs extended with her in between.
    • Physical location on Sunny – I prefer the scruff of her neck. My husband prefers between her shoulder blades. Our vet even suggested further down near her hind legs. While the hind legs are definitely not an option for us, basically we look for the meatiest part of her so there is something that we can hold on to and that hopefully won’t be a sensitive area causing her to yelp. Another thing to mention if you too have a dog with long hair, it might be difficult for you to find that perfect tent if the dog’s hair is too short or too long or freshly washed. My husband is not confident after a fresh wash or a short hair cut. Either way, I breath through it and inject on the exhale

0 positioning1 finding the tent

  • Tension – sometimes, like it or not, Sunny’s scruff just doesn’t make a perfect tent and it’s because of how she’s sitting. Sometimes it’s even because she wants to yawn or just shake for a second. But the tech never mentioned that. Trust me, it’s a scary thing to inject the syringe only to have your dog pull away, shake and see a syringe flying across the room. So I try my hardest to get that tent and if it feels like her neck is tense, I get Sunny up, walk her around and have her sit back down. If that doesn’t work, I scruff up her hair to force her to shake and get relaxed. Hey, whatever it takes, right?
  • Bleeding – unfortunately, even if I feel like I have the perfect tent and everything seems like it went perfectly, I look down and there’s blood on the back of her neck. If you’ve done your research, then you also know that you can also find blood in the syringe. Luckily that has never happened to us. That most likely only happens when your pull back on the plunger while the syringe is still injected.

sunny_blood sunny blood 2

  • Scar tissue – about a year ago, I noticed the scruff on her back feeling thicker when I try to gather up and form the tent and it wasn’t simply tension. It feels like a lump of fat sometimes and the syringe actually has gotten stuck. At first I thought we were injecting the insulin incorrectly and instead of underneath the skin the insulin was building up within the layers of skin. When we went to the vet, she explained that what we were feeling was scar tissue building up due to all of the pricks from the syringe over time and advised that we move where we inject the insulin over to the right or the left a little bit.
  • Yelping/Flinching– sometimes Sunny yelps. It was worse in the beginning so I always thought she was picking up on our tense energy. But now, 4 years later, even when I feel absolutely fine and feel like I have the “perfect” tent, she yelps. Sometimes she only flinches on the way in but I start to doubt that she will stay still and instinctively pull the syringe out never injecting the insulin at all. I do not do that anymore and on the days she yelps or flinches or both, I follow through with the shot and pay close attention to her water intake and how much she relieves herself. If all looks good, then I’m reassured that despite the yelp or flinch, she received the right dosage.
  • Focus – be in the moment. Sometimes I find myself worrying about being late for work, or making dinner, or being annoyed by that obnoxious song that has been stuck on a loop in my head all day. So even though I’m not stressed over Sunny or the shot, I’m still not focused. Enter, Deepak Chopra. Thankfully one of the mantras I learned from a 21-day meditation has stayed with me and so I pull myself out of my thoughts and focus on the moment by reciting “So Hum”.

I no longer strive for perfection when giving Sunny her insulin shot(s). It’s been 4 years and there are instances when she yelps (though not as loud and not as often), flinches or even bleeds. I may even get down on myself and start thinking that I am failing her, but then I notice that she’s still excited after her shot, wanting to play, and that her water intake hasn’t changed. Sunny is amazing at being in the moment and not sweating the small stuff. So I find my strength with her on those perfectly imperfect days, continue to work on my focus, stay calm and trust myself.

How do you find your strength in a difficult situation?

14 thoughts on “Insulin shots- what no one told us when our dog was diagnosed.

  1. Reblogged this on justconsiderit and commented:
    I have to share this post because I was actually considering taking a photo of myself injecting, but I didn’t want to subject you all to the sight of my stomach. So imagine me with floppy ears having an injection and you’re there. I hope I’m slimmer in your imagination.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Emily! Thank you again for the reblog. I saw you are fairly new to blogging as well (or at least in this space). I wish you continued success and I look forward to reading more of your blogs. =)


  2. Thanks so much for this post! We just found out 3 weeks ago that my 13 yr. old jack russell has diabetes. He’s a pretty grumpy old man, and since he’s had more stitches and surgeries than any human I know if he sees a needle he goes nuts. For a while I was able to sneak them in, but now he’s caught on and everyday it seems to get more and more stressful, my husband is leaving for 2 weeks and I’m terrified to do it alone but your post reminded me that my dog still loves me after his shot and that I’m doing it to keep him alive, so the show must go on… 🙂 thanks again!


