Coping with Feline Diabetes

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)
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • 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:

Wet Food:

  • 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

Dry Food:

  • 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.

Doodles climbed into our overnight bag after his mama got home from Washington.

Back to Bill’s Blog | Bill’s Links and More  

 

9 thoughts on “Coping with Feline Diabetes

  1. Martha

    My cat just passed away this morning. He was diagnosed with feline diabetes 2 years ago and was 2 weeks from his 17th birthday. Your post brought me great comfort. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Niki

    My cat has been a diabetic for 8 1/2 years. He is now nearly 19. It has been a struggle at times but worth it.

  3. Sheena Gould

    My cat Sam was just diagnosed. I am afraid when I read these stories because I don’t want to lose him. I am also afraid financially but would never consider giving him up or anything else. I can’t tell if he’s feeling better or not after starting a new diet and insulin. I could barely read your blog because it made me cry. And I wonder how long Sam has left. I just want to know if he’ll get better. Thank you for sharing. I guess I want answers but do not know what to ask since I’m so upset about this. Do you know if there are any foundations for animals with diabetes that need donations? I would like to get friends to donate. Thanks.

  4. Jill

    Your Doodle mimics my cat Harley in so many ways! He was diagnosed over 5 years ago and is now 15 years old. The vet is amazed that we have been able to keep him alive for as long as we have. It is hard and lots of work, but well well worth it. He is a sweet cat. Just had his blood work completed (usually have a full blood panel completed every 3 months) and besides having a slight evelation in his liver he is well. I say lots of love have helped him battle through it!
    Thanks for your blog. It is encouraging to see others who are just as dedicated to their pets. I am sorry about your cat, but I am certain he had an incredible life.

  5. Mary Pat Williams

    Thank you for generously sharing your experiences with your cat Doodle. He greatly resembles my diabetic cat Ned, who died yesterday at age fifteen after four years with diabetes. Your commentary actually provided a bit of consolation. Thanks.

  6. Melissa

    My cat, Calvin, is almost 12 yrs old and was diagnosed with diabetes a little over a year and a half ago. Ironically, I am also a juvenile diabetic of 30 yrs (my friends say that the “mommy’s boy”, simply wanted to be like his mommy. He is the best patient! I control my diabetes with an insulin pump and so wish that it could be that easy for my big guy. He weighs almost 24 lbs. (he was 17 lbs at 1 yr). Within the last year I divorced, and I could not ask for better support than I got from my best furry friend. And within the last 2 mos., Calvin, my female kitty Madison, and my Italian Greyhound Lymon have moved in with a wonderful guy – a new house, a new town…a whole new beginning. And all have adjusted well – especially Calvin! He has taken over, like he has lived here forever. We really like our new vet, he has made some great improvements with Calvin, his food and his insulin. I truly enjoyed your blog, and I am sorry for the loss of Doodles. Having a diabetic pet is by no means easy or inexpensive, but the unconditional love they provide is worth it all! Thanks so much for changing your mind and posting your blog!

  7. Vicki

    I came across your blog as I looked to see the life expectency after a feline is diagnosed with diabetes. Miriam is my last living cat which is quit comical to me. When she was diagnosed with diabetes she was walking on her back hocks (?) and the vet said this shouldn’t get worse with her diabetes controlled but never any better. Long story short with several months of a lot of B12 she walked normally. After a year insulin her glucose was too low and she was off insulin. Within the year she was taking glybizide as it was no longer safe for me to have insulin in my home. She has now lived with diabetes for 10 years, is 17 years and 5 months and in good health. And to think I actually thought about putting her to sleep when it was so painful for her and I as she was only able to walk on her hocks.

  8. Michelle

    Hi, I’m 27 year old and after 12 years my Cleo(he’s male)has been diagnosed with diabetes. He too is a fairly large cat, he was 16 lbs and is currently a very gant 10 lbs for his size. I was literally sick to my stomach until I found out he was going to be okay with treatment. I just wanted to say thanks for giving me hope. He’s been the only consistent thing in my life and he’s my best friend and hearing how your kitty made it and was happy gives me relief to know that Cleo won’t be suffering the rest of his life and to know that the 2 yr death sentence isn’t a definite. Also, I admire that you referred to him as someone you love and not just a pet. That’s how I feel with my little buddy, he’s irreplaceable and I love him with all my heart. Sorry for your loss, and thanks for the reassurance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *