There was never a doubt in my mind what the topic of my post was going to be: my Angel Tara's battle with feline diabetes. A devastating diagnosis in the beginning, it ended up being a life-changing experience for me that taught me so much about myself and brought Tara and I closer together than ever.
There are days in everyone's life that you remember as though it were yesterday; days when it seemed like from that moment everything changed. For me, one of those days was July 9, 2011.
My beloved Tara was at the emergency vet for the second time in 10 days with a urinary tract infection. For the first incident she had been put on a course of antibiotics, but the symptoms came back even worse as soon as she went off the meds. It was a Saturday afternoon and I remember that the vet's office was so, so busy that day. A litter of puppies came in that had overheated, a dog came in that had been hit by a car. I felt so helpless waiting for what seemed like hours while my poor baby was peeing blood all over the room they had freed up for us. She was so sick I had demanded a place I could take her to try to clean her up a little and make her more comfortable.
The vet on duty decided to do some blood work to try to figure out why the antibiotics hadn't cleared up the infection. My nerves were shattered while I waited for the results, and then they came...Tara was diabetic. Her blood sugar was close to 500. The vet said it was possible the high blood sugar level was due to the UTI, but she had never seem numbers that high due to an infection alone.
"Do you think you can start giving her insulin shots?"
I thought that was an odd question. I mean, what choice did I have? That's what Tara needed, that's what she would get. I looked at my father...he could do it! He used to give shots to cows on the farm all the time! (This was my frazzled mind at work at that moment.)
He just looked at me and said, "You're going to have to learn how to do it."
Tara had to spend the rest of the weekend at the emergency clinic on fluids, antibiotics, and to start an insulin regimen. I had those hours alone to let the whole situation sink in. When I picked her up Sunday night I was shown how to test her blood sugar, give insulin shots, and we discussed diet changes. She was the best little patient ever and received her testing and shots like a trooper.
Feline Diabetes Message Board and the ebook Sugarbabies: A Holistic Guide to Caring for Your Diabetic Pet to be invaluable sources of information. I watched YouTube videos on how to test her blood sugar at home and perform glucose curves. I followed the famous Janet & Binky's Food Charts religiously. For the recurrent urinary tract infections I put her on a daily regimen of D-Mannose powder.
Some cats are lucky and through diet change alone are able to go off insulin; Tara was never so fortunate. We never got her blood sugar to an ideal level, but an acceptable one. She went to the Rainbow Bridge just 2 days short of her 2 year anniversary of the diabetes diagnosis from congestive heart failure.
One of the most important things I learned through this whole experience (besides the fact that I learned I could do things I never thought possible!) was the importance of noticing the signs of diabetes. Deep down the diagnosis didn't surprise me; I had noticed Tara was drinking and peeing more, I was just trying to live in denial and I still feel guilty about that. Her horribly painful UTI's was her little body screaming at me to WAKE UP!
Life with Beagle created a wonderful infographic detailing the rise of diabetes in our pets, and the warning signs to be on the look out for. Please share and monitor your pets. Diabetes is NOT a death sentence, it is completely manageable.
I am not a vet and this is only my personal experience in dealing with feline diabetes. It is a disease which requires close contact with your veterinarian, who you should always consult before choosing any course of treatment.