    • Hi Amanda! I’m so glad your found the post. I hope you have joined some networks as well – I’ve recently joined Diabetic Dog Owners on Facebook. There’s a ton of help I wish I new about 4 years ago right in that group. It might help relieve some of the stress and give you ideas to help with the new adjustment. My husband travels a lot too. He’s actually traveling now. Everything will be okay. For sure. I know what I used to do in the beginning, a few hours after giving Sunny her shot, was to go through the motions all over again – 1) I call her over to sit where I feel comfortable, 2) make her stay seated for a bit before sitting next to her, 3) gently grab the scruff of her neck to make the tent, 4) and then practice injecting her with my finger so I could practice my aim and power of the injection. Hopefully I had her feel a bit of pinch with my fingernail (my nails aren’t long so she probably doesn’t feel much). I used to do this several times a day within the 12 hours after her morning shot. Now, after she eats, she goes to that spot and waits for me. My husband actually still pats the the tent area before the injection to “numb” that area so Sunny doesn’t feel the injection. Either way, your dog will eventually realize that the shots make him feel better. I didn’t believe it at first when my friend told me, but it’s true. And the day you realize that you made it over the hump, and that your little guy gets it, grumpy or not, it will be the best moment. Let me know how it goes. Good luck. And remember – you are doing everything right. Trust yourself.


  3. We’ve tried everything the doctor has told us. We found out that we can just give her a shot with her collar on while she’s eating cheese, but this morning she refused to let us do it. I’m really worried about my dog, and I want to know if there’s any other options to give our dog shots? And how long will it take for our dog to get used to it? I’m really worried about her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Maryann! Sincere apologies for not seeing this sooner. How are you and your dog? Are the shots getting better? Depending on how many units you are currently set to administer, you may be able to reduce dosage based on diet, but that is a conversation with a holistic vet. But typically, once diagnosed, insulin will always be required and I believe the only way to administer that at this moment, is via a shot.


  4. Thanks for your post. We can totally relate to it all with 5yo Willy Nelson. I’m concerned now about the scar tissue build up. I just am not exactly sure where to move to next as it’s only been about 5 months. Does the scar tissue ever change if you move it? Now he’s showing a slight cataract in one of his eyes.


    • Hey John! It’s tricky when it comes to scar tissue for sure. Even moving locations slightly can make a difference at reducing how quickly it builds up. But the build up can take time and when it is noticeable to the touch when you make the tent, you’ll 100% know. You’ll feel it when the needle goes in. The scar tissue doesn’t go away, but you feel it less if you give that location some time to heal. At least, that’s how it seems for us. Are you noticing a difference in the pressure of his eyes? Do they look bulged at all?


  5. Thank you! I’m sitting here worrying that I’ve hurt my dog. He jerked and although no blood was in the syringe there was blood on his skin. I’m one month into giving him his shots and tenting is the most difficult thing because he does not have a lot of loose skin. The vet tech has even shaved patches for us to see better. It’s been very stressful. I’ve cared for dogs with all manner of illnesses but this is the most difficult emotionally. Even the vet techs said he’s a sensitive little guy.


    • You are now a bit over 2 months in – how are you feeling now? It does take a lot. And there were months when I was perfect and then, randomly, nervous all over again. Unable to get a good tent. Sometimes, finding the tent has to do with how relaxed they are too. It’s a balance between you and him for sure.


  6. Hi there, I am new to giving insulin to my dog. He is not liking it either and he recently went blind. I can’t pay another $40 to go ask the vet every little question. So I’m asking experts. Anyway my question is about the shot. They told me to make the tent at his neck and then put it in, pull back to see if I have blood, no blood then shoot. First I can’t pull back the plunger while the needle is in while holding a tent with one hand. I just can’t do it. So I’ve just been injecting as quickly as I can. But my question is about the under the skin, I have been sticking the needle in and injecting but that sounds like it might be wrong, like maybe I’m only supposed to put the needle under his skin somehow? I’m just not sure how to only just get it under his skin and not all the way in.


    • Hmm…we never pulled the plunger back once already injected. That was never told to us, and I’m sure by now, after many Google searches, you’ve noticed not many people will mention that at all. Let’s think about your pup after the shot. How is his drinking habits? Is he still drinking excessively and urinating excessively? If the answer is ‘no’ then trust that the shot was done correctly and perhaps further validate by home testing his ketone levels. If the answer is ‘yes’ to the excessive drinking, etc. Then practice finding the tent and observing it wohoit it being time for his shot. It will get you both more comfortable with the process.


  7. Thank you for writing this blog it has helped me a lot my 6yr poodle has recently been diagnosed with diabetes and at first I was doing the injection wrong I felt so bad was crying for days finally I got the hang of it and now I do it right and I have my good days and bad days meaning like today he was bleeding a little after the injection site and other days are just perfect but thank you for taking time to Express how us doggy moms feel giving injection to our babies.


    • Absolutely! Having a “sugar baby”, as our diabetic pups are affectionately referred to sometimes, is heartwrenching. But something I learned from my girl, and I’m sure you are learning from your guy, is that you are stronger than you know. You can do this because of how much you love him and he loves and trusts you. Their strength makes us stronger. But those bad days, woooo! They can be rough. Just follow the steps to watch out for signs. Be vigilant and the overall situation will end positively. I promise.


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