hard to believe that we have had both a cat AND a dog with diabetes,
but we have.
I want to tell you that I totally understand all emotions you
may be feeling about your own pet's diabetes because I have experienced
them all myself. You are not alone; there is a large network of
diabetic pet owners out here on the Internet who are ready and
willing to support you emotionally and help you learn how to deal
with and treat this disease.
bit of advice for those of you with diabetic pets is do your own
home blood testing. This is the single most important thing you
can do to help regulate your pet. You use the same blood test
meters that are used for humans. See
Blood Testing (below) for more information about
blood testing and also see the Links for
sources of more information and instruction on how to do home
Purknz, a "normal" sized cat, resting
with his "big brother" Woodrow Polk Pyle.
was a big sweetheart of a guy and we loved him dearly. He
was the largest cat you ever met, but he was not fat, just
big. When people had the opportunity to meet him, they would
often ask if he was a wild cat of some sort? <smile>
Nope, just 20 pounds of big sweet house cat.
fell from a window ledge when he was young, broke his hip,
and had to have the ball & socket joint in the hip removed.
He was never a great athlete after that, but recovered quite
well and never even limped.
was about 9 he had problems with his urinary tract getting blocked.
We took him to the vet and the vet prescribed a special diet. At
this same time we adopted a psychotic dog (we didn't know she was
psychotic at the time). Even though WP was big, he was very much
a Fraidy-cat and hid from the dog most of the time. We didn't see
WP that much while we had the psychotic dog. When the psychotic
dog left us a year later, we saw WP a lot more and noticed that
he was beginning to limp. We assumed this was an old age response
to the hip incident. His limping got worse and we decided to take
him to the vet to see if we could get some pain medication.At that
time, we were very much like everyone else; if we had a health problem
with any of our animals, we took them to the vet. We trusted the
vet and believed pretty much everything they told us. I took WP
in to see the vet and we noticed that he had gained quite a bit
of weight. It was only now that I was told that the special diet
prescribed to him was much more fattening than a regular cat diet.
The vet never told us this and so we didn't know that we need to
keep a closer watch on his weight. He was up to 27 pounds (remember,
he was a big cat: his correct weight was about 20 pounds)
The vet wanted
to keep WP overnight so they could do X-rays on his hip. I thought
nothing of this and pretty much expected it. I
happily went to the vet the next day to collect WP. They took me
in an exam room and brought in WP. The vet told me WP had a really
bad case of diabetes and we might consider putting him down. He
handed me a bottle of pills, a single sheet of paper that had a
1/2 page brief explanation of what diabetes was, a really expensive
bag of "special" food and Woodpyle. Stunned, I went to
the front desk, where they presented me with a bill for $350. In
shock, I got to my truck and began to cry. What just happened?
I got home and
explained the situation as best I could to my husband Larry. We
had no idea what diabetes was or how to treat it and so, we put
our trust in the vet. We followed his instructions. We fed WP the
special food and gave him the little pills. The first problem was
WP would not eat the food. His limp was getting worse. In desperation
I turned to the Internet. I started researching and learning. I
was determined to help WP in any way I could.
A week later
I took WP back to the vet for another blood test. I had read on
the Internet about home blood testing and asked the vet about it.
He did not approve of the concept. The blood test at the vet cost
$30 (plus vet visit) and all we learned from it was WP was still
"over 600" and the pills were not working. We were instructed
to start giving WP insulin shots.
I took the insulin
the vet gave me and we gave him the shots once a day as instructed.
I kept researching Feline Diabetes online and was surprised to find
that this disease was more controllable than the vet gave me the
impression it was and I was starting to find that the procedures
and medicines the vet prescribed really were not the best for treating
cats (such as those little pills, which pretty much never work for
cats). The insulin he prescribed was not the most successfully used
in cats, but better used for dogs. Also, shots twice a day were
pretty much the way to go. The most important thing I learned was
the home blood testing was essential for really controlling this
disease. I decided that whether the vet liked it or not, I would
begin doing blood tests at home.
showed me a lot.... mostly the insulin we were using was not working
for WP. WP's number were all over the place and usually "off
the scale". I called the vet and told him my thoughts. I was
learning more and the vet could see this. I went in to see the vet,
this time armed with a one inch thick stack of information printed
off the Internet and much more knowledge in my head. I had begun
to chart WP's blood glucose curve and presented this as well. I
was begriming to take WP's health care into my own hands; no longer
blindly trusting what I was told, but instead researching and learning
for myself. The vet suggested another type of insulin twice a day
and we gave it a go.
