Vet Care – Be Your Pet’s Advocate…It May Save Her Life!

close up of Junior at emergency vet
My aunt’s cat, Junior, at the emergency vet.

 

If only I knew then what I know now. How many times do we say that in our lifetime?

Junior’s Story

I’d like to share a story. The cat in the picture above is Junior. He was one of my feral cats who came here in 2016. Soon after he was neutered, he suddenly turned into a love bug with me and Mom (not so much with the other ferals) so I adopted him out to my aunt.

Last year, my aunt had asked me to meet her at our regular vet. She was concerned because she found that Junior had been snacking on her Peace Lily plant and had since stopped eating and was lethargic. My first thought, as well as the receptionist at our vet’s, was, “Oh no! LILY! Kidney failure!” My aunt had already paid $55 to the Animal Poison Control line and had a case number for the vet to reference. The receptionist on duty directed us to the emergency vet 45 minutes away without even calling Animal Poison Control to get direction.

I admit I walked in there on guard. I have had plenty of BAD experiences at emergency vets and I really DO reserve them for emergencies because of the expense and price gouging that occurs in my area.

When we were taken back to the exam room, I told my aunt not to commit to admitting him without my seeing his blood work first. We had a LONG wait because they messed up the results of his first blood panel and had to re-run it. I think we waited at least three hours just to see the blood work results. While we waited, I decided to start playing Dr Google on my phone.

I was AMAZED at what I had found out. Although lilies are toxic to cats and cause kidney failure, Peace Lilies are not really a lily. Therefore, although they cause unpleasant side effects, they do not cause kidney failure in cats. The side effects include “Oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.” (Source ASPCA – Peace Lily)

When the vet FINALLY came in with his blood work, she reported everything was “within normal limits”. Since she couldn’t figure out WHY he had stopped eating, she recommended admitting him to do IV fluids (even though his liver and kidney values were FINE), more blood work, x-ray, CT scan… You get the idea, right? I could almost hear a cash register ringing each test up as she mentioned them.

Cha-ching! Cha-ching! Cha-ching!

I asked the vet for a copy of the blood work and an estimate before we made any decisions. Of course, she didn’t bring the results into the room with her, so we waited another half hour just for her to bring back a piece of paper.

At this point, I should bring up that my aunt is 75 years old, retired, and on a fixed income. So when the vet re-appeared with normal blood work, an estimate for $1800-$2200 and yet another recommendation to admit, I asked again why the vet felt that he should be admitted. She reiterated that she didn’t know why he was not eating and needed to run tests.

I showed her what I found on ASPCA’s website about Peace Lily poisoning. She had the case number from Animal Poison Control and had consulted with them already. I asked her (and I think I backed her into a corner at this point because I was fuming), “You mean to tell me that the intense burning he’s feeling in his mouth, throat, esophagus and GI tract ISN’T causing his loss of appetite??”

She said, “No. I think it is completely unrelated.”

HELLO??? Whatever happened to common sense?

I asked her if HER mouth, throat, and GI tract felt like they were on fire, would she have an appetite? She never did answer me.

I told her I wanted him to receive 100ml of sub q fluids, a Pepcid injection for the heart burn, and a Cerenia injection for the nausea. I told her my aunt was on a fixed income and I was SURE that once the burning passed that he would feel like eating again and if he didn’t, we would come back. Admission wasn’t necessary.

She left the room to get his meds and sent two vet techs in to do his fluids.

Man, how her attitude CHANGED when she came back in. She started the discharge instructions by saying that she still thought he should be admitted. And I cut her off and told her that my aunt didn’t have the money and it wasn’t necessary. After that, she got downright rude with me. She explained the treatments she was giving him (uh, they were MY idea) and blah blah blah.

My aunt was charged $350 for that visit.

Had I not been there to advocate for my aunt and Junior, they would have gotten a retired women who lives alone and on a fixed income for upwards of $2000.

Do I even have to tell you that Junior was fine the next day and hasn’t had a problem in almost a year now?

And Then There’s Penny

Penny would have died four years ago had I blindly listened to a vet without doing my homework and talking to lay people who live Feline Diabetes day in and day out. You can read more at Our Introduction to Feline Diabetes.

Penny would have died two years prematurely had I blindly listened to a 2nd opinion vet who suggested that I give her 400ml of sub q fluids daily when she “crashed” and was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney disease. (The maximum “safe” amount for Penny’s weight would have been 150ml daily).

The vet also recommended that I admit her for IV fluids, which is common practice and normally beneficial for a cat who in a “crash”. However, Penny was on insulin at the time. Since she was not eating her usual amount, her blood glucose levels were dropping low and I had to follow my gut with her insulin dosing to keep her safe. I knew her diabetes very well and knew her “trends”. This is something a vet tech who was not familiar with Penny would not be able to do as well as I could. If Penny were admitted to the hospital, there would be nobody with her overnight to monitor her blood glucose and I couldn’t take that chance. Once I explained all of that to the vet and showed him her blood glucose spreadsheet, he agreed with me.

Penny sniffing her sub q fluid bag
Penny with her fluid bag just after we successfully did sub q fluids for the very first time!

