Dear Christopher Cat: My cat, Atticus, needs insulin injections for his diabetes, but my failing eyesight makes it hard for me to accurately fill the tiny insulin syringe with its closely spaced lines. What do you suggest?

Christopher responds: It sounds like you need an insulin pen, which will automatically dispense the correct amount of insulin each time.

Research involving trained laboratory personnel proved that insulin pens are more accurate and precise than syringes. Moreover, studies in humans and dogs show that insulin injections are more comfortable when administered with a pen rather than a syringe.

Insulin pens are ideal for people with vision or dexterity issues and for people who fear needles and syringes. Insulin pens improve accuracy, especially for cats and little dogs that require doses which are small or in half-unit increments. They're also useful when pet sitters or multiple family members administer insulin.

An insulin pen resembles a thick ink pen with a dial on the bottom to select the dose and a button on the side to release it. Inside the pen is a cartridge of insulin.

The VetPen, which dispenses Vetsulin, was designed specifically for cats and dogs. Insulin pens intended for human diabetics are sometimes used in pets accustomed to other forms of insulin.

Ask your veterinarian about an insulin pen. Atticus will feel better because he'll receive exactly the same dose each time, and you'll appreciate the convenience.

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Dear Daisy Dog: We found our dog lying unconscious next to my bottle of decongestant nasal spray. He apparently had chewed the bottle open and licked up the liquid. We rushed him to the veterinary emergency clinic where the staff saved his life.

It never occurred to me that an over-the-counter nasal spray could be toxic, or I wouldn't have left it on the table. Please warn your readers.

Daisy responds: You raise a good point, and it's not just decongestant nasal sprays but also eye drops that are toxic when ingested.

These products contain medications that constrict blood vessels to relieve nasal congestion and eye redness. Taken orally, they have a narrow margin of safety, so ingestion of even a small amount is a medical emergency.

Toxicity is marked by rapid onset of clinical signs, within 15 to 30 minutes for a large oral dose, or four to six hours for a small dose.

Signs of toxicity, which persist for 12 to 36 hours, include vomiting, drowsiness, weakness, decreased heart rate, muscle tremors, collapse and coma.

Many nasal sprays also contain xylitol, often in very high concentrations. In pets, xylitol can cause profound hypoglycemia and liver failure.

Keep your pets safe by securing all medications, even seemingly innocuous products like over-the-counter nasal sprays and eye drops, where they can't reach them.

Ask the Vet's Pets appears Fridays in the print edition of the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices companion animal medicine. Contact them at www.askthevetspets.com.