How to Give Insulin to a Dog


Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 25, 2021

Dogs with diabetes aren’t able to make enough insulin, a hormone that allows the body to store energy from food and move glucose into cells. Because this condition has serious and potentially fatal consequences, diabetic dogs are typically treated with insulin injections one or two times each day.

Because insulin is not a sturdy substance, it is important to handle it gently and avoid exposing it to extreme temperatures or excessive motion. Store unopened bottles of insulin in your refrigerator. After they have been opened, it is still advisable to keep insulin in the fridge. It can tolerate short periods of time at room temperature in an area where it’s out of direct sunlight.

Before attempting to give your dog insulin, it is wise to practice loading the syringe with the appropriate amount of sterile water or saline. You can even use an apple or orange to practice giving insulin injections until you feel you are ready to try it on your dog.

Because there are many different kinds of dog insulin syringes, make sure you buy the size and type recommended by your veterinarian.

It’s also important to remember that insulin must be given to your dog after a full meal. 

Steps for Giving Your Dog Insulin

  1. Always use a new syringe and needle every time you give your dog an insulin injection. This will guarantee that your supplies are sterile and minimize risk of infection.
  2. Unwrap the syringe and needle, but leave the needle itself capped until you are prepared to load the syringe with insulin.
  3. Carefully roll the bottle of insulin in your hands to make sure the hormone is well mixed. Do not shake the medicine — unless it is Vetsulin. Vetsulin must be shaken to fully mix it. 
  4. Remove the needle cap. Then, use the pointer finger and thumb of one hand to hold the insulin syringe while drawing back on the plunger with the other hand. Continue to pull back, filling the plunger with air, until you reach the correct marker for the amount of insulin your dog will need.
  5. Hold the bottle of insulin upside-down in your non-dominant hand. Insert the needle into the bottle through the middle of the rubber cap and depress the plunger, forcing the air into the bottle. This will prevent the formation of a vacuum when you fill the syringe with insulin.
  6. Next, still holding the bottle upside-down, insert as much of the needle as you can into the bottle, keeping the needle tip covered by insulin. Pull back on the plunger until you have the correct amount of insulin in the syringe.
  7. If you notice an air bubble inside the syringe, draw a little extra insulin into the tube. Then, remove the needle from the bottle and hold the syringe-needle apparatus with the needle pointing toward the ceiling. Tap or flick the insulin syringe until the air bubble rises, and then push the plunger to force the air out of the syringe and get rid of any extra insulin.
  8. Gently pinch some of your dog’s loose skin anywhere along their neck or back, using your non-dominant hand. Then insert the needle into the skin, parallel to the fold. Pointing the needle this way will minimize the likelihood that you will put the needle in one side and have it come out the other.
  9. Draw back on the plunger. If it fills with air or blood, remove the needle and syringe and discard. Get a new needle and syringe and re-draw the insulin dose as before. Go ahead and reinsert the needle into your dog. If you do not get air or blood, depress the plunger to give your dog their insulin injection. Try to give the shot in a different spot every time you give your dog an injection.
  10. If your dog gets away or you can’t tell whether they received the full dose, do not try to give more insulin. Wait until the appropriate time to give the next injection of the prescribed dose.
  11. Discard the dog insulin syringe and needle in the special container provided by your veterinarian and follow recommended procedures for disposal.

Dog Insulin Injections: Making Them Easier on You and Your Dog

Injecting your dog with insulin may seem daunting at first, but there are ways to make it easier for you and your dog. Here are tips:

  • Stay calm. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your dog will be. Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself before you give your dog insulin.
  • Create positive associations. You might try giving your dog insulin while they are eating a meal or favorite snack. Remember that your dog should have a full meal before you give the insulin injection.
  • Teach basic commands. If your dog knows — and obeys — commands to sit and stay, it can make it much easier for you to give them an insulin injection quickly. And, of course, this makes the whole process easier for your dog, too.
  • Ask for help. If giving your dog insulin isn’t going well, consult with your veterinarian, who will be able to help you come up with a routine that minimizes discomfort and maximizes your pet’s health.


Show Sources


Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine Web site: “Diabetes mellitus.”

American Animal Hospital Association Web site, “How can I give my dog insulin shots without upsetting us both?”

Veterinary Information Network Web site, “Insulin Administration Guide.”

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