You Were Just Told Your Pet Has Diabetes.
The initial shock and fear you feel when the vet tells you that your pet has diabetes can be overwhelming. Yet diabetes is a treatable condition and your pet can live a normal, happy, healthy life. Diabetes is not a death sentence for your pet! You can manage this condition, maintaining your own sanity and budget. You are likely wondering, "How long will my pet live?" Every pet is different, but very often your pet can live a normal life span. If you own an older cat, no doubt you've wondered if it's "better" to put it to sleep. This is a very complicated issue and depends on the overall health of your pet. But age alone should not be the deciding factor in determining whether to treat your diabetic pet or whether to euthanize it. Many older pets have been diagnosed with diabetes, and with commitment and loving care have lived many more years. Our cat was diagnosed at age 14, and for years was still very healthy and dominating the household. We've heard of many diabetic cats that are quite elderly (18 years old or more) who are in very good health. You Can Get Through This. Caring for a diabetic pet, just like a non-diabetic pet, does involve commitment from both the caregiver and the vet. You must provide a consistent level of care for your pet on a daily basis. Gone are the days of putting out food and water, giving a quick pat on the head, and hurrying out the door. Every day you will have to give your pet medication, feed a proper diet, and watch his behavior. Don't get the impression that you are now a prisoner....you aren't, but you will have to pay much closer attention to your pet's needs and behavior, and you will have to make arrangements for someone to care for your pet if you leave for an extended period of time. Your hard work and commitment will be reflect Continue reading >>
Euthanasia: A Vet’s Perspective
The software we use in my practices will color code appointments by “reason for visit.” The one for euthanasia is, as one would expect, a very dark color. A few weeks ago, I came to work. As usual, I looked at the schedule before rounds to see any issues that needed to be covered before we convened. My heart sank. The first two appointments of the day were euthanasias. While in many respects, I think of euthanasia as a privilege to perform when suffering is the alternative, nevertheless, it is always hard on me. Not as hard as it is for clients who don’t want to give up, but emotionally trying. I watched my Dad suffer to death for 3 months in an ICU so I know how important it is to assist in ending suffering. “We veterinarians think of ourselves as healers.” We veterinarians think of ourselves as healers, capable of diagnosing, curing or managing illness and injury. When we can no longer do so, our role in the pet’s and family’s life changes. We are not allies in the fight any longer. We must advise the course to prevent suffering; sometimes that means death. In that same week, my brother called from 3000 miles away to talk to me about his 11 year old Clumber Spaniel, Hattie, who was in the hospital. He needed me to help him make decisions. She was very sick and it was Friday afternoon. One plan was to stabilize her through the weekend and perform surgery on Monday, a course that may or may not have improved her condition. I reviewed the diagnostics with her doctor. We had a long conversation about likely outcomes. Her odds of getting better were poor but not impossible. I told my brother that he should take it one day at a time. Give the doctors permission to provide all the supportive care she needed, including a blood transfusion and see how she was the Continue reading >>
How To Know When It’s Time
It’s always a difficult choice to make; deciding it’s time to say goodbye to a beloved cat. The heart of the dilemma is absent when a cat meets their demise through misadventure or a sudden terminal episode. While, being human, we search for ways we could have averted this situation, we did not directly cause it to come about. When our cat is very elderly or very ill, we must make the decision. That is how we become tormented by doubts about making it. But the very thing that makes this problem seemingly so difficult also contains the seed of what will soothe us. It is a matter of responsibility. Since cats live in a World They Did Not Make, we are responsible for supporting their lives from the very beginning. We gladly took on the responsibilities of mealtime, playtime, and cuddle time; yes, even litter time. Our reward was the enjoyment we reaped from their happiness and contentment. We know what makes them happy. We know what makes them unhappy. So when a course of unhappiness, such as an illness and the ensuing medical treatment, will not be short, and does not hold the promise of our cat regaining their health; it is our responsibility to once again, and for a final time, make our cat happy. This is what gets us through The Decision. If Mr WayofCats and I had theoretical millions of dollars, we could have had our sick cat Puffy admitted to the animal hospital for tests, and found out exactly what was causing his seizures. If it had confirmed the first probable diagnosis, a brain tumor, we could have then flown him to a veterinary college who does the advanced brain surgery he would have required. If it was the second probable diagnosis, progressive neurological disease, we could have embarked on the constantly moving target of balancing his drug dosages with p Continue reading >>
Diabetes In Cats Part 2 – Things You Should Know About Diagnosis & Treatment