WP's legs were
so bad now he could hardly walk. It turns out that the loss of the
use of the back legs is a symptom of diabetes in cats. It is called
neuropathy. The vet never told us this. As the diabetes progressed,
his legs got worse. Not only could he hardly walk, but when he had
to pee, he could not get his poor feet out of the way and so peed
on his feet. It was so sad and it became apparent that if we didn't
get this under control soon, WP would probably die.
It was then
that we quit taking WP to the vet totally and took his health care
on ourselves. We chose an insulin that usually worked better in
cats. We took blood tests three times a day and did "complete
curves" once a week. We began feeding him a "natural"
food designed for senior cats that we could buy for 50% less than
the "special diet" from the vet, and guess what, he started
We changed the
insulin one more time and believe it or not we finally got him regulated.
WP's legs started working again. He lost weight and got back to
his normal weight of 20 pounds. He began acting happy and "normal"
again. We took blood tests less and less and got it down to only
one a week. We still gave him his shots twice a day, but made it
into a "mealtime routine" and it eventually hardly effected
our lives at all.
We managed to
give Woodpyle another full year of quality life until he was taken
from us at age 11 by cancer. Woodpyle's diabetes was a very difficult
case and was hard to get under control, but we persisted and managed.
It took four months from him being diagnosed to being regulated.
He taught us a lot. He taught us that we could take control of our
own and our pets health care. We was a great guy and we loved him
A couple years
after WP passed away a neighbors's cat was diagnosed with diabetes.
She took her cat to the same vet I used to go to. This same vet
told her to get in contact with me; that I could probably help
her and I could show her how to do home blood testing. <smile>
I guess it wasn't just me who learned from WP. I taught her what
I knew and did what I could to help her. Happily her cat was much
easier to regulate then WP was.
have written to ask what insulin I used for WP. First, be aware
that every creature is different and what worked for us may not
work for your situation. It was extremely difficult
to regulate WP. We went through 4 different insulins before we found
one that worked for WP.
two insulins we tried were what the vet suggested. These were Ilentin N and Humulin U. From
reading on-line, we decided to try PZI,which seemed to work well for many cats and finally
when PZI (two versions), didn't work as well as we wanted, we
decided on our own to try Humulin L, which finally worked
for our situation.
N (no longer made; this is pork based)- We started
with 2 units (twice a day) and eventually got up to 4 units
before we decided it was not going to work for us.
U - We started with 4 units (twice a day) and got up
to 6 and ended up going back down to 3.
U40 - When Humulin U did not work well, we switched
to PZI U40 (U40 in U100 syringes), which I had to have specially
made and would drive one hour, each way to get. We started this
at 7.5 units and worked our way up to 10 units.
U-100 - I then started having the PZI made up as PZI
U-100 (you can ask them to make it this way, which is easier
to use in the U100 syringes and cheaper.) We started this at
2 units (twice a day)and worked up to 5 units
L - Finally I decided to try the last Insulin, which
finally worked very well for WP's situation and we finally got
him regulated. This was Humulin L which we started at 3 units
(twice a day) and ended up giving 5.
a dog's story
June of 2001, when she was 8 years old, Mable was diagnosed with
diabetes. She lied to be over 11 (old for a Basset: life expectancy
10-12 years),and was happy, healthy and doing great up until the
end. She is got two shots of Humulin"N" insulin a day
and was enough regulated that we only had to blood test her once
a week. I prepared all her meals myself, which is one of the reasons
I think she is did so well. Mable became a full vegetarian in Oct
of 2003 and ate Mable's Meal Veggie
At the age of
8, Mable started having trouble walking. It seemed like she was
developing arthritis in her back legs that was causing her to limp.
