Conquering Penny’s Insulin Resistance-Feline Diabetes

Picture of Penny with caption "sugar cats rule...other cats drool"

For more on Penny’s diabetes up until this point –

Our Introduction to Feline Diabetes

Penny’s Journey to Her First Remission from Feline Diabetes

Feline Diabetes – Where I Went Wrong with Penny

Okay, now that you’re up to speed…I really should write an ENTIRE book on the subject!

I may get a little technical here, but I just helped out a girl on the Feline Diabetes Facebook page who was in a very similar spot as we were. My hope is if someone else is dealing with insulin resistance with their diabetic cat that our experience will help!

Like I said in my last post, when she came out of remission, she came OUT. As in ten long months in insulin resistance OUT. My nerves were shot. I was really feeling like I would never get her regulated!

And I knew the damage was being done to her kidneys from all the excess glucose spilling into her urine.

I can tell you this much in hindsight…WE do not determine how much insulin a cat needs to regulate. The cat’s body is totally calling the shots here. No pun intended!

Demonstrationg a "flat shot" with a long-haired diabetic cat
Me showing how I gave Penny a “flat shot”. With long-haired cats, the traditional way to give shots ends up in many “fur shots”, where the insulin ends up on the fur. Flat shots worked much better on Penny!

And even though I’ve gotten some very good advice from many lay-people who had much more experience than I had, I’ve also gotten bad advice. Advice that many people told me not to follow. But I did anyway.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.

My reasons for saying all of the above is because I should have followed FDMB’s Tight Regulation Protocol to a “T” the second time around. But I didn’t. When Penny’s insulin dose was getting higher and higher, I kept bringing her back down to one unit to “start over again”.

This may be too technical if you’re not familiar with Feline Diabetes, but many people who have experience will understand and I believe it’s important to mention. When lay-people suggest that you go back down to one unit of insulin because you have may surpassed that “magic dose”, they are talking to the people whose vets have started their cats out on a dose that was too high or people who have increased doses by full units rather than the suggested .25 units as outlined in the Tight Regulation protocol that I linked to above. Neither of these applied to us.

Because she had gone into remission so quickly the first time, I really had little experience with shooting insulin with lower blood glucose numbers. Ultimately, my chicken shittiness is what kept her blood sugar over “renal threshold” (the point where glucose starts spilling into the urine) for FAR TOO LONG.

And this is likely one of the reasons why she developed kidney disease so quickly at such a young age.

I hadn’t trusted the process and the advice of MANY who had been at this same spot.

And you’ll see on her Google Spreadsheet that once I “got it” and just trusted the damn process, it was like night and day.

Now that the technical talk is out of the way…

There were a few external issues that I also feel affected her. Cats are sponges to our emotions. And, like human diabetics, they respond to stress with higher blood glucose numbers.

The much-needed weight loss was happening. She was getting off of gabapenin and the Adequan was really working for her arthritis like a charm. In February 2015, we had a sick stray cat show up on our back deck. (Checkers – The Sick Stray Cat Who Broke Our Hearts) Although Penny never met him, I’m sure she smelled him through Mom’s door (he lived in Mom’s bedroom til he was well enough to introduce him to Penny and Weeny). It was a very stressful time while we worked so hard to figure out what was wrong with him and to try and save him. For a cat like Penny, who was SO in tune with MY emotions, I’m sure this took a toll on her.

Then Weeny was diagnosed with a rare (for cats) malignant mast cell cancer in June. And for three months we watched her decline rapidly and she just wasn’t herself anymore. Again, Penny was VERY in tune with what was going on. Although they weren’t bonded, they were friends and Weeny’s illness and subsequent passing affected her as much as it did Mom and me.

Penny (left) and Weeny (right) sitting in the bathtub.
The Divas (Penny-left and Weeny-right) in the bathtub!

Weeny passed on September 13, 2015. For two years we had been surrounded by death in our family, with losing my dad, Checkers, and Weeny. It took its toll on ALL of us.

I remember thinking when Weeny passed that I cannot allow Penny to just lie around here and get old.

After Weeny passed, I rescued The Kits from my backyard. More on that story here: Meet the (Former Feral) Kits!

Now, I don’t know if there is any other cat in this world that I could have sprung four 4-month-old kittens on. Since Penny was used to being surrounded by other cats with her 3 1/2 years as a show cat at the rescue, I knew she would be okay with the right introductions. She took all of the changes like a TRUE champ. She truly was an angel here on Earth!

