On December 1, 2006 after a 5 year, 4 month battle with diabetes, we lost our beloved pet Doodles. He was over 14 and 1/2 years old, and was an indoor only cat. I had started this story a month ago with the intention of putting it online to help other cat owners. After he passed away, I almost decided not to post it, but thought that I should so others could learn from him. There is a picture of him below.
He was diagnosed with diabetes in August of 2001 when he was 9. At the time he was diagnosed, he weighed a little over 18 pounds, and the average life expectancy for diabetic felines was 2 years after they were diagnosed. I’m not sure what that number is now. Until that time I never knew cats could get diabetes.
Diabetes Mellitus (sometimes called sugar diabetes) is actually pretty common in cats and dogs. Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar. One common cause is being over weight. When Doodles developed his diabetes, he weighed almost 18 and a half pounds.
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin (a hormone), which is needed to absorb basic food substances (such as glucose or sugar) into body cells or when the cells can’t properly use the insulin. Insulin is used by the body to convert glucose into energy. When insulin is not being produced or is ineffective, the body will start to break down fat and protein to use as alternative energy. This will cause the animal to eat more but still lose weight.
Insulin helps regulate the blood glucose levels. A healthy pancreas produces small amounts of insulin so that the blood glucose levels don’t rise too high causing hyperglycemia, and don’t fall too low which causes hypoglycemia. When insulin can’t get to the cells, glucose begins to accumulate in the bloodstream and ends up getting lost during urination. Sugar in the urine will lead to excess urination and thirst.
Some more common symptoms to look out for include:
- Excessive urination
- Excessive thirst
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite (with the weight loss)
- Neuropathy or weakness in the hind legs
Diabetes does not have to be a death sentence. As with humans, each animal will have unique characteristics and symptoms. What works for one animal may or may not work for another. You’ll need to be observant and figure out what works for your pet.
The information below is presented to show you some examples of what worked for Doodles. Again, not all things will work with all animals. You’ll end up trying all kinds of things until you find some that work.
Doodles had 3 kinds of dry food to choose from and 5 kinds of wet food. I gave him a quarter (1/4) can of wet food twice a day. The foods are listed below:
- Purina Diabetic Management (DM) 5.5 oz. can
- Purina Overweight Management (OM) 5.5 oz. can
- Royal Canin Control Formula 6 oz. can
- Hills Prescription Diet with chicken W/D 5.5 oz. can
- Royal Canin Calorie Control CC 5.8 oz. can
- Occasionally I would throw in some tuna fish too
- Eukanuba Veterinary Diets Optimum Weight Control
- Waltham Royal Canin Diabetes DS 44
- Purina DM Diabetic Management
Doodles received 6 units twice a day of PZI insulin (pig insulin) which is more expensive than the regular humulin U insulin he started on. We used the BD (Becton Dickinson) ultra fine 3/10 cc 1/2″ needle 30 gauge syringes.
He was so good about getting his shots. I’d draw his insulin up, ask him if he was ready for his medicine, let him rub his face against the handle of the syringe and then give him his shot. He knew it helped him feel better, and he knew he’d be getting some nibbies after he had his shot.
When I first started giving him shots, it was a learning experience for both of us. After you’ve done it a few times, it gets a lot easier. There were a few times (even after 5 years) when I would push the needle in too hard and he would wince. I felt so bad when I did, and he knew I didn’t mean to hurt him.
In the beginning it’s very hard (some vets will tell you it’s very hard anyway with felines) to regulate his blood sugar. It wasn’t easy, but if you pay attention to your pet and their actions, you can usually tell what works and what doesn’t.
One thing I did differently than most was to give him a few regular cat treats after I gave him his medicine. I was afraid that 6 units twice a day would be too much as he slowly started losing weight, so to counteract it, I gave him a few of those. He loved his nibbies. As I explained to his Vet, I know they’re the professionals, but I know my cat better than anyone else. The other reason we gave him regular nibbies was because we wanted him to be happy. He was very happy.
People used to laugh because I gave him fresh water constantly too. He would stand in front of his water bowl and wait for me to change it for him when he wanted a drink. It helps to find out the quality of your tap water too. It is better in some places than others. If I had doubts about it, I would give him bottled drinking water.
I also made it a habit to brush him regularly with his “love glove”, or to comb his fur regularly. His little fisties he made while being brushed or petted always made me smile.
Every week I would buy him either kitty grass or wheat grass. It’s available from the grocery store, and a lot of pet stores carry it too. He loved his kitty grass.
For any of you that have never felt the pure unconditional love of an animal, you have no idea what you’re missing. I took care of that little boy for over 5 years and 4 months after he was diagnosed with Diabetes. If I had to do it all over again, I would do so gladly.
Shortly after he got sick, we ended up changing Vets. His regular Vet had an assistant that I didn’t have much faith in. She started freaking out because he wasn’t losing weight fast enough for her. Like I’m going to starve him or something. I ended up finding a Vet that was more knowledgable about Diabetes, and who was closer to home. Some Vets will want you to bring him in A LOT to have their blood sugar checked. It’s a good idea to check their glucose regularly until you get it under control.
Question your Vet about it to see what their knowledge is with Diabetes. A lot of them specialize in it. Do lots of research too. Every animal is different, but it can be done. I gave him LOTS of love, and also did quite a bit of praying as well. It can’t hurt. Nobody knows their pet better than you. Again, diabetes doesn’t have to be a death sentence.
Below are some reference links dealing with Feline Diabetes:
Feline Diabetes – Treatment and Diabetic Cat info – http://www.felinediabetes.com/
Pawprints and Purrs, Inc. – Feline Diabetes information – http://www.sniksnak.com/cathealth/diabetes.html
Pet Diabetes – Canine and Feline Diabetes info – http://www.petdiabetes.com/
CatNutrition.org – feeding cats for health – http://www.catnutrition.org/diabetes.html
Feline Diabetes and Diet: The High Carbohydrate Culprit from Catinfo.org – http://www.catinfo.org/felinediabetes.htm
All about Feline Diabetes from Petcaretips.net – http://www.petcaretips.net/feline_diabetes.html
Diabetes in cats and dogs: Information from Answers.com – http://www.answers.com/topic/diabetes-in-cats-and-dogs
Cat Health – New hope for Diabetic Cats from catchannel.com – http://www.catchannel.com/vetlibrary/diabetes/article0001.aspx
Pets with Diabetes: web resources from Petdiabetes.org – http://www.petdiabetes.org/resources_links.htm
Specialcat.com – Health and other information for cats – http://www.specialcat.com/
Some people might give up when they find out their pet has diabetes. I couldn’t give up because he showed up on my doorstep when he was only a few weeks old and I had him all his life. He was definitely a daddy’s boy and he loved his momma. But he was a very special boy. To me there is never any reason to give up on someone you love.
This post is dedicated to the loving memory of Doodles and his sister Cleo. I love you and miss you both. I’ll be adding another post with her soon.