We just chalked this up to her getting old and "kept an eye
on it". When she got so bad that she could hardly get up the
two stairs from our bedroom, we built her a ramp and decided to
take her to the vet to see if they could do something to make her
The vet x-rayed
her and diagnosed arthritis and gave us some Rimadyl to give to
her. We asked about starting her on Glucosamine; the vet was not
enthusiastic about it. We brought her home and I got online to find
out more about this drug, Rimadyl. I was shocked to read about it's
side effects (one of which could be death). The vet had given us
no information on this drug, they just said give it to her. They
did not tell us about the dangers involved. Even though the drugs
were quite expensive, I threw them out and started to research other
things to try for Mable. Larry had had great response to his taking
Glucosamine for his knees, so we started Mable on this despite the
vet, and also got some dog aspirin. These things seemed to help
Mable somewhat, but she continued to have trouble with her back
legs. She no longer ran and played... she was getting old (or so
About a year
later, when Mable was 8, she decided she would not eat commercial
dog food (smart girl). No matter what we offered, she would not
eat it. The only commercial pet food she would eat was canned cat
food. We knew this was no solution, so took Mable to the vet (a
different vet then the one that prescribed the Rimadyl). By this
time, her "meaty", big, strong legs, seemed to be just
The vet preformed
all sorts of tests on Mable and diagnosed her with having diabetes.
Our first response was how was it possible that we actually end
up with a second pet with diabetes? Our next response was why didn't
we see it sooner. I guess it was because we just didn't think is
was possible, so we didn't even think of it. Mable used to be able
to "hold it" for the whole night, but had been waking
us up with her needing to go out to pee sometimes twice a night.
A sign of diabetes. The loss of the use of her rear legs was another
sign of diabetes. (Note- Mable was never overweight)
The vet knew
we had a lot of pet diabetes experience (because of Woodpyle and
my helping other people with their diabetic cats), and so prescribed
some insulin and we took Mable home. The first thing I realized
was the insulin the vet prescribed was the wrong type for dogs;
she prescribed Humulin U. It was good for cats,
but my research showed that Humulin N was better
for dogs (at least to start with). We started doing blood test on
Mable (inside lip stick method), I got some Humulin N insulin and
I started making Mable's food myself (Mable's
was wonderful. She ended up being much easier to regulate than Woodpyle
was. The N insulin did the trick right off (as opposed to trying
4 different kinds to find what worked for Woodpyle). As the months
went on, Mable regained all the use of her rear legs. It wasn't
arthritis at all, but the diabetes that was causing her limping
and wasting. We still continue to give Mable Glucosamine and MSM,
because she is getting old and it can't hurt her (it can only help)
Mable, 3 years
after being diagnosed with diabetes, at the age of 11 years old,
was running, and playing (as much as she ever played). She acted
like a 5 year old. Diabetes is not a death sentence by any means.
It also does not have to consume your life. She was so well regulated
that we only test her once a week. If she started acting "weird"
or "paranoid" we would test her and usually it was a sign
that she needed a sweet treat (like some dates) to raise her blood
sugar. This has only happened a couple times, but we know to look
for it. Mable has never had a seizure. I made her food for the entire
week at once. She has never refused to eat since I started making
her food myself.
Mable left us on Oct, 6, 2004 due to old age complicated by diabetes.
everything we know about treating diabetes in our cat and dog
from information we found on the Internet as well as from personal
experience. Here are some places to start our own research.
Diabetes - An introductory guide to the treatment
of diabetes in cats.
- Helping people help pets. To better the lives of sick, injured
and abused companion animals. Dedicated to insure that no companion
animal has to be euthanized simply because their caretaker is
our personal experiences we have found that the right food is a
critical part to regulating a diabetic animal. But a "special
diet" from the vet may not be the quick fix you are looking
for. If you are looking for a special food that will act in the
same manner of Modern Western Medicine, I doubt you are going to
find it. Realistically, a special diet probably will not cure your
pets diabetes. What you need to pursue is a wholesome natural diet
that will work in a holistic manner with your pet. (click
here for more info on holistic care).
If your pet
has diabetes, you are probably going to have to give insulin shots.