He respected my opinion and admitted that he didn’t think of the insulin issue and the potential for hypoglycemia without somebody there to monitor. That is a vet whose ego does not get in the way of his work. We treated her safely on home sub q’s, although I did the recommend 10ml per pound of body weight rather than the vet’s suggested 400ml daily.

Taz Would Have Lived a Better Life

My Taz (1996-2007) would have lived a much better quality of life if I played Dr. Google back in 1997 when he was blocked with struvite crystals. The treating vet taught me a lot about urinary tract blockages and how to prevent future episodes. What they DIDN’T teach me was how to prevent the urinary tract infections he was riddled with for the rest of his life.

In 2006, Taz became very ill and stopped eating. My vet could not figure out what was wrong and recommended I ship him off to a veterinary diagnostic hospital up in Ocean County, which was a good hour from where we lived. I opened up a Care Credit that day and took him up there. Five days later, I picked up a terrified and still sick Taz. My new Care Credit was maxed out at $5000 already. He rallied for nine months, but eventually passed away from this mystery disease. The outcome would have been different if I had just asked questions and gotten online to LEARN. It turned out he had liver disease. I could have learned about feline nutrition and how to properly medicate a cat without terrorizing him. But I didn’t. I was told nothing else could be done. I blindly trusted the vets.

Taz September 2000
My Taz in September, 2000

Live and learn.

This is not to bash vets. AT ALL. Like I’ve said before, I could not do their job. God bless them. There are MANY phenomenal vets in the world who treat their patients like their own pets. But I have learned through experience that every cat is different. Some vets see hundreds of patients per week. Including OUR pets. They aren’t given extensive training in specialized diseases such as Feline Diabetes. They aren’t given extensive training in feline nutrition. And since they get a commission for every bag of “prescription food” they sell, I have to wonder if they truly have our pets’ interests at heart when those foods are filled with slop that I wouldn’t feed my worst enemy.

Vets, much like doctors, surgeons, and weather people, are HUMAN. And not always RIGHT.

On The Flip Side..

When my Penny “crashed” and was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney disease just about two years ago, her vet felt strongly that she needed an emergency dental if she had a chance of pulling through the crash. I had originally cancelled her surgery. He was so adamant about it that he called me at 10pm at night from home to try and talk me into it. He offered to go in to work on his day off to oversee her dental since a less experienced vet was scheduled for the surgery. I had a tough time taking a risk like that with my bad experiences with previous vets, but my gut was telling me that Dr Jared was probably right.

I took her for that emergency dental the next day. And cried and prayed all day long. I didn’t want her last moments to EVER be at the vet or in a cage, alone and scared. She pulled through. And lived 20 more quality months before she crossed the Bridge. I don’t believe we would have ever had that time together had I not listened to my vet that night.

Robyn kissing Penny on the head-Feb 2016
Penny & Me – February 2016 about a week after her emergency dental.

So what’s my point here?

We have to advocate for our pets like we would advocate for our sick parents (been there, done that too!), sick children, and ourselves. Ultimately, the decisions are OURS.

We have something with our pets that no vet will ever have with them – an emotional bond. They are our FAMILY. It’s okay to ask questions to fully understand what is going on. It’s okay to admit that you play Dr Google and discuss what you learn online with your vet. Any GOOD vet will RESPECT that and listen to your concerns.

My vets all know that I know my stuff. They know I play Dr Google. They know that I’ve managed Penny’s diabetes and kidney disease from things I’ve learned online and from lay people. I’ve ALWAYS cleared these treatments with my vets first. They respect that I do my homework, ask smart questions, and take the time to educate myself and understand everything so that I can better help my pets.

I have good vets. I’m very lucky. If I ever came across a vet who didn’t respect and understand that I advocate for my pets, they would never see me or my pet again.

At the end of the day, WE are responsible for our pets’ well being. The vets are there to help. But we make the final decisions.

Don’t be afraid to do your homework before allowing a vet to treat your pet. Please don’t be afraid to speak up. Your pet is DEPENDING on YOU!

Spunky and Robyn selfie Jan 2016
Spunky and me – Jan 2016. She was about 8 months old in this picture!

 

 

 

 

Home Testing Your Diabetic Cat – Why It’s SO Important

Penny with her blood glucose test showing she was back in remission
May 2016-Penny achieving her SECOND remission from Feline Diabetes and showing off her new “OTJ” Party Hat! OTJ=Off The Juice (insulin)

 

Even though Penny has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I’m still a member of the Feline Diabetes Facebook Page and Feline Diabetes Message Board because I want to continue to share Penny’s story to help others. I also want to stay on top of my knowledge on how to treat this disease since it’s so prevalent these days. All of it had become second-nature to me and I don’t want to lose that! You can read more about our journey with Feline Diabetes here: Feline Diabetes Category-Penny & The Kits.

I’m writing this today because I recently encountered a new member on the Facebook page whose vet had advised against home testing. And this vet has this cat, in my opinion, on a dangerously high dose of insulin. When I heard that their vet increased the dose, my heart started POUNDING. I feel it’s only a matter of time before this cat has a hypoglycemic episode and possibly sustains permanent neurological damage or dies if they don’t start home testing. If I can save ONE cat’s life with this post, my job is done.

