At 14 years old, Yum Yum was still very healthy. Except for routine vaccinations and check-ups she seldom had to visit Dr. Turner. Earlier this year, though, that all changed. Around the first part of April I noticed that her ears looked ‘cruddy’. Dr. Turner discovered that she had a mite infestation that is extremely rare for a cat to get in their ears. While she was still being treated for that, one of her eyes became infected. As she had always been so healthy, I was afraid that something else might be going on with her that was compromising her immune system.
At about this same time, Yum started being obsessed with water. She was drinking so much that I was filling their water bowl several times a day. After further testing it was determined that she had diabetes. Her glucose level was well over 400. The first thing we tried was changing her diet to one made for diabetic cats. It made no difference. Then Dr. Turner explained that I would need to start giving Yum Yum insulin injections twice a day. That was a bit scary, but the staff at Imperial was so kind and helpful in showing me the proper way to do it. We started with 2 units of insulin twice a day. There was no change in her glucose levels. For over 12 weeks we continued to increase her insulin a half unit at a time until she was at 5 units twice a day. Her levels were still staying in the 300 – 400 range. She was drinking so much water that I had to start using larger dog water bowls, and she would sometimes fall asleep while at the bowl.
Her weight had been steadily dropping and it was at about this time that I began to seriously consider that she might not make it through this. So I decided that I needed to take a more proactive approach. I went online and started doing research…..lots and lots of research….for hours and hours and days and days. What I found out came as a total surprise. I had assumed that as long as I fed my critters a brand name high quality food, it was good. I discovered that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
For one thing, since cats are descended from desert dwellers, they do not have a very strong urge to drink water. They are designed to get most of their water from the food they eat and they are obligate carnivores. Dry kibble has absolutely no place in the diet of a cat! I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t known this for the 47 years I’ve had cats. My research seemed to suggest that ANY canned food would be better than ANY dry food when it came to a cat’s health. Cats require low carbs and high protein. Their bodies simply must have meat, lots of water, and very, very few carbs. For example, the average mouse is about 70 – 72% water. Most canned cat food is about 75% water, or there about. Dry kibble is only 5 – 10% water and the average cat is not going to drink enough water to make up that deficit.
It also came as a surprise when I found how hard it is to find canned food that does not contain questionable ingredients. One of the most troubling for me is carrageenan. It has been shown in some studies to produce insulin resistance in cats, but is a fairly common ingredient in too many foods, even those that are supposed to help a diabetic patient.
Part of what I discovered was that once a diabetic cat is no longer eating dry, high carbohydrate food, their glucose can fall dangerously low if not monitored. So before I switched Yum Yum to an all canned diet I invested in a blood glucose monitor. I knew that I could track her progress much more effectively if I could instantly see any changes. It took paying close attention to how the wonderful vet-techs at Imperial do it, a few practice ear pokes, plus sticking my own finger with the needle a time or two, but I finally mastered it. Now I almost have it done before Yum realizes what’s happening.
Starting the home monitoring proved to be a good move. As soon as I made the switch to all canned food, Yum’s glucose dropped 300 points. 300 points!!!!! It went down to 44, and that was almost immediately.
Dr. Turner actually had us skip an injection, give Yum a snack, and start lowering the insulin dosage. She is now down to only 2 ½ units twice a day, and her glucose is staying very good and stable….usually between 110 – 135. She has started to gain back a little of the weight she lost, and she’s no longer camping out at the water dish. She looks and acts better in general. She now is back to cuddling with the other cats and being more sociable. I can just tell by looking at her that she feels better.
I can only speak from the experience with my own cat. In this case what I have tried appears to be working.
I have had so much help, advice and encouragement from Dr. Turner and the staff at Imperial Animal Hospital. They are always there to answer questions and let me know we’re on the right track. Without them I don’t know that I would have worked up the nerve to give injections and do ear pokes. When a diagnoses like this happens it’s very comforting to know that the very best medical providers are there to help us through it.
Written by the owner: Sharon Avery