With PICTURES and VIDEO. Want to detect one of the most common causes of death in ferrets before it’s too late? You can test ferret blood glucose at home! Insulinoma is caused by small tumors on your ferret’s pancreas that disrupt your ferret’s insulin production, leading to dangerously low blood sugar, hypoglycemia, seizures and even death. Even if your ferret has insulinoma, they may not show obvious symptoms. However, their blood glucose levels will still most likely show up as abnormally low. And that’s why it’s so important to test even a ‘healthy’ ferret’s blood glucose levels regularly. If your ferret already has insulinoma, tracking your ferret’s blood glucose at home is a great way to monitor and better treat the disease. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to do once you get the right tools and follow these simple steps listed below: Supplies Needed to Test Ferret Blood Glucose AlphaTRAK 2 MonitorCallibration FluidTest StripsLancets (needles)Lancing DeviceVaselineHealthy Treat The AlphaTRAK 2 Starter Kit on Amazon includes all the items listed above (except for the Vaseline and treats!) so we recommend purchasing this to guarantee you have everything you need to get started. Setting Up Your AlphaTRAK 2 for Ferrets Even though the AlphaTRAK 2 is specifically designed for dogs and cats, you can use the dog code setting to test your ferret’s blood glucose levels at home. UPDATE: On 4/28/2020 I reached out to Zoetis, the company that makes the AlphaTRAK 2, and spoke with their VMIPS team (Veterinary Medicine Information and Product Support) and this is what they said: If somebody is using the AlphaTRAK 2 (purple device in pictures above) with AlphaTRAK 2 test strips, in order to test a ferret’s blood glucose levels, they should use the dog code that is listed on the test strip bottle. Each bottle is different. When I asked why some ferret owners believed they should be using ‘code 7’ for ferrets, she said: If someone had an older (out of date) model of the AlphaTRAK (the device was grey) and are using AlphaTRAK 2 test strips with it, Zoetis recommends using code 7 for any animal. Code 7 is the best way with the out of date device to get the closest, most accurate bg reading for ferrets. What does this mean? If you have the AlphaTRAK 2 (purple), use the dog code. If you have the older AlphaTRAK (grey), use code 7. You will want to insert a new test strip into the monitor and -after it turns on- press the ‘C’ button to advance the numbers 1-100 until you land on your proper code. Calibrating Your AlphaTRAK 2 Blood Glucose Monitor After you set your monitor to the proper setting, you need to do one first test using the ‘control solution’ included in your test kit. This ensures that your monitor is working properly, and that the real blood glucose levels you take afterwards will be accurate. Note: I know the AlphaTRAK 2 Starter Kit may seem a little intimidating at first but I promise it’s easier than you think to learn! First, you need to calibrate your device using a special ‘control fluid’ bottle that comes with your starter kit. It will give you a specific number written on the bottle and when you place a droplet on the test strip, your monitor/meter should read out a number within the range they specified. If the number looks wrong, your device may be defective. Best Time to Test Your Ferrets Blood Glucose In order to get a ‘fasting’ blood glucose reading, your ferret should have fasted for 3-4 hours (fasted means that they have not eaten during that time). If you wait any longer, it could be dangerous for your ferret’s very sensitive body. We recommend locating your ferret during a nap. Their body will be warm and their toes should contain a good amount of blood for a sample. They will also be more apt to stay still. We have noticed that the worst time to test your ferret’s blood glucose is when they have been playing. Their toes are cold and it can be hard to get a blood sample. Also, they don’t want to sit still! Step 1: Get All Your Supplies Ready Before you grab your ferret, you will need to make sure your AlphaTRAK 2 is set to the dog code listed on your test strip bottle and that your monitor has already been calibrated using the ‘control solution’. Next, you will need to place a new test strip in the device. We recommend pushing the strip in part of the way, but not so far that it turns on the device. This is because after the device/monitor is turned on, it will auto shut off after two minutes. Most likely, it will take you longer than that to get the blood sample. Putting the strip in only part of the way will get it ready to push in right before you have it contact blood. Important: Try your best not to touch either end of the test strip, as this can cause an error. Ideally, you only grab it by the middle, butterfly icon. Also: notice the (correct) orientation of the test strip in the photo above. If you put it in backwards, the device will not turn on. Next, you need to place a