I’ve also recruited the help of some members on the Facebook page by asking them to share some common vet or pet parent objections to home testing.

#1. The general: “You don’t need to home test because I (vet) don’t want to overwhelm you.”

I will start with my story. When Penny was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes, I FREAKED OUT. I already THOUGHT I knew enough about Feline Diabetes to know that it’s expensive, time consuming, and I’d be torturing my cat with blood glucose curves and home testing all hours of the day and night. I mean, who has time for THAT, right?

And my vet KNEW I was freaking out because it seems like it’s such a complicated disease and I was OVERWHELMED already! I think I even said to him that I would NEVER be able to home test Penny’s blood sugar because she was a “difficult” cat to handle. When my vet told me that I didn’t have to home test her, I remember saying, “Oh thank GOD!”

I went home with my insulin, needles, heartbreak and fear. That first night, I wasn’t even able to get the first shot into her.

And I’m SO glad! She was prescribed much too high of a dose of a much-too-harsh insulin for cats!

The next day I was more successful and got the insulin into her. And she SLEPT the ENTIRE day. She slept SO deeply that I thought she was dead at one point because she was so difficult to rouse. I knew enough about diabetes in general to know that her blood sugar may have dropped too low, but I had no way of knowing because I didn’t know how to home test. I remember making sure she ate that day and hopped online with a more open mind and started talking to my new Feline Diabetes friends. I came across THIS post on the Facebook page that evening..

“By a cruel turn of fate, on Thursday evening my most precious and special sweetheart Baxter went into a diabetic hypoglycemic coma and I almost lost him that night. As of now, his body vitals and sugar are stable, but he was fighting continuing seizures and was not fully conscious. We don’t know how much neurological damage has occurred and how much can be reversed. Right now it’s a waiting game. Yesterday, we saw a bit of progress for the first time. To my animal loving friends and family — I welcome all prayers for Baxter’s healing and recovery.”

Baxter before and after his hypoglycemic episode
Beautiful Baxter…the kitty who saved my Penny’s life with his story and journey back to health.

He partially recovered, but it took SEVERAL months, vet hospitalizations, vet visits, and rehab to teach Baxter how to walk, eat and groom himself again because of the neurological damage he sustained from the insulin shock. Some of the damage was permanent, including blindness. His treatment cost over $30,000.

Susan’s posts were enough to convince me that shooting insulin without home testing was downright DANGEROUS. When I adopted Penny, I promised her a happy and healthy life. I had to keep that promise to her!

I had decided that Penny will NOT get any more insulin until I switched her to a low-carb kibble I had read about, changed her insulin from Vetsulin to Lantus (much safer for kitties!) and learned how to home test.

And we did. And it saved Penny’s life MANY times. Some cats are known to spontaneously go into remission from Feline Diabetes, and Penny was one of them. Not once, but TWICE. Had I not been home testing, I would have never had four more beautiful and fun-filled years with her! See her blood glucose numbers here: Penny’s Blood Glucose Spreadsheet.

#2. “Home testing is expensive!”

Like bringing your cat to the vet every three weeks for a fructosamine test is NOT expensive? Like the $30k+ that my friend Susan spent on Baxter to save him is NOT expensive?

The meter the vets recommend, AlphaTrack (AT), is expensive, although still cheaper than NOT home testing. But many of us use human meters. There IS a variance between the human meter and the AT, but we are testing to watch trends and keep the cat safe.

I use the Relion Confirm meter, which can be purchased at Walmart. It uses the smallest blood drop of any of the human meters and the strips are under $20 for 50 of them, which is MUCH less expensive than other human meters’ strips or the AT strips!

I tested my meter against the vet’s and there was a 30-point variance. But, we also adjust the “normal” numbers accordingly based an the variance. The goal is to keep your cat under renal threshold (the point where excess glucose spills into the urine) yet keep them safe! You can learn more at Feline Diabetes Message Board.

#3: “Home testing is not as accurate as vet testing! Regular fructosamine tests are adequate.”

Let me explain something. When a diabetic becomes stressed out, their blood sugar rises. Humans, cats, dogs, armadillos (okay..not really sure about that last one but you get the point, right?) Now, think about it…when was the last time your cat was actually HAPPY about going to the vet?

Never, right?

So when you have a stressed out cat at the vet getting a blood draw, or worse yet, an 8-hour blood glucose curve, don’t you think that’s stressful for them?

Of course it is! So what do you think will happen to your diabetic cat’s blood glucose reading when she is stressed out? There is a very real thing called “vet stress”. There have been times that Penny was at the vet and her reading was around 160 because she hated the vet and hated blood draws. I would test her JUST before we left for the vet, at home under “normal” conditions, and it would be anywhere from 60-90. And when you have a vet making insulin dosing decisions based on those falsely elevated numbers taken at the vet, the result can be deadly. And I’ve seen that happen time and time again with the members of the Feline Diabetes group.