In this case, more important than your pet eating a "special
diet" is that your pet eat what they are given, and consistently
eat it all. The key to regulating is having control of what your
pet is eating. If you know exactly what and when your pet is eating,
you can adjust their insulin dose accordingly. If your pet refuses
to eat, you have major problems. If your pet happily eats all the
food he is given, each time he is given it, you can much more easily
figure out the correct dose of insulin that your particular pet
cat, hated the "special" food sold to us by the vet
and would not eat it. Since he had to eat or could not be given
insulin shot, we fed him what he would eat: a popular commercial
brand dry cat food. Knowing this brand was probably not the
food for a diabetic (too much sugar & fat, low quality ingredients),
we pursued a better quality food (low sugar, low fat, more fiber,
higher quality ingredients). Woodpyle was old and set in his ways.
He was not receptive to homemade meals; he liked dry food only.
We eventually found a good quality, more "natural" commercial
dry food at PetSmart that he liked very much called Nature's
Recipe Optimum Lite/Senior Feline. Interestingly, this food,
even though it was one of the most expensive at PetSmart, was
still 1/2 the cost of the "special" "prescription diet"
from the vet (Hill’s Feline
w/d).By comparing the labels (they don't list
the nutritional info on the HIll's prescription food but I found
the information via the Internet, I found that Nature's Recipe
Optimum Lite/Senior Feline is almost exactly the same as the w/d
"prescription diet" nutritionally.)
Really, though vets won't tell you this, any high quality (I have
to stress high quality) "senior" or "weight control" dry food
sold to you by the vet. Once we found this good quality food
that Woodpyle liked to
eat, and ate consistently, we were able to regulate his diabetes
and his life became pretty much "normal"
same time that Mable, our Basset Hound, was diagnosed with diabetes
decided she would under no circumstances eat commercial dog food
(we later found out this was a very intelligent decision on her
part). The biggest problem with this was that she had to eat
because she had to have her insulin shots. If she didn't eat, that
meant big trouble. We tried many different brands of commercial
food and she would have nothing to do with any of them. The only
thing we could get her to eat was cat food and we know this was
not the proper diet for a diabetic dog (or healthy dog for that
manner). Out of desperation I began researching homemade diets
preparing her food myself. I had heard that a raw food diet is
supposed to be very good for animals, but Mable wasn't too thrilled
it. I needed something that was guaranteed that she would eat,
was good for her, easy to make, and affordable. I worked on a
type food and happily she loved it. She now eats all her food and
we have been able to adjust her insulin so that she is so well
we only test her once a week. Not only is the homemade diet helping
her diabetes, but it is benefiting her health holistically as
She is now over 10 years old (breed average life expectancy 10-12
years) and is acting like a healthy four year old. She has been
living with diabetes for over 2 years now and seeing how
a homemade natural diet is benefiting Mable, I would never feed
my pets anything else but a home prepared natural diet.
Diet Adjustments for Diabetic Pets
In general, diabetic dogs should be fed a diet high in complex
carbohydrates (starch and dietary fiber that provide 50 to 55
percent of total energy) that containing no simple sugars such
as sucrose. The diet should have restricted fat (providing less
than 20 percent of energy) and moderate protein (providing 14
to 30 percent of energy).
I have made
no special diabetic adjustment to the home prepared "Mable
Loaf" I make for my dog. This recipe has been carefully
adjusted to meet the complete and balanced needs of healthy dogs.
Mable is doing great on it and I kinda feel "if it ain't
broke; don't fix it".
Cats are not designed to eat a diet containing 50 percent complex
carbohydrates. There is little evidence that any special
adjustment is a benefit in managing a cat with diabetes mellitus.
Click here for home prepared meal reicpes
1) Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets, the Healthful Alternative by Donald
R. Stombeck, DVM, PhD (Iowa State Press, 1999)
Woodpyle was diagnosed with diabetes and I was just learning about
the subject, I asked my vet about home blood testing for glucose
levels in the blood. He didn't like the idea, telling me I couldn't
do it properly and that home tests were not accurate. I thought
about it a bit and wondered, if I were using the exact same blood
test meters that are marketed for use on humans, if they weren't
acceptably accurate, there certainly would be lot of upset people,
deaths and lawsuits. These meters are obviously accurate enough
to be relied on to be used to aid in the treatment of diabetes.