3 53 Remember Stephen? Stephen is having a cat nap. So I guess it’s up to me to tell you all a little bit more about diabetes in cats. In my previous article – What Does a Cat With Diabetes Look Like? I talked about what diabetes mellitus actually is, what I think about people who taste urine to check for its sweetness, and gave some pointers on signs to watch out for that might indicate your cat has this disease. Now it’s time to have a quick look at how diabetes in cats is diagnosed and most importantly, what the heck we can do about it. How Can My Veterinarian Tell if My Cat has Diabetes? There are two main test results required for a vet to be able to diagnose diabetes in a symptomatic cat: A high fasting blood glucose (i.e. loads of glucose floating around in their blood even when they haven’t eaten recently) Testing these parameters is a piece of cake! See what I did there? But here’s where it gets tricky. Cats can get enormously stressed out by a visit to the vet (kind of like I feel about sitting in the dentist’s chair), and a really important effect of this stress can be a transient elevation in their blood glucose, which can even be significant enough to see glucose spilling over into the urine. What this means is that cats who do not have diabetes may have a high blood glucose reading, and even occasionally glucose in their urine. These tests aren’t always diagnostic on their own. It is best to run a full blood profile rather than just checking the glucose alone. This assists us with detecting any other illnesses that may either be the sole cause of your cat’s problems or could just be lurking around complicating the situation. If there is any doubt about the diagnosis of diabetes, a good test to do next is a plasma fructosamine level. This te Continue reading >>
Did I Do The Right Thing?
Hello, I have been grieving because a few days ago I had my cat euthanized. I am feeling terribly guilty and sad, she was my beloved baby doll and I never imagined I would have to do this. She had uncontrollable diabetes for several years and I had tried, under my vet's advice, various dosages with little improvement. She had been urinating outside of her litter box for a few years now and I did not mind dealing with that, I loved her I would have done anything for her. She also had a tumor in her ear, and my vet told me it was inoperable because they could not get her blood sugar under control, and surgery would be too risky for her. My vet advised me to put her to sleep a couple of years ago and I refused because I could not bear the thought of it. I decided to put her to sleep recently because she started urinating farther and farther away from her box, into my bedroom and on my bed, which was hard to deal with. Now I just miss her and regret doing it and wonder if I made the right decision. Lately, when I had to give her the insulin shots she seemed to cringe, and I was not sure if she was in pain. I just know I miss her and, did I do the right thing? I feel horrible. I miss her so much, she was a big part of my life. And, she had the sedative before they put her to sleep. Can you please tell me she did not feel any pain from this? It would help my feelings a lot. Thanks for advice. S Dr. Marie replied: Oh, I am so sorry that you have had to go through this. I can definitely relate because my own cat, Wilson, recently suffered with uncontrollable diabetes and just a few months ago I put him to sleep. While some cats respond really well to insulin, those who don't are so difficult. It makes decision making really hard because it is not a condition where an animal is Continue reading >>
How We Came To Euthanize Our Diabetic Cat Pica
The hardest decision any cat lover ever has to make is to euthanize a pet. It’s even harder when your cat is not showing obvious signs of stress and discomfort, it makes you feel like a murderer, even though the medical proof is right in front of your eyes. Our cat Pica was still purring for treats, begging for his brush and responding to our touch. I spent more time crying before taking him to the vet for euthanization than at the time he peacefully went to sleep. Some days, just out of the blue, tears popped out of my eyes whenever I thought of Pica or talked about him. My eyes leaked late at night. He had begun to lose even more weight on wet cat food, so we switched his diet to Blue Buffalo. This is a high protein, low carb and grain-free premium dry cat food. His weight improved but his two other diseases related to diabetes mellitus worsened. Inflammatory bowel disease and pancreatitis. Three weeks ago, the latest diagnosis bordered on ketoacidosis. Life threatening. The first sign he was heading into a tailspin was when he urinated on our rug. Increased his prozac; followed up with the pain reliever, buprenophine. Immediately we tapered prenisolone, which makes it extremely difficult to manage diabetes. Changed his medication to budesodine, compounded at the Parkside Pharmacy in Land Park over on Del Rio. Tried to sequester him in a 4 x 4 dog kennel in the evenings, but on his second night, Tessa, our female ocicat, showed him how to escape. Still a mystery. Cerenia was a god-send, too; offering inflammatory relief as well as vomit prevention. Almost two years passed since the vet diagnosed Pica with feline diabetes. We’ve been vigilant with his diet and medications ever since, hoping to give Pica a long and happy life with twice-a-day insulin injections. Nev Continue reading >>
Regulating & Monitoring A Diabetic Cat Using Insulin
