Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pet Diabetes Awareness Month: Tara's Story

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.

You know what I discovered? It wasn't the end of the world. Managing Tara's diabetes wasn't "easy", but it was certainly do-able. My research-oriented mind immediately kicked into gear and I started reading everything I could get my hands on about feline diabetes. (Ironically, my father received the same diagnosis a year later, and I was very well-versed in helping him learn to manage the disease.) I found the Feline Diabetes Message Board and the ebook Sugarbabies: A Holistic Guide to Caring for Your Diabetic Pet to be invaluable sources of information.

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.


  1. This was such an excellent post. I have been fortunate that none of my kitties past or present has had diabetes, but I didn't know the signs except drinking more water so this was such an informative post for me. Thank you for sharing, Janet

  2. Misty is prone to this, really must be more aware. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for the post. I had a kitty with diabetes and gave shots twice a day for years. It is definitely do-able.

  4. Wow. I never knew it could be a problem for pets.
    Our WW post is here:

  5. Great post, very informative. I'm lucky enough to not have any pets that are affected by this. I did share this with my husband, since I didn't know there were 3 types of diabetes. He used to be a medic and worked at the VA and was curious if he knew about that, he didn't. Something he did say that I would like to see more research on is the correlation (if any) between diabetes (both people and pet) and GMO food products... My reasoning, you used to rarely if ever hear about ANY of these issues before GMOs were introduced. Just a thought.

  6. Thanks for a great post Melissa. Thankfully I've never had to deal with this but I feel a little better to be more informed.

  7. Thank you for this very informative post

  8. You are right, we do what we have to do. When Henry was diagnosed with diabetes in May 2013, we did everything we could to learn how to give shots (even me, who is petrified of needles!) We did insulin for a few months but he was almost too responsive to the insulin so now we do glypicide in his ear every day.

    1. I read something about glypicide once, Rachel. I'd love to learn more about it!

  9. Important stuff to know. VERY important stuff to know.


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  11. What! How come! As far as I knew only human beings have diabetes. Pets having diabetes is a astonishing thing. If it happens so what shoulld be the way to prevent diabetes for pets? Will it be the same as human beings or there will be a way to beat diabetes naturally

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  13. I know right a dog of mine gets diabetes once. Doctor asked me to give him pitbull foods it will keep him healthy. Since then my dog have recovered a lot, i guess same goes with the cats.