Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Hanging With Merlin
This year I had to face two of my worst fears concerning my cats. You've read about one of them here but in March of this year another of my worst nightmares came true: Merlin was diagnosed with Diabetes. I have friends with diabetic cats and known for years that that's not a picnic.
My vet was making rather light of the whole thing but I've known for a long time that diabetes can be a killer as cats are notoriously difficult to regulate. Of all the diabetic cats I know quite a few of them were never feeling that well while on insulin and some of them, after struggling for months, even died. So I was not a happy bunny to put it mildly as Merlin was only 7 at the time.
The vet gave me Caninsulin, a bunch of syringes, instructions and a bag of low-carb catfood and that was it. I was not happy with Caninsulin because of all the diabetic cats I know who are on it and although alive, not exactly thriving. The risk with quick working insulins like Caninsulin is overdosage resulting into death if you are not quick to administer sugar (dextrose) and rushing your cat to the vet's. Because of this risk you are advised to keep the glucose levels higher rather than low-ish, within normal range. Unfortunately too high glucose levels over a long period results into organ and other damage.
As soon as I got home I made Merlin comfortable and went off to search the internet for information about diabetes in cats. I researched for almost a week but then I knew pretty much everything there is to know about diabetic cats and how to take care of them.
I found a fab site with a wealth of information at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, of all places, where a lot of scientific research on diabetic cats (and dogs) has been done by Dr Jacquie S. Rand et all. I learned that the best insulin to give was Lantus (glargine/levemir) as that had the highest incidence of remission in cats and because it keeps your cat extremely well regulated and thus healthy & happy.
With diabetes you're between a rock and a hard place, a very hard place: too much insulin results in very low glucose levels, brain damage and then coma and death, not enough insulin and thus far too high glucose levels also leads to coma and death. So it's a fine balancing act you have to perform.
As I said I was not keen on Caninsulin and I was right. One week after treatment with Caninsulin Merlin got very ill with ketoacidosis, a too high level of ketones in his blood caused by a far too high glucose level. It looks like he hardly responded to treatment with Caninsulin. We had to rush him to the vet where we spent hours and hours while he received emergency treatment to lower his ketones and glucose level. Fortunately the Lantus pens I had ordered the day before had arrived and he was started on it straight away. We got him home at 2 in the afternoon and at 11 at night he perked up and started to eat. And he's never been ill since. The first few weeks I checked the ketones level in his urine on a daily basis but as he got regulated on Lantus very soon I was able to stop checking.
Checking glucose levels and giving insulin shots are now part of our daily routine. It is not difficult to do, nor very time consuming. Merlin is a very sweet and gentle boy and doesn't struggle when I treat him. But treating your cat for diabetes twice daily does put the kibosh on your social life a bit as you always have to be home at certain times.
This year I learned a lot of new skills courtesy of Vita and Merlin. Vita taught me how to become a detective and to persevere and Merlin has taught me a lot of nursing skills. He also taught me much about catfood and why most commercially available catfood is NOT good for your cats at all. More about that in my next post.
If you have a cat or even cats, please bookmark this site. You'll never know, you might need it one day.
Here is a list of websites that contain valuable information about diabetic cats and how to treat them:
Copyright 2010 Y.E.W. Heuzen