Not all cats with diabetes will need to be treated with insulin (some cats with mild diabetes may respond to and dietary change), but a majority of them will. The goal of treatment is to resolve the signs of the disease, maintain proper body weight, eliminate or reduce the likelihood of any complications, and provide the cat with a good quality of life. This can be accomplished by maintaining the blood glucose at an acceptable level (100-290 mg/dL; normal is 55-160 mg/dL). In addition to treating the diabetes, any other concurrent diseases such as pancreatic exocrine insufficiency, hyperthyroidism, Cushing's disease, and infections need to be treated as well. What should an owner know before trying to 'regulate' a cat with diabetes? Before treatment is started, it is important that the owner be well-informed and have the time necessary to make the correct decision since regulating a diabetic cat requires commitment. Owners should know: The cat will need to be hospitalized for a number of days and one or more blood glucose profiles (described below) will need to be performed. The initial regulation of a cat on insulin generally takes 2-8 weeks. The process of getting a cat regulated can be costly. Insulin must usually be given twice a day, every day at specific times, probably for the life of the cat. Insulin must be handled properly (refrigerated, not shaken, etc). There is a proper technique for administering insulin to a cat that must be followed. The type of insulin and insulin syringe that are used should not be changed unless under guidance by the veterinarian. The type and amount of food and when it is fed must be consistent. In most cases, foods high in protein and low in carbohydrates are recommended. These are usually canned foods. The cat will need to be caref Continue reading >>
You Just Learned Your Pet Has Diabetes
The first day Commitment, patience & education Expenses Your emotions People think you're crazy Your social life The bottom line I wrote this essay to help people whose pet has recently (or not so recently) been diagnosed with diabetes. Many of the things discussed below will probably go through your thoughts. Hopefully this will help you understand your new situation and you won't feel so overwhelmed. The First Day The initial shock and fear you feel when the vet tells you that your pet has diabetes can be overwhelming. Diabetes is a treatable condition and your pet can live a normal, happy, healthy life. Diabetes is not a death sentence for your pet. A question that is often asked is “My pet is older, should I put him to sleep”. This is a very complicated issue and depends on the overall health of your pet. Age alone should not be the deciding factor in determining whether to treat your diabetic pet or whether to euthanize it. Many older pets have been diagnosed with diabetes and with commitment and loving care, they have lived many more years. Our cat was diagnosed at age 14, and after almost three years with diabetes he is very healthy and happy. There are diabetic cats and dogs that are quite elderly (18 years old or more) and are in very good health. You may want to read some of the Quality of Life stories that are on this site. Commitment, Patience and Education Caring for a diabetic pet takes a very strong commitment from both the owner / caregiver and the vet. You must provide a very high level of care for your pet on a daily basis. Gone are the days of putting out food and water, giving a quick pat on the head, and hurrying out the door. Every day you will have to give your pet medication, feed a proper diet, and watch his behavior. But don’t get the imp Continue reading >>
Many Cats With Diabetes Can Achieve Remission
If your cat seems to be thirstier than usual, is urinating frequently, is hungry all the time but also losing weight, you should have him checked by your veterinarian for feline diabetes. Other signs to watch for include urinating outside the litter box, sweet-smelling breath, lethargy, dehydration, poor coat condition, and urinary tract infections. Left untreated, diabetes can cause your kitty to lose his appetite and a significant amount of weight, and develop muscle weakness. Uncontrolled, the disease can ultimately result in diabetic neuropathy, a condition in which there is profound rear limb weakness and a plantigrade walk, meaning the ankles are actually on the ground as the cat walks. Feline Diabetes Mellitus Diabetes mellitus is a common disease in older cats, and is especially prevalent in kitties fed dry food diets. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery concluded that high-protein, low-carb diets are as or more effective than insulin at causing remission of diabetes in cats. The pancreas produces insulin based on the level of glucose in the blood. Insulin is necessary in order for glucose to enter the cells of the body. When glucose levels are high (which normally occurs after a meal), insulin is released. When there is not enough insulin being released from the pancreas, or there is an abnormal release of insulin coupled with an inadequate response of the body’s cells to the insulin, diabetes mellitus is the result. Sugar in the bloodstream cannot get into the cells of the body, so the body starts breaking down fat and protein stores to use as energy. As a result, no matter how much the cat eats, she loses weight. In addition, the glucose builds up in the bloodstream and is eliminated through urination. This leads to exce Continue reading >>
Why I'm Letting My Cat Die
(Comments are now closed. Zoe is doing fine; a change in diet has done wonders. Thanks, everyone!) I just found out that my 13-year-old cat, Zoe, has diabetes. Zoe and I go way back; I adopted her from the Anti-Cruelty Society when she was 2 and she has been a constant presence. But now she's old. She is a cat. I'm not willing to spend thousands of dollars on medical care and I don't have the time or energy to give her a daily insulin shot and monitor her blood glucose level. The vet said she's not suffering, so I'm going to let nature take its course. After I confessed this at today's weekly Q staff meeting, my colleague Heidi Stevens nodded knowingly. "I hate my cat," she said. We all gasped. She added: "I took in my cat from a friend who found him at 4 weeks old, too young for a shelter to keep him, I was told. He was a cute kitten, but is a joyless, mean-spirited, weak-stomached 8-year-old cat now. "I've also developed an allergy to him, which makes my eyes swell and turn red. I find myself longing for the day when he's no longer with us, but I can't bring myself to take him to a shelter because I know no one would adopt him, and I couldn't live with myself knowing that I, in effect, ended his life. So I just go through life resenting him and his various messes." Do you have pet resentment? Or tips on how to give a cat hospice care? Kristine Timpert's quirky little book "If Babies Did Crunches" tries to sugarcoat an important message for adults: Beware of crunches. The not-just for-kids book stresses that if you really want to banish tummy flab or back pain, clean up your diet and mimic your child's natural play patterns, which includes squatting, pushing, pulling, balancing and lunging. One of the biggest mistakes new moms make, for example, is they start doing cru Continue reading >>
Pets With Diabetes: Hypoglycemia
Signs Treatment Asymptomatic Hypo Be Prepared (how to carry a sugar supply) Exercise and hypo. Nigel Goes Hypo Hypo Humor References The most serious side effect of too much insulin is hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose. Hypoglycemia can be a life-threatening, even fatal condition. Classic signs of hypoglycemia lethargy (lack of energy) weakness head tilting "drunkedness" - wobbling when walking, unbalanced hunger restlessness shivering ataxia - usually lack of muscular coordination, but maybe changes in head and neck movements disorientation stupor convulsions or seizures coma The occurrence of signs depends on how far the bg drops and on how fast the blood glucose drops. Owners of diabetic cats have also reported observing these signs sleepiness unable to wake the cat easily when it is sleeping. vomiting glassy eyes - it may look like it is staring into space laying, sleeping, or curled up in an unusual location of the house meowing, crying, yowling, or vocalizing in a way that is unusual for your cat some cats get aggressive drooling coughing Owners of diabetic dogs have also reported observing these signs sweating - check the nose and the paw pads. lip smacking or licking getting physically "stuck" in a place where the pet normally could get itself out (for example, behind a partially closed door that a pet would usually nudge open.) Some animals are asymptomatic at very low bg values. This means they do not show any of the usual signs of hypoglycemia even though their bg is very low. Read experiences of three pets who have had episodes of asymptomatic hypoglycemia. Be Prepared Always have corn syrup or sugar available. Corn syrup works well because it is a very pure sugar, and it is liquid. In the U.S. "Karo" is a brand name of corn syrup and you'll often see this Continue reading >>
Euthanasia - Gentle Death, Painful Decision
Copyright 1993, 2000 Sarah Hartwell This article was the original euthanasia article which was later expanded into Time to Let Go. It contains some information which was edited out of the Cats Protection version of Time to Let Go. I have kept the original information, but made one or two updates and additions. The decision to end a life is hard and can feel like a betrayal of trust. One friend said she felt she had murdered her terminally ill cat. Another, in a similar situation felt guilty at not making the decision sooner. Though I have had years of experience with elderly cats which sometimes required a helping hand at the end, in 1999 I had to follow my own advice for an 11 year old cat who had been with me since the age of 5 months. THE MANY REASONS FOR EUTHANASIA There are good reasons and bad reasons for choosing euthanasia. Good reasons put the cat's wellbeing first - wellbeing meaning the cessation of a now painful existence. Bad reasons are those chosen purely for the owner's convenience with no regard for the cat. Organ failure; when internal organs fail, toxins build up in the cat's body, killing it slowly. The cat has become vicious, dangerous or unmanageable; if it cannot be rehomed there may be no alternative but euthanasia. Progressive illness have made it so weak that it cannot reach its litter-box or food bowl. Recurrent infection or condition responding less and less to treatment or occurring more and more often. Your circumstances have changed so that you can't keep your cat, but feline overpopulation means it stands no chance of finding a new home - it will either be destroyed by a shelter when its time is up or live long-term in a cage. You liked your cat when it was young and active, but have become bored of it now it is old. You don't wish to spe Continue reading >>
Doctor, You Aren’t Listening To Me... What If I Do Nothing?