Penny on the couch watching squirrels while Rascal sleeps
Penny squirrel watching while Rascal naps.

What I didn’t realize until about six months after I rescued The Kits is that Penny needed them as much as they needed us! She was a NEW cat. More playful than I had ever seen her! Not as obsessed with food. She seemed to like helping me to “raise” them. As long as I made sure Penny always came first (like I had a choice…lol), she was happy!

It actually felt MORE like Penny, Mom and me were the humans and The Kits were the cats!

And, when you look at her blood glucose readings, you will see how her diabetes suddenly became well regulated around the same time and she needed less and less insulin! That was a bonus that I honestly didn’t see coming!

However, the insulin resistance took its toll. Mom says I blame myself too much. This isn’t about blame. It’s about learning from my mistakes so that I don’t repeat them. It’s about learning from my mistakes and sharing them so that we can save another cat’s life.

Penny was put into my life to teach me SO many lessons. And she did.

Now it’s my duty to share them.

More to come….

**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.**

Feline Diabetes – Where I Went Wrong with Penny

Penny-Christmas 2014. She spent DAYS trying to figure out how to climb this tree!

To catch up on our experience with Feline Diabetes, read:

Our Introduction to Feline Diabetes

Penny’s Journey to Her First Remission from Feline Diabetes

When Penny achieved remission, I was told to do everything in my power to protect that remission because once they come out, it’s VERY difficult to get them back to the point that they are “diet controlled”.

Anything can knock a cat out of remission. Illness, long-term stress, pain, infections, excess body fat, letting them eat high-carb foods again. It’s definitely a careful balance.

I actually just had to review her spreadsheet from that time to refresh my memory, as I’m writing this almost three years since she lost that remission.

2014 was a very difficult year for our family. I had to foster my brother’s cat, Andy, while my bro was moving and doing some heavy construction work at the new house. My dad became ill with Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer, suffered GREATLY for many months, and passed away.

Dad’s passing took its toll on the entire family.

Including Penny and Weeny.

Cousin Andy the Foster in my folks’ room shortly after he moved in-Jan 2014

Cousin Andy the foster was not exactly a nice house guest. He was raised an only child and was around Penny’s age (6 or 7) when we fostered him. It was only supposed to be for a month, but he ended up staying for six months. And Weeny did NOT like him. And he did NOT like living with other cats. Despite my best attempts at introductions and integrating him into the household, we never were successful. It resulted in Penny kicking his ass a few times and him urine marking in the house (he was neutered). So, even though they lived separately, his presence caused a lot of stress.

While all of that was happening, Dad started to suffer immense pain, which resulted in a cancer diagnosis at the end of June. He was in and out of the hospital through the Summer and ultimately passed on August 28, 2014. Penny was very attached to him and I’m sure she was as concerned and as heartbroken as Mom and me.

She helped him cross over to his new life…she was lying on his feet when he took his last breath.

I had become Andy’s primary caregiver and Dad’s advocate and primary caregiver. Plus I had my coaching business.

Poor Penny and Weeny ended up on the back burner.

Weeny and Penny Bird Watching – 2015

In October 2014, Penny had what I thought was a seizure. She started falling over and that scared her so she was freaking out and falling over more as a result.

Between a trip to the emergency vet and a new vet I was trying, I found out that she had gained a TON of weight and was up to 18lbs. She was a Maine Coon and a large girl, so, ideally, she was a 12-14lb cat. And she had developed spinal arthritis, which I’m sure was aggravated by the excess body weight.

I was disgusted with myself for allowing that to happen to her. She was still on her low-carb food (Young Again Zero Carb) but I know from working in the fitness industry that excess body fat causes insulin resistance. And I’m sure that was in play here.

Now, I hope what I’m about to say doesn’t ruffle too many feathers. But after this whole arthritis diagnosis with Penny and losing her remission, I will NEVER blindly listen to a vet again without researching the hell out of what they are selling me.

That being said, it was suggested that Penny go on pain medications for long-term management. The only safe painkillers for cats are Buprenex (buprenorphine) or Neurontin (gapapentin).

Here’s the problem…Buprenex (Bupe) is an opioid narcotic. It’s often used to wean heroin addicts off of heroin, however, many times, they end up abusing it. Also, anybody who knows the nature of opioid painkillers knows that they often tell the body that it is in more pain than it actually is to strengthen the body’s dependence on them. And, over time, as the body acclimates itself to the medication, it becomes less and less effective.

They say that doesn’t happen in cats. I don’t buy it.

Couple that with the fact that my ex husband became a heroin addict after becoming addicted to Percocet for a legitimate medical condition. Hence the “ex”. He died as an indirect result of his addiction just six weeks before my dad passed in 2014.

Imagine my struggle with deciding to put her on a narcotic long-term for her arthritis.

So that leaves Neurontin. Which is commonly prescribed for neuropathy (think: pins and needles) pain. But what Penny was experiencing in her spine was not pins and needles. She was SORE to the touch.

With that all being said, I started her on Bupe and then switched her to Neurontin. Without doing any research.

Her blood glucose numbers were creeping back up to diabetic range, which told me the medication was not managing her pain as well as I would have liked. See her spreadsheet with my notes. Click on the 2013-2014 tab Penny’s Blood Glucose Spreadsheet.

I don’t like the thought of just using pain medication to mask a problem when there is a solution to the problem instead. I’m not stupid. I know she needed to lose weight. And I learned there are better options for cat arthritis than to mask it with painkillers. I learned about Adequan-Canine, which, rather than masking the pain, actually helps to rebuild the cartilage in the joints, therefore reducing or even possibly eliminating the need for long-term pain medication.

FINALLY! A SOLUTION!

I prefer to live in the solution rather than just masking a problem.

I went back to new vet and showed her what I had found by playing Dr. Google. Kind of like going back to my old vet with what I had found out about Feline Diabetes after playing Dr. Google. She was on board so we started Penny with an extended “loading dose”.

Adequan-Canine can be given by subcutaneous injection, which we are pros at! The loading dose prescribed for Penny was two injections weekly for the first 4 weeks, one injection weekly for another 4 weeks, then one injection every 4 weeks indefinitely so long as she remains responsive to the treatment plan.

Penny – January 2015 in her favorite napping position. Like a little hairy human!

Now to get Penny to lose weight to take the excess weight off of that spine! She was free fed Young Again Zero (Carb) but was a “social eater” and would only eat with me sitting RIGHT THERE with her, so I did have control over how much she ate. She also ate wet food in four mini meals per day, which is best for a diabetic cat to keep the blood glucose levels stable. I decided to do with Penny what I had done with myself back in 1987 when I lost 70lbs.

Portion control and exercise. No “diet” foods, no “low fat”, and no making her unhappy!

Since Penny was EXTREMELY food motivated, I decided to make that her motivation to exercise. So we started “chicken run” twice per day. I would run her down the steps and reward her with a small piece of raw chicken, then run her up the steps and give her another small piece, and so on and so forth. We worked her up to 20 times per day.

I had to be careful that her weight loss was slow so that she wouldn’t go into fatty liver disease, which can happen very quickly and can be life threatening to a cat.

She lost 2lbs in six months doing this. When I rescued the kits in 2015, she actually lost another pound in four months just being more active with them!

Penny bird watching – October 2016

The spinal arthritis became a non-issue. After that loading dose, I took her off the pain medication because while playing Dr. Google, I found a rare side effect of Neurontin is blood sugar fluctuations. So, it’s possible this medication, that wasn’t even helping, could have taken her out of remission. At best, I didn’t want any blood sugar fluctuations in a cat who is back on insulin.

And she did go back on insulin, much to my heartbreak, on January 3, 2015.

And we spent ten long and frustrating, horrifying months in insulin resistance.

More on this 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.

 

 

Penny’s Battle with Kidney Disease is Over

The eyes that knew my soul…

 

Rest in Paradise, my Precious Pup.

PENELOPE WILSON

8/8/08 – 11/15/17

Penny passed peacefully with her favorite vet’s assistance while squirrel watching and listening to me singing my awful rendition of “Earth Angel” and “The Penelope Song”.

I didn’t have NEAR enough time with Penny, and she was NOT mentally ready to leave…

But I have to remember that things happen in God’s time, not ours.

Her body was shutting down.

And as much as she tried to rally the past month…As much as she fought HARD to maintain a normal life…The kidney disease won.