Fructosamine tests are kind of like A1c tests in humans. They only show averages to see how well the insulin is managing the diabetes. They will NOT give you data at shot time to know whether or not it’s safe to administer insulin to your cat. They will NOT tell you mid-cycle that your cat is too low and needs Karo or high carb wet food ASAP to steer them out of low numbers. Which is the MAIN reason why we test our cats! And I had been there PLENTY of times with Penny!

#4. “Home testing is too stressful for my cat! They will hate me and hide from me forever!” and any and all variations thereof.

I thought so too. But I knew we were facing life or death here. Penny was only 5 years old when she was diagnosed and too young for me to give up on her. So I watched countless YouTube videos of nice, agreeable cats sitting there like little angels while their pet parents poked and prodded their ears for blood.

THEN there’s Penny! She’s HARDLY agreeable! This is what REAL LIFE looks like…

 

My beautiful, dear sweet Penny who I couldn’t even brush without getting swatted at or a warning nip. She was the cat that the vet techs had to wear those rubber gloves up to their armpits just to handle her. The boss lady who ALWAYS had to be in charge! And I thought, “How in the world am I gonna poke her ears??”

Bribery.

Penny was a foodie. And I mean she would walk over hot coals for something she loved to eat, such as raw chicken breast. So, do you know what I did? I TRAINED her. I trained her to associate positive things with the experience. Feline Diabetes-How I Conditioned my Diabetic Cat to Home Test.

This write-up by my friend Kay also helped! Ear Testing Psychology.

It worked so well that when my diabetic dad was dying, I used her old meter to test his blood sugar. When she heard the beep of the meter, she came running from across the house and clobbered all over my poor, sick father because she thought there was raw chicken in it for HER. I kid you NOT! I used to test her after my workout, about 2pm most days. She would STALK me while I worked out, just WAITING for me to test her so that she could get her raw chicken.

Doesn’t sound too stressful, right?

Me working out with Penny rolling around on the floor.
Penny impatiently waiting for me to finish up Turbo Fire so she can get tested and have her chicken snack!

#5: “Testing the Edge of the Ear Will Cause Cancer”

Did YOU or someone you know EVER get ear cancer from having your ears pierced?

No?

I didn’t think so.

#6: “Kitties don’t like their ears being messed with!” or any other variation thereof.

I’m pretty sure kitties don’t like to be dead, either. Again, BRIBERY works wonders!

#7: “A slow acting insulin (ie Lantus or Levemir) won’t cause hypo’s.”

While Lantus and Levemir are longer acting insulins than Pro-Zinc and much safer for cats than Vetsulin/Caninsulin or Novolin, it’s still insulin and too much of ANY insulin can and will kill.

#8: “My vet told me to just watch for symptoms of a hypo.”

Okay, are you home all day with your kitty, always watching her? Are you up all night with your kitty?

Furthermore, I’ve seen countless people whose cats’ blood glucose levels drop dangerously low and they have shown NO symptoms. They would have never figured it out until it was “too late”. This has happened MANY times with Penny, as well! I’ve probably steered her out of potential hypoglycemia at least 30 times when she was heading full speed toward her second remission. And she never once showed any symptoms of low blood glucose.

#9. “It will ruin my bond with my beloved kitty!”

Robyn and Penny selfie
Penny and me taking selfies-2014

Au contraire, it will only STRENGTHEN your bond with kitty. When they told me this, I thought they were full of shit. But they were RIGHT. Although I only had Penny in my life for a short 5 1/2 years (she was 3 1/2 when I adopted her), I had a bond with her like no other being on this Earth. Between her diabetes and her kidney disease, it only strengthened over the years. Believe it.

#10: “I don’t want to hurt my kitty!”

So you’d rather kill her? Maybe I’m being flip, but, that’s always my first thought when I hear this one. Penny never once yelped or snapped when I poked her. The part she hated the most is when I held the rice sock up to her ear to warm it. Not because it was too hot; she just didn’t like me holding that thing up to her ear! I used the One Touch Delica lancing device, which seemed to be much more effective and gentle than the generic one that came with my meter. But I never hurt her. She would get a little sore when I had to test her often to steer her out of low numbers using high-carb food, but I didn’t hurt her. As long as she got her chicken afterwards, all was right in Penny’s world!

#11: Simply, “My vet told me not to!”

Vets are lifesavers. I know many vets who I respect greatly. I couldn’t do their job. However, they are not ALWAYS right. Nobody is! If they give you a reason not listed on this post, I’d love to hear it in the comments! I cannot think of ONE good reason why not to home test. And MANY good reasons why it’s SO, SO important!

BOTTOM LINE

Here it is. Would you administer insulin to yourself without knowing if it was safe to do so? Would you administer insulin to your diabetic child without knowing if it is safe to do so?

No?

Then please don’t for your cat, either!

My friend Darcy brought up an excellent point when I was looking for feedback from Feline Diabetes members on Facebook…

When Lebowski was diagnosed, I remember SO clearly…The vet came from the back and said “I’m so sorry, he has diabetes . . . ” Then SHE had the look on her face as if she’d just told me he was riddled with cancer.

I looked at her and said “Huh, well THAT sucks. Okay, what now?”

Then she smiled as I obviously was going to take this well. But I’ve never forgotten HER reaction. I almost wish that she’d have said “Okay, he has diabetes, this is NO biggie and it is totally manageable!” But that wasn’t what I got. I don’t think she knows how much HER delivery could possibly affect how clients see it.”

I know how I felt and I reacted when we got the diagnosis. The vet may as well have told me that she was going to die any minute. It’s scary and overwhelming! But, when I joined these groups and started to learn, it really all became just a regular part of our day and an intrinsic part of my thinking. When Checky was sick and was being tested for this and that and the other, I remember WISHING it was Feline Diabetes because it’s SUCH a manageable disease and remission is very possible with the right treatment and food!

Also, there are cost-effective ways to manage Feline Diabetes. I will share my tips and tricks in separate post. You can also join the Facebook page that I linked to above or join FDMB (link above). You can also like OUR Facebook page and shoot me a private message there or comment here!

Please heed the warnings of experienced people who live, eat and breathe this disease day in and day out! We see the tragic stories every day. Some of us have lost our babies to insulin shock. And people like me have learned from their mistakes to keep our cats safe! I thank God every day for people like Susan who shared her and Baxter’s journey so freely to save other cats from the same fate. Penny and I are forever indebted to Susan and Baxter and ALL of our Feline Diabetes friends!

Special Note: IF you feel that diabetes is too much of a burden to bear or you just don’t have time to treat your cat safely, PLEASE try to re-home her with somebody who you KNOW will give her the care she needs. And if you don’t know anybody, please contact an organization that works tirelessly to help diabetic cats, Diabetic Cats in Need. They also help people who want to  treat their diabetic cat but do not have the funds to do it.

 

Robyn and Penny gazing off in the distance while cuddling
Like Mommy Kitten, like daughter!

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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.

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. Learn more about Adequan here: Heartland Veterinary Supply – Pet Supplies, Vet Supplies, Horse Supplies at Discount Pricing and search “Adequan-Canine”. This is also where I found the best pricing. You can have your vet fax a prescription directly to them.

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…

 

For almost 21 months after a Stage 4 feline kidney disease diagnosis, Penny lived a STELLAR quality of life. You would never even know she was sick if you didn’t see her blood work or look in her litter box. But on November 15, 2017, Penny lost her battle. The kidney disease won.

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 just live her life, her kidneys were shutting down and the rest of her little body was following.

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.

Rest in Paradise, my Precious Pup.

PENELOPE WILSON

8/8/08 – 11/15/17

 

 

Penny’s Journey to Her First Remission from Feline Diabetes

 

Pennys BGs after switching to Lev

FINALLY we were seeing the food changes and insulin take effect!

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.

The second thing I learned is that there is more effective and SAFER insulin for cats in the US & Canada than Vetsulin.

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.

So 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.

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!

Penny working out with me Nov 2013

Penny “working out” with me! You see who’s getting all of the exercise, right?

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.

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.

How I Conditioned My Cat for Home Blood Glucose Testing

Home Testing a Diabetic Cat’s 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.

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.

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.

AND HOW!

Lantus can also make SOME cats, but not many, just a little crazy. Apparently, Penny likes to be the exception and not the rule!

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! lol

Obviously, Levemir is “the” insulin for Penny because within a month of switching to Levemir, Penny’s OTJ Trial had begun!

“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!

Penny and Weeny Oct 2013

Penny & Weeny a couple of days after Penny went into diabetic remission!

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!

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

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.

Our Introduction to Feline Diabetes

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Penny, 2014, in all her scruffy splendor!

One of the main reasons why I decided to start this blog was to help raise awareness about Feline Diabetes. Because I hear people talking about how they feed their cats potato chips and ice cream. And if I see ONE MORE video of a cat eating something completely species-inappropriate and carb-laden on Facebook, I’m going to gouge my eyeballs out. Because I’m SICK of seeing Diabetic Cats in Need pulling yet another diabetic cat from a kill shelter at the LAST HOUR because an owner fed their cat high-carb dry food, maybe even made the cat obese, and then dumped that poor baby off at the shelter…or worse yet, euthanized them on diagnosis because feline diabetes is “too hard” or too expensive for a pet parent to handle.

As I sit and type with “Smelly Penelly” cleaning herself next to me right now, she is in her 15TH MONTH of her SECOND remission. Her blood glucose reading yesterday, WITHOUT insulin, was 58 about an hour post-meal. Which is an excellent number for a diet-controlled diabetic cat. “Diet-controlled” meaning that with the right low-carb food, her blood glucose is able to stay in the “normal” range without insulin. Penny currently eats Young Again Zero (Carb) Mature Health and Fancy Feast Classics Pate wet food.

I’m not sure WHERE I’m going with this post yet, but this will likely be the beginning of an entire category on this blog with Penny’s journey with both feline diabetes and feline chronic kidney disease, with a little bit of spinal arthritis and dental issues thrown in for fun.