A month ago my sister wanted to know if her Jack Russell Terrier could be sick because he was drinking and peeing all the time. I told her he needed to go to the vet; he could have a simple urinary tract infection or he could have more going on. Inside my head, I was screaming “diabetes” as polyuria/polydipsia (drinks a lot and pees a lot), or PU/PD as medical types call it, is a hallmark for diabetes mellitus in dogs, cats, and people. In dogs, diabetes mellitus rarely responds to dietary changes - unlike some people and some cats - and almost always requires twice daily insulin injections to control the disease. Having seen clients react to a diagnosis of diabetes, I wondered how my sister and her husband would react if they had to take care of this chronic condition that requires significant planning and scheduling. It’s not for every owner: while it’s not expensive, it requires insulin injections every 12 hours, 7 days a week for the rest of the pet’s life, with no time off for good behavior. It requires considerable commitment, which can be particularly difficult for people like my sister and her husband who work outside the home and can’t drop everything to give a pet medication at the appropriate times. I wondered what they would choose to do if their dog did have diabetes rather than a urinary tract infection. Receiving a diagnosis of a chronic disease can be difficult to wrap your mind around. During my years in practice, I noticed that there are some pretty universal questions most clients ask. “What are my options and what will happen if I do nothing?” When I hear this, I translate this into: a. How will the disease progress? Will this be a disease that progresses quickly or is it going to be something that is a nagging problem for years to co Continue reading >>
When Is It "time" To Euthanize?
Here's today's tough question [edited]: I have a cat, Zoe, who is 15. She is diabetic. Even when her diabetes is stabilized, she's so skinny! She has gone from a big 12 pound Maine Coon to a weeny 5 pound Maine Coon. She looks and feel bony. We know she has some arthritis (she gets chondroitin); the vet thinks she may have a tumor of some sort, possibly even/as well as a brain tumor. She definitely has dental problems. Zoe's quality of life seems to me to be poor - she will accept petting but is not the affectionate lapcat she used to be; she has always lived in a multicat household but now HATES the other cats; and she's occasionally incontinent. Mealtimes get her excited but that's it; the rest of the time she spends asleep. How do we know when it's time? We keep taking her back to the vet every 3 months for an assessment to see if she's in much pain and they never seem to think she is. I don't want to euthanize her just because she is no longer a charming little kitten or because she has health problems - she has definitely earned her retirement, but I also don't want her to suffer through a terrible existence because we haven't got the guts to make a decision. My Answer: Well... no pressure, huh? The decision to provide euthanasia is often a difficult one. In fact, it is almost always a difficult decision, even when the situation is pretty clear-cut (as in the dog caught in a combine harvester header who had all four of his legs cut off: the owner wanted me to "fix him". Holy cow!) "Quality of life" and "quality of life issues" are the buzz-words. They are more than just buzz-words, though. If one is sure that a patient is in constant pain which is NOT going to get better, then the decision is pretty clear. But what about the patient who just never feels good? You d Continue reading >>
How Do You Know When It’s Time To Euthanize Your Cat?
I’d always promised my sweet Siouxsie that if she needed help to leave her body, I would do that. I loved her too much to put my ego ahead of her dignity. But the reality of coming to that decision was pretty freaking brutal. It all started about four months ago. I brought Siouxsie in to the vet because her arthritis was clearly getting more painful than it had been before. My awesome vet had left the practice to pursue her medical cannabis business, so I asked to see whoever was available. Little did I know at the time how important this vet would come to be in my and Siouxsie’s lives. When Doctor E walked into the room, I explained Siouxsie’s situation. He gave her a gentle exam, speaking softly to her, and then he started explaining options for treatment. I was stunned to find myself spilling my guts to this man I barely knew. “I know she’s getting closer to the end,” I said, my eyes starting to water. “I’m not in denial. She’s almost 19 now, and I can see how she’s changed just over the last few months. But how soon is too soon? I don’t want to euthanize her if her pain is manageable and she still has a good quality of life.” “You know Siouxsie better than anyone else,” he told me. “Try to trust your heart and your intuition.” “There’s such a fine line,” I said. “One of my friends told me, ‘Better a week too soon than an hour too late,’ and I believe that. I was an hour too late with another cat and it broke my heart to see her suffering.” As I wiped my eyes, Doctor E looked at me and said, “It’s always a difficult decision. I’ve been through this a few times with my own pets, and it’s not easy for me, either.” Siouxsie and I went home with a prescription for buprenorphine, an opiate painkiller, to take to a lo Continue reading >>