The Duke of Tamatea
A few months ago I was presented with a 7 year old male cat Beau who had been weak, lethargic and drinking more than usual for about 3 weeks at home. Closer examination revealed very weak and floppy muscles with an almost distended abdomen. Blood and urine tests then showed elevated blood glucose confirming my suspicion that this boy had developed diabetes mellitus.
I started treating Beau with human insulin glargine to which he is responding very well. He now comes for regular checkups - involving taking 4-6 glucose tests per day (glucose curve).
Cats' blood glucose can be easily affected by stress, so to minimize any artificially raised levels we try to provide the most comfortable setting for our diabetic patients when they arrive to the clinic. Beau is a very demanding client (always the very top cage - above everyone else, reward after each sampling, no contact with other cats and most importantly shredded news paper nest instead of fluffy blanket, please). His special requests earned him his new name, The Duke of Tamatea.
Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a common medical condition in cats. The owners would mostly see increased drinking and urinating, weight loss, poor coat and over all body condition. Cats have predominantly type II DM (insulin resistance or insufficient production), and most interestingly up to 68% of these cats will have TRANSIENT DM, which means that if onset of therapy is fast and they are controlled well they will achieve remission (this can take 6-12months) and will not need any insulin in the future.
As I mentioned in Beau's case, the treatment needed is insulin which is given mostly as twice daily injections at home. Many owners feel reluctant to inject their own cat at the start but soon get very quick and confident at it. Besides, the needles are very thin and short, and as in Beau's case, positive reinforcement works wonders.
Most cats benefit from a high protein/low carbohydrate diet which helps to control all that extra body glucose and reduces the need for insulin in the future.
Unfortunately obesity plays a big role in developing DM. Obese cats have a 30% chance of developing DM. New studies from last year also show increasing chances of DM in cats that eat dried food only.
Personally I get very excited about new diabetic cat patients, because it means that I will not only have the chance to get to know the cat very well but also potentially cure them of their disease.