November is National Diabetes Month – and not just for humans, but also for pets as well.
Just as in humans, cats (and other pets) may suffer from diabetes. The body produces little or no naturally-occurring insulin and is therefore unable to regulate sugars in the blood. The only way to control it is by administering insulin by injection. In many cases, by the time diagnosis has occurred the cat is insulin-dependent.
In some cases, the body creates some insulin, but not enough, or it may not be able to regulate it. An early diagnosis and prompt treatment can stave off dependency. An older, more overweight cat is more likely to be a diabetic than a younger one, and managing the cat’s diet, as well as balancing the administration of insulin, is necessary to maintain the cat’s health. Occasionally the onset of diabetes is linked to steroid treatment for another condition, and we quickly try to find an alternative; sometimes the diabetes will go into remission, and this is often linked to weight loss, or the speedy diagnosis and treatment of the condition.
Currently only four of our Sanctuary cats are diabetic, though we have treated many through the years. In some cases it is a long-term condition, and is unlikely to change. Bandit, who lives in the Single-Wide, receives insulin injections twice a day. This can be a challenge – not because he objects to the injection (most cats don’t even notice it), but because he has to eat before he gets his shot, and he’s very picky about what he will accept. The med staff keep a cupboard of non-standard cat-foods to hand, and it will frequently take two or three different offerings before Bandit decides that he might as well eat. Occasionally he has to be force-fed, which is not fun for either cat or staff!
Our beautiful Dell, in Pen 3, was diagnosed as a diabetic about 6 months ago. The classic signs are weight loss, appetite, thirst and increased urination. We noticed that Dell was not looking in his usual good shape, and a visit to the RAPS Hospital showed that his blood sugars were up. Regular insulin had Dell looking much better, and the med staff keep a careful check on his progress.
Achilles lives in New Aids; his diabetes likely has no link at all with his Aids diagnosis, but it does mean that we keep a very careful eye on him for other things that might affect his immune system, and thus his general body condition.
Older and overweight – that fits for Shaggy, who came in to the Moore House with his buddy Spicer. Shaggy was one of the lucky ones; a rapid diagnosis and careful treatment enabled his body to re-balance, and his diabetes went into remission.
PawPaw was one of the cats who came to us from a closing private shelter some years ago. He was diagnosed diabetic soon after he arrived, and is one of the cats that I think the med staff enjoy spending feeding time with, before he has his injections. He hangs out in Waldi’s Hut with his buddy Chimo, and making sure that the tasty food goes just to PawPaw and not to Chimo and their friends, takes a little careful management!
Our diabetic cats are well-tended by RAPS med staff and the hospital vets. Many people manage their own human diabetes as a routine thing, and there is no reason why we should not be able to do the same for our pets with the assistance and advice of a vet. But there’s no denying that, with little experience, taking on a diabetic cat is not something most adopters will gladly do, and for those cats who are unable to find adopters because of their condition, the Sanctuary is there to maintain their health and safety.