I remember when I first adopted Penny from Jersey State Animal Rescue on May 2, 2012. And the director told me to buy one of two different types of food. One was an internet-only food that for the life of me I cannot remember the name of, and the other was Solid Gold Indigo Moon. Solid Gold was one of those “premium” pet foods and back in 2012 it was relatively low-carb for a cat kibble. They have since changed the formula and it’s much higher in carbs now. And I remember thinking, because I know some things about HUMAN nutrition, “but cats needs carbs for energy!” So I added in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul adult dry food and mixed the two. And she also got four wet mini meals throughout the day.

Getting that high-carb Chicken Soup food was a BIG BIG mistake…

Summer of 2013, I KNEW well before I took her to the vet and she was diagnosed. I come from a LONG line of diabetics, including my dad, and knew what the symptoms were because they are about the same in cats. Frequent urination, incessantly thirsty, constantly hungry. She hadn’t experienced weight loss yet but I acted somewhat quickly once I could no longer justify why I was seeing LAKES in their litter boxes.

On September 5, 2013, with an in-office blood glucose reading of 516 (normal is 50-150 depending on the meter), Penny was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes. And at the time, DEVASTATED was NOT even CLOSE to describing how we felt at the vet’s office. I knew a little about the treatment of Feline Diabetes because I had come across the Feline Diabetes Message Board online a couple of years earlier when I researching constipation issues for my late cat, Tabby.

And I didn’t want to put Penny through getting needles twice per day, home testing her blood glucose, glucose curves and all this other stuff that seemed just SO complicated at the time and I remember thinking, “That is NO quality of life for cats!”

Until I was faced with her diagnosis when she was only FIVE years old and knowing full well it was either treat or put to sleep. I remember freaking out, bawling, and telling the vet that I didn’t have time for home testing and all that jazz and how was I gonna give her insulin injections when she was so difficult to handle that I couldn’t even brush her?

Pennys BG 10.3.13

The very first day that I managed to get Penny’s blood glucose down below “renal threshold”…which is a very good thing!!

He assured me that I could successfully give her injections while she was eating, had a vet tech come in to show me how and let me do a practice shot with an insulin syringe full of water. He told me that home testing was not necessary and that we could bring her back in for a fructosamine test (think kind of like a human H A1c test) in about a week and he would adjust her insulin from there. He didn’t think a dietary change was a good idea until we had gotten her insulin requirement down pat and got her blood glucose in a safer range. (Which, was some very bad advice. by the way. If you get the insulin requirement right and then do a food change to low-carb WITHOUT home testing, you may lose your cat to insulin shock. NEVER, EVER change food to a lower carb food for a diabetic cat on insulin without home testing!)

I must say at this point that I did ask him how often they’ve had cats go into insulin shock or hypoglycemia and he did allow that it HAS happened to patients of their practice before and that it was often enough that I was NOT comfortable with his answer.

He gave me a rather affordable insulin called Vetsulin, some syringes to go with it, and assured me that we could do this.

Now, before I go further, I will say that all of the above is NOT how I got her into remission and was NOT how I got her into remission SAFELY. More on what I DID do to come! But it was enough at the time that I didn’t feel as hopeless and thought that MAYYYYBE we could handle this.

We got home that night and I figured I’d TRY to get that insulin shot into her. I didn’t want to give her the shot while she was eating and ruin her meal time. I should mention that at this point I had NEVER given a cat an injection before, or ANYBODY, for that matter. And I was a SHAKING, nervous wreck!

So, that night, I spent a half hour chasing her around with a loaded insulin needle, grabbing her, torturing her, and making her go hide from me. I had broken the trust that took me 18 months of being her mommy to establish to begin with. And I was a freaking WRECK. I remember flipping out and going outside while yelling that we were just going to have to put her to sleep then.

And I was HEARTBROKEN.

The next morning, I tried again while she was eating her breakfast. And I was PRETTY SURE I got the insulin IN her! She’s a Maine Coon, after all, and when you’re inexperienced and she has ALL that LOOONG hair, there’s the possibility for error.

But then something happened. She was lethargic ALL DAY. Slept in the top of the cat condo and was OUT of it. She did get up to eat when it was meal time but then would go crap RIGHT back out. I hadn’t made any food changes yet, so she was eating higher carb foods.

Knowing what I know now, I’m willing to bet everything I’ve ever worked for that she had a mild hypoglycemic episode. And because she was still on high-carb kibble and low-carb wet food, it’s probably what saved her life that day.

BECAUSE I BLINDLY SHOT INSULIN WITHOUT HOME TESTING OR EVEN KNOWING HOW TO HOME TEST HER FIRST.

So, for the rest of that weekend, I did not give her more insulin. And I spent the ENTIRE weekend, except for sleeping, GLUED to the computer learning EVERYTHING I could. I joined the message board and corresponding Facebook group. They gave me a shopping list, told me the best insulin to use, assured me that I COULD home test and that it would be no big deal once we got used to it.

I read the stories. One I will share with you in a future post from my friend Susan, who’s cat DID, in fact, “hypo” (meaning went into insulin shock) and was never the same again. His name was Baxter. And even though Baxter lived clear across the country, I love that cat. Because his story saved Penny’s life. He will forever have a place in my heart!