However, she died in remission from diabetes. Small victory. But a victory nonetheless. She was buried in my backyard with her OTJ (Off The Juice) party hat that I made to celebrate her achieving her second remission.

Penny was laid to rest on her favorite blanket in a water case box with her favorite toys and her first food bowl when adopted her in 2012. And a lock of my hair since she loved my hair so much.

I still have to write on our journey with Feline Diabetes and Feline Chronic Kidney disease.

Why?

Because one of the inspirations and driving forces behind this blog is Penny’s journey and her incredible strength and will to win.

And she DID win. Because she outlived the “averages” by over a year with a STELLAR quality of life.

Because she achieved that oh, so obscure second remission from diabetes.

Because her spirit NEVER gave up. She was hellbent on living her life to the fullest…up until her last day.

Penny, bird watching just about a week before she passed.

Because we have a story to tell to save lives. Penny has a legacy to carry on. And her spirit is here with me to share her story with the world so that we can help other special needs cats.

“Turn your mess into your message.”

We will shout from the rooftops on how to prevent Feline Diabetes because in most cases, it IS completely preventable.

We will also show that a cat can live a QUALITY life for a long time even with Stage 4 kidney disease.

There are those in Social Media Land who have traveled this journey with us. Some since her diabetes diagnosis in 2013 and some since we started our Facebook page in 2017. She has touched SO many lives already.

And we are just getting started.

I always said I wouldn’t treat kidney disease in a cat because I thought it would be “torture” and we would just be fighting something progressive and incurable. Until I was faced with it with my little Soul Mate.

Love changes EVERYTHING. Love makes us do things we normally wouldn’t do.

She wasn’t “tortured”. She acted healthier since that diagnosis than in some of her years when she was “healthy”.

Her best life yet!!

Given the chance, I would have fought with her for TEN YEARS if we could have maintained her quality of life for that long!

And I’d do it ALL over again – without a doubt!

Kidney disease may have taken her body, but it will NEVER take her spirit, our bond, our love, and our memories.

Those are Penny’s and mine to keep!

Penny and Mommy – April 2017

We have had signs that Penny is still here. I sensed that she was holding on because she didn’t want to leave here. I told her she didn’t have to. Just because her spirit was leaving her body didn’t mean that it had to leave home.

This IS her forever home, after all. That means FOREVER.

 

 

Getting a Cat with Kidney Disease (or any other chronic illness) to Eat

As I’m still doing introductions, I haven’t quite gotten into the nitty gritty of what this blog is about or our mission just yet. Nor have I talked much about Penny’s chronic illnesses.

She was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes in 2013. Quickly went into remission with a diet change and six weeks of insulin and stayed in remission for 14 months. (One of the foods I use is Young Again Zero Mature). She was diagnosed with spinal arthritis in 2015 and also came out of remission from her diabetes. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 chronic kidney disease in February of 2016 and has been holding in Stage 4 ever since. She also achieved the somewhat rare and elusive SECOND diabetic remission in 2016 a few months after she was diagnosed with kidney disease.

So, being a Cat Nurse has become the “norm” around here. And I’m part of a lot of online support groups on Facebook to help us manage these diseases while preserving her quality of life and getting much-needed laymen’s experience, which has saved Penny’s life on quite a few occasions!

penny fluids feb 2016

Penny, in 2016 just after we successfully administered sub-q fluids for the very first time!

So I went back “On This Day” on Facebook this morning and came across a re-post from the Feline Chronic Kidney Disease support group. I would LOVE to take credit for this…I WISH I wrote it, but did not! Anybody who has ever had a sick pet can relate to this!

Sometimes humor is good to really help break up the burden of constantly caring for and worrying about our fur babies!

BEFORE DIAGNOSIS:
“I don’t care if you guys don’t like it, I just spent $50 on this case of food, you best eat it!”

“Really? You threw up on the new carpet? Come on, guys, the linoleum right there, ugh.”

“No, I am not feeding you on the carpet or on the counter…you’ll get wet food on the new carpet.”

“We can’t buy treats or that food, it’s too expensive.”

AFTER DIAGNOSIS:
“You don’t like that food? What about this one? Or this one? Wait, I can run out and buy 60 different ones until we find one you like.”

“You threw up? Is it foam, bile, food? Do you need a Pepcid…wait, let me take a picture and inspect this further.”