I did my research
on-line and found some good web sites with instructions on how to
do the testing. I studied these carefully and started looking for
a meter to use. There are better meters than others for use with
pets and I chose the one that was most popular for use on pets at
the time. Blood test meters can be expensive if you don't know the
best places to purchase them (see links for
where to purchase supplies). I learned that often, you can get a
meter for free if you purchase a large amount of test strips. The
test strips are how the meter companies really make their money.
I purchased 100 strips on-line and got a free meter.
You do not have
to draw a large amount of blood from a vein to do a glucose level
test. By studying the instructions I found on-line, I learned how
to draw the single drop of blood I needed from Woodpyle's ear. I
was scared at first; worried I'd hurt him. It took a little while
to get the knack and I will admit there was a learning curve. Luckily
it really is not that painful and Woodpyle was a very good patient.
After awhile I got quite good at it and it really was not so bad.
There were days when I did full curves on WP that I tested him every
two hours. It was wonderful to have control and know what was going
on with WP's levels and be able to adjust his insulin accordingly.
I have thought
more about testing at home as opposed to testing by the vet and
came up with some interesting theories. First, blood glucose levels
in the blood can rise for reasons other than food intake. They also
rise due to stress and fear. What happens when your pet is taken
to the vet for testing? Do you think they are a little afraid and
stressed or do you think perhaps they are a lot afraid and stressed?
And because of this fear and stress, the vet test results are probably
going to be slightly "off".
When we first
took Mable in to the vet, before we knew she had diabetes and thought
maybe she had some other disease, the vet decided to do some blood
work. The vet tech held Mable's head while the vet attempted to
draw blood from a vein in her neck. The vet stuck in the needle,
but missed the vein. OK, I understand, it can be hard to find and
hit the vein. She tried again. Missed. She tried again, missed.
She tried again and couldn't hit the vein. About this time I started
to get sick to my stomach. Poor Mable. This had become equivalent
to a form of torture. She tried again. I could no longer watch.
After over five minutes of this horrible procedure, she still failed
and finally asked another vet to come in and try. He succeeded.
Mable was a trooper through it all, but surprise, she never really
wanted to go to the vet again after that (neither did I).
I have a feeling
Mable's blood results, which were "off the map" were probably
elevated due to the dreadful experience of drawing of blood. In
all probability, if we relied on only blood testing at the vet,
we would never really know what Mable's real numbers were. If we
gave her insulin in proportion to these stress elevated numbers,
we could run the risk of giving her too much insulin; resulting
in a seizure and possible death. Finally, it sure is much nicer
to get an accurate blood glucose level reading for $0.65 a test
than the $25+ a test paid at the vet (plus the cost and inconvenience
of the vet visit).
much blood is needed to do this testing?
available nowadays need one small drop of blood. The blood dose
not have to be drawn from a vein. All meters come with a lancet
device. You use this lancet to prick the skin to draw the one
drop of blood needed for the test
meter do I recommend?
highly recommend using the One
Touch Ultra Meter. It needs just a very small amount of
blood, which makes life a lot easier, for you and your pet.
It also gives the results much faster than other meters and
does not give "false readings" when you don't get
enough blood like many other meters do. Having used various
meters, I like this one the best. This is what I currently use
for Mable. Years ago, with Woodpyle, I used the Glucometer
Elite Meter, which was the best meter for testing pets
at that time but I definitely like the One
Touch Ultra Meter better.
methods do I use to test on my own animals?
the cat, I used the ear stick method.
On Mable, we get the small drop of blood needed from the inside
of her upper lip.
started doing this testing, I didn't really know if there
was a right way or wrong way to get the needed drop of blood,
and just did what I needed to do to get the blood I needed.
Larry holds Mable. I flip up her lip and stick her on the
inside of her lip with the lancet and get the blood I need.
I'll take a photo the next time I do a test on her.
testing methods (locations for getting the drop of blood)
Meter Should I Purchase For My Pet?
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