Vetsulin®, a pig based insulin, zinc suspension used to treat diabetes in pets, may have varying amounts of crystalline zinc insulin in the formulation and has been recalled. Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health and the Food and Drug Administration, (FDA) report that using this type of insulin for your dog and/or cat may cause a delay in the onset of insulin action and an overall longer duration of insulin activity. Products like Vetsulin with unstable insulin levels can result in unpredictable fluctuations in your pet’s blood sugar levels. Blood sugar is referred to by vets as “blood glucose.” Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health is currently unable to assure the FDA that their Vetsulin product is stable.
The FDA and Vetsulin’s manufacturer, Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health are asking veterinarians to closely monitor their patients receiving Vetsulin® for any changes in insulin onset or duration of activity, and/or for any signs of elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia) or lowered blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). Elevated blood sugar would reflect insulin levels that are too low, whereas reduced blood sugar levels would be a result of excessive insulin levels. Classic signs of elevated blood sugar or hyperglycemia include drinking and urinating more, weight loss and lethargy. Signs of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar would include disorientation, unsteadiness, weakness, lethargy, and seizures, convulsions and death.
The report states that Intervet/Schering-Plough is working with the FDA to resolve the Vetsulin problem. In the meantime, veterinarians should consider switching their dog and cat diabetic patients from Vetsulin over to other insulin products. The FDA is asking veterinarians to report adverse events of Vetsulin to Intervet/Schering-Plough’s Animal Health Technical Services Department by calling toll free at 1-800-224-5318.
This veterinarian wants pet owners to be aware of this Vetsulin problem as it can be a life or death situation for their diabetic pets. I also want diabetic dog and cat owners to understand that they can simply ask their vet for a prescription for Pig, or porcine based insulin which can be filled at most local pharmacies for a fraction of the cost of Vetsulin.
As a practicing holistic veterinarian for many years, it would seem to me that monitoring diabetic patients taking this product and waiting for a problem to occur is a less than ideal way to handle this problem. Since the vast majority of regulated diabetic pets are at home with their owners, monitoring them would be difficult if not impossible for veterinarians. In addition, one must wonder whether or not handling a problem like this is truly in the best interest of the patients. Many diabetic pets are elderly and once a blood sugar problem occurs it will be an expensive night mere to correct. It can also be a deadly.
Another way to resolve this, which might avoid life and death pet emergencies and be in the best interest of diabetic dogs and cats would be to ask veterinarians to immediately contact their diabetic patients, taking Vetsulin, explain the problem, have them stop using the Vetsulin, offer them a refund and switch their pets over to a stable insulin product.