“You wanna eat on my pillow? Okay. How about on the coffee table, the carpet, the counter…heck, wanna eat on the dinner table?”

“You like these treats? I can have them one-day shipped for $50. You’re actually eating that food? Where’s my credit card, it’s only $$$$ for a case.”

PLEASE share this if you know somebody who is caring for a sick pet! It’s amazing what a little humor can do to raise our spirits JUST when we need it!

If you want more info on the groups I belong to on Facebook to manage Penny’s Feline Diabetes and Feline Chronic Kidney Disease, please email me or  Join Us on Facebook and shoot me a PM! One of the goals of this blog is to show people just how manageable these diseases can be!

Meet Penny! (nee Penelope)

Princess Penelope watching birds outside-March 2017

When I went to meet Weeny (nee Irene), Penny was looking at me with those EYES from her cage and I studiously avoided eye contact with her because I KNEW I was in trouble if I so much as LOOKED at her. I put in an adoption application for Weeny, continued to avoid eye contact, and left Pet Smart.

The next day I brought my folks to meet Weeny. I was living with them at the time and my dad had gotten very close with Tabby in the four years since I had moved back home, so I wanted them to be on board with giving Weeny a much-needed home.

THIS time, all the cats were in the room behind the cages for their “free time”. Weeny was busy playing with the other cats. So, Penny had the opportunity to introduce herself to us and basically THREW herself at us and BEGGED us to get her OUT of there.

She made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. So a SECOND adoption application went in for Penny that day, and we adopted both kitties that week!

Penny was 3 1/2 when I adopted her from Jersey State Animal Rescue. She was one of their show cats and actually won ribbons in the Domestic House Cat Division. If you Google their logo, you will see that unique diamond face at the top of their logo. She is our retired show cat, our poster child, and our little hairy human!

Penny hasn’t had an easy life. She was bullied at the rescue. She was being bullied by one of the other cats the day I decided to adopt her. And she has her issues as a result. She’s a social eater and suffers some separation anxiety. Knowing how she LOVES people, I imagine her life at the rescue was pretty lonely with being bullied and not having as much human contact as she probably craved. They did their best, I’m sure, because they take VERY good care of their cats, but that’s no replacement her very own home and her very own humans.

She thinks she’s one of US and she thinks she OWNS me. She told an animal communicator that she thinks I’m HER pet. Which I already knew! She’s most content next to me (and Mom if I’m not around) and being adored 24/7! She’s charming, congenial, and VERY, VERY patient…until it comes to food!

She’s had her share of health issues over the years. In 2013 she was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes. We achieved remission in just six weeks (read about her journey here Feline Diabetes-Penny’s First Remission). She held remission for 14 months before she had to go back on insulin and also picked up a diagnosis of spinal arthritis along the way. She spent ten months in glucose toxicity/insulin resistance before we got her diabetes regulated. Six months after we got her regulated, she achieved her SECOND remission from diabetes. But, unfortunately, along the way, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Chronic Kidney disease in February 2016 (more on that to come, as well).

penny-otj-may-26-16-2

Penny’s SECOND “OTJ Party”…the day she was officially “off the juice” (insulin). She didn’t want to wear her party hat…lol

But that has NOT stopped her! She has been living her BEST life yet since that kidney disease diagnosis! She runs and plays like a kitten, eats enough to choke a horse, and honestly, some days if I didn’t see her litter box or her blood work results, I’d never believe she was so sick. I couldn’t have asked for ANY better quality of life for her than she’s had the past 17 months!

Penny was sent to me to teach me SO many lessons! Not just about cat health, nutrition and care, but LIFE lessons…such as my limitations exist only in my mind, when something is THAT important to me, I’ll FIND a way to make it happen, and that I should NEVER, EVER let external forces get me down. She truly is an angel here on Earth!

I don’t know what tomorrow, next week, or next month will bring, but since I thought 17 months ago that she would only have a couple of months (at best) left, I’m enjoying every last second of this “borrowed time” with her!

Nicknames:

Precious Pup, Smelly Penelly, Gentle Giant, Sasquatch, Boss Paws, PITA (Pain in the A$$), Diamond Girl

Songs:

“Isn’t She Lovely” – Stevie Wonder, “The Penelope Song” – John F Hooven (my dad), “Earth Angel” – The Penguins

7050086864339_orig

Penny, her second day in her forever home.

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.