So you take Fluffy to the veterinarian, where they perform blood work and a urinalysis. Turns out that Fluffy has a high blood sugar (maybe a high cholesterol level or white blood cell count, too), sugar in the urine, and a moderately low urine concentration. The vet (hopefully you’re bringing your kitty to Drs. Thoms, Frank, or Sloan at Cat Care, PC in Rochester Hills, MI) informs you that Fluffy is diabetic (see my last post, Concrete Litter, for more general information about feline Diabetes Mellitus). So what now?
Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a growing health issue in our feline population. Although DM is a VERY complicated disease with many factors that contribute to the development of diabetes, we do worry more about our obese kitties and cats who have diabetes in their family (obviously we don’t know the family history of most kitties- heck, I have no idea who my mom and dad were, but I bet you they were the most beautiful cats on the block!!!). My humans have found that a combination of insulin injections and diet change provides the best control in their diabetic patients. Our current insulin of choice in cats is glargine (aka Lantus), which is a long-acting human insulin. The vets here at Cat Care, PC script the insulin and insulin syringes to a human pharmacy. Once you have the supplies, you bring Fluffy in for an appointment with one of our licensed technicians. They will teach you how to handle the insulin and syringes, how to draw up the insulin into the syringe, and how to give the injection. Since it is a teeny-tiny little needle, most cats don’t mind the injection. The techs also discuss the “Diabetic Commandments” – what to do (and especially what not to do) in certain situations:
- DO give the insulin on a regular schedule. Since most cats need to be on twice daily injections, that means as close to every 12 hrs as possible!
- DO feed Fluffy before or while you are giving the insulin.
- DO keep karo syrup available in case Fluffy becomes hypoglycemic (acts drunk, lethargic, seizures, etc).
- DO NOT give Fluffy her insulin is she doesn’t eat. I repeat, DO NOT GIVE INSULIN TO A CAT WHO IS NOT EATING!!!!!!
- DO NOT give additional insulin if you aren’t sure that you gave the entire dose (i.e., some leaked into Fluffy’s fur).
- WHEN IN DOUBT, DO NOT GIVE THE INSULIN AND CALL YOUR VET!!!!!
Diet is another important aspect of treating the diabetic kitty. Often higher protein, lower carb diets are recommended. Canned cat food is often recommended because it is much lower in carbs than dry food. Some prescription diets (Purina DM & OM and Hill’s M/D, to name a few) are available for our diabetics. Sometimes we can’t change diet because of concurrent diseases (like kidney disease), in which case we focus mainly on insulin. Depending on your vet, you may change Fluffy’s diet right away or after starting the insulin injections.
Some clients ask if we can use oral hypoglycemics in cats. The short answer is NO. Unfortunately, the vets here at Cat Care, PC tried the oral diabetes treatments for several years, only to find that they just didn’t work. Also, some cats developed significant liver disease, which was even worse than the diabetes! Our vets no longer recommend the oral hypoglycemics and jump straight to insulin. Several studies have shown that cats who are started immediately on glargine insulin and a low carb diet have a much higher rate of diabetic “remission” than cats who are treated with other types of insulin (feel free to email us for more information). We have several cats in the practice who have started insulin only to have their diabetes go into remission with diet, weight loss, and glargine injections. Most of these cats DO become diabetic again in the future, but we have at least one kitty who has been in diabetic remission for over 2 years!
Yes, diabetes mellitus is a scary disease. Yes, it does take a devoted human who is willing to commit financially and emotionally to what is a fairly expensive and time-consuming endeavor. However, diabetic kitties and their human slaves CAN have many happy years together.
Next up: A quick peek at diabetic rechecks!