Baxter learning how to walk again

My friend Susan’s cat, Baxter, learning how to walk again as he started to recover from insulin shock.

I will also share with you what we did, how we did it, how I trained her for all of this so that it was no big deal and even trained her to look forward to testing her blood glucose with a little bit of bribery!

I really felt like it was the end of the world when Penny was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes. I didn’t know HOW I was going to handle it all. I was so freaking overwhelmed that first week or so that I had the case of the “F@#K it…she’s going to die!” MANY times. I woke up in the morning and my heart would SINK when I realized that this wasn’t just a nightmare. This was our life now.

And I HAD to fight for her. I couldn’t look into those big, round green eyes and let her down. The rescue allowed me to adopt her because they KNEW I would do right by her. NO FREAKING WAY could I let Penny down.

penny-otj-may-26-16-2

Penny the day she achieved her second remission from diabetes. OTJ means “off the juice” or off insulin. She was NOT letting me stick her party hat on her head! lol

And that’s what got me through in the beginning.

I can honestly say, just about four years later, that all the stuff we had to learn to do…the testing, the shots, “tight regulation”, remission, relapse, remission again, blood glucose curves…all the stuff that I didn’t even understand at first…is just now an intrinsic part of my thinking and just the routine of the day. I can do this stuff without even thinking about it now!

And so can Penny!

My hope is that my posts about Penny’s journey with diabetes will keep another diabetic cat from being dumped off at a shelter. My hope is that Baxter’s story will keep another diabetic cat from going into insulin shock. If we help just ONE cat with our stories, our job is WELL DONE!

Stay tuned!

And please SHARE if you know anybody who has a diabetic cat! Please encourage them to get in touch with me on this blog or on our Facebook “like” page. I will be MORE than willing to help them help their furkid!

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

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 or Any Other Condition-Beware of Bad Advice from Unexperienced and Unqualified Crackpots

Penny OTJ blood reading may 2016

Penny and her blood glucose reading that marked her “official” second remission from Feline Diabetes on May 23, 2016!

This is a rant. Some of you who know me on Facebook know that I when I feel STRONGLY about something, I RANT. Meet Jersey Robyn… lol

Today is the start of Daylight Savings Time and one of my Facebook friends, who has five diabetic cats, was posting that she was all confused from the time change. When you have a diabetic cat who gets insulin injections twice per day, 12 hours apart, time changes can get confusing.

It can give a diabetic pet parent a REAL headache.

(To learn more about our experience with Feline Diabetes, read here…Penny’s Journey to Her First Remission from Feline Diabetes )

So somebody chimes in on her thread that he has a “solution” for cat diabetes and attaches a link for some herbal supplement company.

The supplements are marketed to humans.

So I IMMEDIATELY jumped all over this guy and hijacked my friend’s thread. Because there is no such thing that has been clinically proven to “solve” Feline Diabetes. I’m very well entrenched in the Feline Diabetes community and stay very up to date. If there was some miracle herb out there to “solve” it (yes…notice the snotty quotation marks), I would KNOW about it.

I asked him where the clinical trials were or what his qualifications were.

His response? “u have no idea, REALLY, how this stuff works. I took their turmeric cucomin for several days and was able to stop taking morphine after 14 yrs. they have their own way to push into the bloodstream which makes it immediate, and i will bet one of the 31 disaease it cures is cat diabetes, cause it works on humans.”

Yes, I even kept his typos in…lol

So THIS is what qualifies him to offer a “SOLUTION” to Feline Diabetes??!! That he’s “WILLING TO BET” it would cure cat diabetes because of his own experience with a COMPLETELY UNRELATED CONDITION??!!

So I asked again about clinical trials specific to cats with Feline Diabetes.

And he replied by yelling at me to check with the company. Like, Facebook yelling. You know, like TYPING IN ALL CAPS!!

This concerns me because what if I didn’t know any better and withheld much-needed medical treatment, PROVEN treatment, for my diabetic cat because I didn’t know any better based on this guy’s “solution”?

Because when Penny was first diagnosed, and I was BESIDE myself wondering how the hell I was gonna give my, ah, “diva” insulin injections twice per day without ending up in the hospital myself, I may have been willing to try this “miracle cure” out of fear and overwhelm!

Let me be clear. If there is a natural solution out there to put a BIG ASS dent in Big Pharma’s pockets, I’m ALL OVER IT. Some of my OWN medical conditions have been solved by natural products and super foods. I’m not debating the efficacy of natural vs Big Pharma and the medical community.

And you will find after getting to know me and as I delve into the wonderful world of Feline Diabetes, Feline Chronic Kidney Disease, Fatty Liver disease, and a few other things on this blog, that I always STRONGLY recommend that you do your research and talk to lay people, when possible, rather than blindly listening to a vet’s advice.

Because bad advice from several vets, and one vet office who accidentally dispensed a medication that Penny shouldn’t have had, would have killed Penny YEARS ago if I wasn’t smart enough to do my own research and talk to lay people who have BEEN there! And even then, I took their recommendations to my vet and discussed with him before starting ANY treatment regimen.

