When we went to the vet because he was drinking a lot and losing weight although he was eating nonstop, I was sure he was hyperthyroid. After all, the symptoms and age (13) matched. And Myles doesn't fit the typical diabetic cat profile. He's never been overweight. He hates dry food and doesn't eat it. And he's never been anywhere near steroids, which can cause diabetes in cats.
According to VCA Animal Hospitals' website, diabetes affects one in 400 cats, but the number could be much larger than that. And the number of diabetic cats "is increasing at an alarming rate," the website says, "due to the tremendous increase in the number of overweight and obese cats."
Could your cat be diabetic? Here are some signs to watch for.
- Excessive drinking.
- Weight loss. Many diabetic cats seem to be hungry all the time but lose weight although they're eating more.
- Increased urination. Watch for much larger clumps in the litter box, as well as more frequent trips to the box. Some diabetic cats have to urinate so often and in such volume, they just give up and stop using the box.
Our New Lifestyle
Although Myles never ate dry food, we got rid of it all just in case he changed his mind. When the cats who live here crave crunchies, they now have a choice between Pure Bites freeze dried chicken treats and Stella and Chewy's freeze dried chicken. We've also gotten rid of all the BFF pouch food everyone loved because it's very high carb.
My work schedule now revolves around Myles's insulin and testing schedule. And when I'm shopping for cat food, I consult my list of low carb foods before I buy. My cats' food is now 10 percent carbohydrates or less. Most is much less.
The other lifestyle change is that my companions for 15 minutes or so every evening are the members of the Lantus insulin group on the Feline Diabetes Message Board. They're there to help with dosing questions and anything else people need to know about living with a diabetic cat.
Myles is not my first diabetic, so none of this should be new to me. But every cat is different, so what worked for the others may not work for him. But some things are true of all diabetic cats. If you're living with a diabetic cat, these suggestions will help.
- Learn to home test doing ear pricks. That's the most important thing you can do. It will help you prevent hypoglycemia. You'll be able to do blood glucose curves at home so you won't have to spend money having them done by your vet. And after you've gathered enough information on how the insulin works for your cat, you'll be able to tweak his dose yourself, again saving a visit to the vet. Don't let your vet talk you out of doing this! It could save your cat's life. Don't let your vet talk you into buying a glucose meter especially for pets either. Human meters work perfectly for cats, and Relion, Target and CVS meters and test strips are much less expensive than the ones for pets.
- Learn the signs of hypoglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis. Both can be life-threatening. And have your hypo toolbox ready, in case you ever need it.
- Join the Feline Diabetes Message Board. This, too, is one of the most important things you can do. You'll find people there 24/7 to answer questions and give advice. Some of the members have been there for years and have seen hundreds of diabetic cats. They know more about feline diabetes than most vets do!
- If your cat is on Lantus or Levemir insulin, look into buying it online from a Canadian pharmacy. It will be much less expensive, especially if you buy pens instead of individual vials.
- Try to switch your cat to a low-carb, all-wet-food diet. He'll have a better chance of going into remission if he eats low-carb food, and many diabetic cats can be diet-controlled.
Myles and I are still struggling with blood glucose levels that are too high, and there are times when I get discouraged and wonder if we'll ever get his diabetes under control. But I remember being discouraged with my first diabetic cat, too. Finding the right insulin dose can take some time, but I know it will happen soon. Then my sweet boy will begin to feel better, and living with a diabetic cat will be less worrisome. My goal is to get him into remission, or at least into non-diabetic numbers for most of the day. I know that will happen, too. We just have to be patient. But that's sometimes easier said than done when the cat you love is sick.