Living with Feline Diabetes
Nearly 3 years ago, Vanessa and I returned from an overseas family trip. Not long after, it was time to take our mature tabby lady for a routine check-up to our vets. We knew she had early signs of kidney disease. She had also had an over active thyroid condition, successfully treated with Radio Iodine therapy. However nothing prepared us for the news that she was now a feline diabetic! We may be Melbourne’s professional cat photographers, but we are also loving owners. This came as a complete shock to us!
For starters, we didn’t know that cats or dogs could develop Diabetes. This is a condition where the management of blood glucose starts to fail, resulting in very high levels of blood glucose – so called blood sugar; or BCG. This high BCG level brings with it a number of complications to their wellbeing.
The first thing our vet asked us to do was visit our local pharmacy and buy a blood glucose test kit. Not surprisingly, our friendly local chemist was unaware that these kits don’t have to be used on humans. We were asked if we wanted to claim this monitor on the national disability scheme, but we politely replied that this was for use on our beloved cat instead! :o)
Needless to say we received excellent veterinary advice. Twice however, we still needed to be shown how to take the blood sample and get that all important reading. The technique we have developed is to kneel down on the floor and guide her to sit in front of us between our knees. We then warm up one of her ears by gently massaging an ear-tip. This helps promote the blood flow to these capillaries, and gets the test started a lot quicker – especially on cooler mornings. We then prick the ear tip with the ‘pricker’ in the test kit. With the right-sized bead of blood, a reading is actually quite easy to take and not at all scary!
After this test, we were then shown by our vet how to administer insulin. The motto of this story is please don’t panic!
Yes – initially, the thought of injecting insulin into our darling girlie did scare us both. However, with clear veterinary instruction, we quickly mastered this care regime. Luckily the needles in the syringes from the vets are very short, so they only penetrate down about 5mm. That is just enough to allow the insulin to be absorbed into the bloodstream. There is no way we can hit a nerve or anything else important when the syringe-needle is that short. We were taught to inject the insulin in between her shoulder blades.
Finally, there are of course the all-important ‘Treats’ to reward her at the end. In fact, our little lady has now got so used to this routine, that the very idea of having treats is enough to encourage here to come to us for her test. All we have to call is “Treats!” at the right time. Also, having a small but soft mat to kneel on also makes the experience much more pleasant for carer and patient alike 🙂
There is something about this level of care that means our relationship with our tabby is more intense and rewarding than ever. There is now a deep ‘trust’ on both sides.
Once again, this demonstrates the power of training through ‘positive reinforcement’ with felines. This is a real blessing, as there is far less stress for all concerned. Our girlie is happy and ‘comfy’ with the whole test routine. It is a normal part of our day, just like brushing our own teeth for us humans. Every cat is different, and your vet will provide all the right advice. However for us, the routine is twice daily blood tests and insulin jabs, at 12 hourly intervals. I reckon that early detection was key to her continued quality of life to this day. So please, always seek prompt veterinary advice for all health and behavioural matters for your cat :o)
For examples of some very healthy and happy Melbourne cats that we have recently photographed, have a look below:
… to follow
For more in-depth articles on feline diabetes, this one explains more of the ‘science’ behind the condition.
Diabetes – Cat Photographer Melbourne