For more about our introduction to Feline Diabetes, read here … Our Introduction to Feline Diabetes
The first thing I learned was that it was TOO dangerous to blindly shoot insulin into my cat without home testing. Learn more here.
The second thing I learned is that there is more effective and SAFER insulin for cats in the US & Canada than Vetsulin.
Dietary change is key
The third thing I learned was that a FOOD CHANGE to LOW CARBOHYDRATE food was our ONLY chance at regulation and remission. There are a few diabetic “prescription” foods out there for diabetic cats. BUT, they are all high-carb and full of JUNK ingredients.
Feeding high-carbohydrate foods to a diabetic cat, or a diabetic human, for that matter, is like putting fuel on a fire and hoping it extinguishes the fire.
Does that make sense?
I was told to feed low-carb wet food, such as Fancy Feast Classics or Friskies Pates. But, I have a kibble addict on my hands. I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t try very hard to switch her over to an all-wet food diet because she tends to have loose stools, diarrhea, and hairball problems (she IS a Maine Coon who doesn’t like to be brushed, after all lol) when she eats only wet food. She does much better overall on half-wet, half-dry.
Putting the Changes into Place
I decided to try this ultra low carb dry food that’s touted to help diabetic cats achieve remission called Young Again Zero (carb). It’s available online-only, so in the meantime, while I was waiting for her new food to arrive, I worked on learning how to home test Penny and talking her vet into switching her to Lantus, which is considered a much safer and more effective insulin for cats than Vetsulin.
getting our vet on board
When I called her vet that Monday morning after she had the strong reaction to Vetsulin, I was armed with everything I learned from Feline Diabetes Message Board and also what the AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) recommends as a first course of treatment for feline diabetes.
Lucky for us and my vet, Dr Moreno is not an egomaniac, is open-minded and willing to listen as he knew I was smart and did my research, So he gave me a prescription for Lantus pens and the U100 syringes to draw out the insulin (often cats need half-unit or quarter-unit doses so the needles that come with the pens are useless for a cat) and agreed to try a diet change for just a short while before re-starting insulin until we learn to home test.
I went to Walmart and got her testing supplies. They can be expensive when you’re paying cash, but everybody I talked to over the weekend told me to get the Relion Confirm meter and strips, which are MUCH less expensive than most human testing supplies. AND the meters made for pets!
Then, we had to learn to home test.
And I was terrified and not really sure we would be able to do this.
But I didn’t want Penny to go into insulin shock and die or become debilitated, either.
However, this is a cat that I cannot even BRUSH without her swatting at me.
And I’m gonna poke her ears several times a day to “play vampire”? lol
WITHOUT ending up in the hospital??!!
But all my new friends online ASSURED me that we could do this!
My friend Kay sent me this thing she wrote up about ear testing. She had a semi-feral cat and she learned to condition HIM. This really helped me to form a plan on how I was going to “train” Penny for home testing. Read Kay’s Ear Testing Psychology.
bribery was the answer…
What I know about Penny is that BRIBERY will get me EVERYWHERE with her and I can condition her to do just about ANYTHING so long as there’s raw chicken waiting for her! So that’s what I used to condition her to home test.
Here are two videos I made on training Penny to test her blood glucose.
I did my first successful home test while she was sleeping… lol. But, awake? It took about seven days of conditioning her like my videos show you before we were testing.
The Changes Were in Place!
By then, the new kibble was here and thank God both cats LOVED it! And they tolerated the abrupt food change very well!
The change in Penny’s energy once I got her on the Young Again food was REMARKABLE! She was a NEW cat and we hadn’t even gotten her diabetes regulated yet!
So, we started Penny on .5 units of Lantus twice per day, were home testing, and she was a CHAMP about the testing and the shots, as long as I shot her insulin WHILE she was eating. I learned VERY quickly that I cannot give this cat a needle unless she’s eating something scrumptious! Then, the house can crash down around her and she won’t even NOTICE!
We set up a spreadsheet on Google Docs that FDMB had created a template for…that way my vet could just pop in and see her blood glucose numbers at any time. Here’s Penny’s spreadsheet. Click on the 2013-2015 tab to see how it looked in the beginning. Penny’s Blood Glucose Numbers
And we followed something called Start Low Go Slow Method since I was still REALLY new to all of this and was afraid she would go into insulin shock at some point. I recommend this method for ALL newbies until you really learn how your cat responds.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Things were going really well until about three weeks in, when all of a sudden, Penny started being really difficult with her shots…like, she would JUMP a mile when I attempted to give her a shot. It was becoming IMPOSSIBLE to get insulin into this cat! I should mention that she had also started acting a little crazy and had started howling in the wee hours of the morning.
So I went back to the Message Board and the Feline Diabetes FB page and posted questions and started researching Lantus just a little bit more.
Turns out a small fraction of cats, and OF COURSE my Penny, are very sensitive to the sting on injection with Lantus because Lantus is VERY acidic. Everybody said with the little bit she was getting that she “shouldn’t be” feeling it, but she WAS.
Lantus can also make SOME cats, but not many, just a little crazy. Apparently, Penny likes to be the exception and not the rule!
Our Switch from Lantus to Levemir
So, my friend Gayle strongly suggested we switch her from Lantus to Levemir, which is another slow-acting insulin with “flat curves”…which is what you want for a cat. When their “curves” are flatter, there’s better control overall and less risk of insulin shock or a “hypo” (hypoglycemia).
So BACK to Dr Moreno for ANOTHER prescription! Again, thank God he’s a pretty easygoing vet and I suspect he lets me have my way (within reason) so that he can shut me up!
I saw immediate changes in Penny. She was no longer running around howling at night, and she slowly learned that “shot time” wasn’t hurting anymore!
After a couple of days on Levemir, I FINALLY saw her blood glucose numbers heading in the RIGHT direction! Obviously, Levemir is “the” insulin for Penny because within a month of switching to Levemir, Penny’s OTJ Trial had begun!
Her “Off the Juice” Trial
“OTJ” means “Off The Juice” or off insulin. The trial is done for 14 days and if your cat can maintain blood glucose numbers mostly in the “normal” range (generally 50-150, depending on who you ask) in that trial period, they are considered “in remission” or “diet controlled”.
I was a NERVOUS FREAKING WRECK during that two-week trial. I would SHAKE when I tested her blood glucose because she was STILL giving me trouble with shots and I wanted SO BADLY for her to pass this trial!
And on November 15, 2013, Penny PASSED her OTJ Trial and was OFFICIALLY in remission!!
But, it wouldn’t last….
Because NOTHING is ever typical or easy with Penny!
More to come!
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All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.