new lancet (needle) in the lancing device (black handheld item). Leave the cap on the lancing device (needle) until you push and click it into the lancing device to avoid poking yourself (and ruining the needle by contaminating it!). Replace the cap on the lancing device (with the lancet inside) and use the slider to cock the needle back and in the ‘ready’ position. You can rotate the top cap to various numbers that determine how deep the needle will pierce your ferret’s skin. We use ‘4’. Other Supplies Make sure to have your Vaseline and healthy treat within arms reach as well! Step 2: Grab Your Ferret! As we mentioned before, the best time to grab your ferret to test their blood glucose at home, is after they have been napping. Place your ferret in your lap, belly up. Step 3: Place a Treat on Your Ferret’s Belly We strongly recommend using salmon oil as a healthy treat to distract your ferret while you draw their blood. It is healthy (within moderation!) and it will take your ferret a while to lick off, giving you plenty of time to get a good blood sample. Also, this is a great time to push your test strip fully into the monitor to turn on your AlphaTRAK 2. You have two minutes from now to get your blood sample! Step 4: Put Vaseline on Your Ferret’s Paw Many vets recommend using a *small* amount of Vaseline on the area you wish to take the blood sample. We feels it helps make the blood sample stay in one place while you try to get your reading. Step 5: Gently Massage your Ferret’s Paw By massaging your ferret’s paw, you can increase blood flow and ensure enough blood will come out once you prick their toe. Step 6: Place Lancing Device on Toe Apply a semi-firm amount of pressure to your ferret’s toe with the lancing device (which at this point has a new needle inside, is cocked back, and set to ‘4’ for needle depth). Make sure to target the middle of the toe so that fur does not get in the way of you collecting a good blood sample. Step 7: WAIT! Be Patient! The blood present in the photo above is NOT ENOUGH BLOOD and if you try to take a sample at this point, you will get an error. If you get an error reading, you need to throw out the test strip and use a new one. No fun! ^Look at how much bigger the blood sample is in this photo above. This is an adequate amount to get a good blood glucose reading. Step 8: Touch Test Strip to Blood Drop After waiting to get a big enough blood drop, you can put the test strip directly on the toe. It is VERY important that the black portion of the test strip gets blood on it. Your monitor will *BEEP* when it receives enough blood. Step 9: Wait for Blood Glucose Reading After your AlphaTRAK 2 beeps, it will show a loading symbol while it is processing the blood sample. Then, it will show you your ferret’s blood glucose reading. We recommend recording this number somewhere (like your phone or an excel sheet). The AlphaTRAK 2 keeps this data in the device but it would be more beneficial to take notes that give context to your reading. Example: 111 mg/DL, Moose 5.5, .2 Prednisolone, fasted 3 hours before reading We also like to take a picture of our ferret next to the device reading so we can remember which ferret the bg reading is for. What is a Normal Ferret Blood Glucose Level? According to Ferrets for Dummies, a healthy ferret should have a blood glucose level of 90-120. If your ferret has a blood glucose level of 70 or below, it is generally considered diagnostic for insulinoma. How Often Should I Test My Ferret’s Blood Glucose at Home? This depends on how old your ferret is and whether or not they have insulinoma. For a healthy, young ferret (under 3) you can probably test their blood glucose levels at home every six months. Please ask your vet what they recommend as this is based on our own personal experience and every ferret is different. If your ferret has already been diagnosed with insulinoma, we recommend testing their blood glucose levels every 3 months to make sure their medication is still working. Please consult your vet about this as well. What Do I Do If My Ferret Got a Low Blood Glucose Reading at Home? Take a deep breath. You may feel scared but it’s going to be okay. Give your ferret a big scratch and a nice belly rub. Then, call your vet. The longer you wait to treat insulinoma, the worse it will get. If you wait too long, your ferret may suffer from a seizure. Most importantly, consider yourself lucky for having the sense to catch it early at home! For us, the AlphaTRAK 2 has been an absolute live saver for our three ferrets. We literally recommend it to everyone. Our only regret is we wish we would’ve started testing our ferret’s blood glucose levels at home MUCH earlier. Maybe we could’ve caught Moose’s insulinoma earlier and bought him more time with us… live and learn! Next up: Want to learn about the most common treatment for insulinoma? Please take a moment and share your own experiences below to help teach other ferret owners currently viewing this page.