Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hanging With Merlin

 Tara and Merlin (R)

 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.
Merlin, shortly after we came home from the vet. As you can see they shaved his neck in order to draw some blood for testing his glucose levels.

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.
Although humans and dogs can become diabetic as well, it's only cats that can have remission which means that they do not require insulin shots any longer. Also with Lantus you can regulate your cat quite well and keep him/her in the safe zone. With Caninsulin you do not check glucose levels and actually administer insulin without really knowing how much your cat requires. That is soooo not me as I am an INTJ (Rationalist Mastermind) and want to know what the heck I'm doing and, almost even more importantly, why!

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.
Twice a day I check Merlin's glucose levels; at 8.30 in the morning and 8.30 at night. I just prick the vein in his ear with that little blue lancet you see above. Then I put a testing strip in my glucose meter, dab the end in a pinprick of blood and hey presto, within a few seconds I get the result. According to how high his glucose level is I calculate the dosage of insulin he needs.  Merlin needs to be between 2.8 to 5.6 on my glucose meter ( made for humane blood). If he scores higher than 11.0 his kidneys will get damaged  if it continues over a longer period. Other organs can get damaged as well. I can keep Merlin pretty stable with Lantus, so stable in fact that he is very happy, perky and unaware of his serious illness.
After measuring his glucose level I give him his insulin shot, also twice daily. Another good thing about Lantus is that it is very difficult to overdose it as it is a slow working insulin and works over a long period of time. Many a cat has died from hypoglycemia; an overdose of insulin/too low glucose levels, when treated with other kinds of insulin.

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.
 Surprise and Merlin, in a head to head

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.
 United species and breeds of Bliss

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.
 Mummy Delia (l) with son Merlin

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:

In Dutch:

Copyright 2010 Y.E.W. Heuzen


easygardener said...

I do like the United Species picture!
It was obviously worth you doing research on the internet if you have found better medication. It sounds like Merlin has adjusted to the new health regime and I hope he has a long and happy life :-)

Gail said...

My dear I am so glad you are a Rationalist Mastermind and if cats can know, Merlin is, too! He's a beauty and I am glad he is back to being his healthy self! gail

Jenny Schouten Short said...

I am glad you can treat your cat. I had one that died of diaabetes. That was really sad. We had to put her to sleep because she was feeling so bad and couldn't control her bladder anymore. But she was on a medicine for skin allergies since she was one that we were told could bring on diabetes later in life. She couldn't live a quality life without the medicine and it was a hard decision. We had Jewel for seven years.

Helle (Helen) said...


I have a cat with IBD and have done extensive research as well, one of the by far best sites I have found is which has lots of info about cats and IBD and cats and diabetes and obviously lots about nutrition. Merlin looks like an absoutely lovely cat, and I am so impressed with how everybody snuggles up together.


Alex aus dem Gwundergarten said...

Hi Bliss
Thanks for all those information. You were so right to look first around in the internet. I had to do so when my cat Jazz got ill with Hyperthyroidism. She nearly died because of the medicine she got from the vet. In the internet I fount a human medicine which she beard greatly.
Happy to hear that Merlin is getting along well with the new medicine and his illness.
Take care and give them all a good caress.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

A friend of mine had a cat that became diabetic a few years ago. They treated the cat for a year or so and then as suddenly as he became diabetic he stopped being diabetic. One reason I think is because he was put on a diet and lost some weight. But other than that nothing much else was done other than the insulin. I am not sure what kind of insulin they used. I hope you kitty gets well again too.

Arabella Sock said...

I saw quite a lot of discussion on message boards about diabetic cats and a possible link with diet. It would seem to be quite widespread. I hope lovely Merlin continues to progress well - he certainly couldn't be in a better place to be loved and looked after with the Bliss team!

Andrea said...

Hello Yolanda, what a scare that must've been and I understand your search for the right information. I am happy to read you found the right treatment for Merlin. The loss of a cat is so hard to take. We lost Stella at the beginning of the month to FIP and we miss her a lot. We decided almost immediately on getting two kittens to keep our minds occupied and because the house seemed so empty without her. We still miss her routines and loveable ways, but the little ones are already so attached.
I wish for Merlin to stay healthy for a long time and hopefully to go into remission.

stadtgarten said...

This hasn't really been an easy year for you and your cats! Now I understand why you don't spend so much time for bloging any more.
Thank God that it all turned out good and that you are a very good detective - searching your cat and searching and finding useful information.
Prettige Kerstdagen en een beter jaar 2011, groetjes, Monika

Anna said...

Wishing Merlin all the best for a long and happy life ~ he has the best possible nursing care.

Libby said...

Thank you for all the information about cat diabetes, I have book marked the site.
i do hope Merlin stays happy and healthy.

Matron said...

I completely understand your motivation about resewarching diabetes in cats. Earlier this year for similar reasons I researched stroke in dogs. I hope you keep Merlin for a happy and longer life, as I did for Buddy. PS. I am INTP (architect)!

Kathryn/ said...

Wow. Those are some good nursing skills--and detective skills, too. I'm counting my lucky stars that none of my cats were, or are, diabetic. Looks like yours found the perfect owner with a very big heart. Thanks for sharing your excellent research.