But, WORSE advice from some person on Facebook who doesn’t have the first shittin’ clue what he’s talking about is even MORE DANGEROUS!

And, my promise is that you will ALWAYS see a medical disclaimer on the bottom of any post where I discuss any treatments for my cats and their various ailments! Because I am responsible and not a know-it-all.

Feline Diabetes is a complex disease with several potential different causes. We will get into what I’ve done with MY cat to get her into remission not once, but twice, in future posts.

But I cannot even possibly stress in text, so imagine me standing from a rooftop of a high rise with a megaphone with my LOUD Italian voice, screaming at the top of my lungs…

PLEASE DO NOT BLINDLY  TAKE ADVICE FROM SOME DUDE (OR DUDETTE) ON FACEBOOK WHEN TREATING ANY DISEASE OR CONDITION THAT YOUR CAT HAS!! Or from any company or network marketing distributor. Especially a network marketing distributor who is not otherwise qualified to give medical or veterinary advice! (I’m in the field and I can say this! lol) ALWAYS check with your vet and do your research before starting any medications, supplements, or treatment regimens!

Penny christmas 2016

Penny enjoying her new bed Santa brought her for Christmas.

Our babies’ lives DEPEND on us! They are our kids, after all!

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.

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!

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

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.

A Day in the Life of a Cat Servant

 

servant-to-rascal

Serving Rascal treats on a Silver Platter.

I can relate.

How is it that I have LESS personal time NOW than I did when I was married with joint custody of two step kids, two cats, and managed a staff of 25 at Commerce Bank?

Oh, that’s right…I have a hell of a lot more than two cats now.

And it’s a good thing I work from home. Or, rather, I get brief “power hours” to squeeze in work in between cat servantry.

Here’s what a typical day at the Penny & The Kits Compound looks like!

I cannot sleep in. Although my cats “let” me to a point, if I’m not up by 7am, Patchy comes to “visit”. And my eyes will peep open. And I roll over to go back to sleep but I think of the STARVING orphans outside whose food was stolen overnight by the Creatures of the Night that GUILT prevents me from snoozing for more than a few minutes.

So I get up, and after explaining to Penny, who is a social eater so will starve all night rather than eat when I’m not sitting RIGHT there next to her, that I have to “pee like a racehorse”, I do my business and then go sit on the floor next to her so that she can eat her crunchies.

servant-to-penny2

This is my view every morning while impatiently longing for the coffee that just brewed.

After she’s done, I am now “allowed” to pour myself a cup of coffee.

But…

Oh wait! Princess Penny wants water out of the bathtub now! Even though she has a ceramic cat fountain and five, yes count them, FIVE, other water bowls in the house, she MUST have bathtub water! And because she’s stage 4 kidney disease, she pretty much gets what she wants.

Then I finish preparing my cup of coffee. And I start to prep the food to take outside to the feral cats.

But…

Oh wait! Penny wants crunchies again! Because she can only eat four pieces at a time! She convinces me that “grazing” is good for weight management. Which is why she’s STILL slightly overweight despite being stage 4 kidney disease!

After greeting the other indoor kits, and making sure Penny is squared away with food and water to “hold her over” till breakfast, I make a quick escape outside as soon as little Bossy Poo isn’t paying attention.

And I’m greeted by Trouble, Oreo, Fluffy, Big Orange, Domino, and Blacky, the neighbor’s outdoor cat, waiting outside with hungry eyes, while Shadow lurks at the back of the yard, patiently waiting for his meal.

After tripping over Trouble zig-zagging between my feet for the 25′ walk from my back steps to the shed door, I finally make it in there in one piece and silently thank Tony Horton for incredible balance from doing P90X Yoga.

I prepare their food. Then I take care of Orange, the feeding station at the back of my yard for the more shy ferals, and back to the shed to syringe Trouble his L-Lysine supplement in a tasty base of Fancy Feast broths. Which are NOT cheap. But he enjoys it and I do realize a feral cat is ALLOWING me to squirt medicine in his mouth via syringe, after all!

I finally get back inside to the Indoor Masters…after spending a half hour with the Outdoor Masters because Miss Fluffy is ALSO a social eater so I must stand out in that shed regardless of the weather so that she can finish eating…MUST cuddle Oreo exactly 2 1/2 minutes and I’d BETTER have some treats for him…and change the water bowl in the shed since the raccoons like to use their water bowl as a dipping bowl overnight.

me-n-fluffy-selfie

Feeding Her Magestette ON her heating pad so she doesn’t have to eat on the cold floor.

So, now to feed the Innies their wet food. Which means watering down Penny’s food and sprinkling the kits’ wet food with freeze dried raw or else they won’t eat it. And they will look at me with sad, sad, sappy eyes if I don’t feed them EXACTLY what they want the way they want it!

Once they are finally done, I am now allowed to wash their food bowls and prepare Penny’s AM blood pressure pill and supplements for her kidney disease. Which means MORE Fancy Feast broth (yes, I realize I should buy stocks in Purina) as a treat after her pill because that is the ONLY way Penny will allow me to shove a pill down her throat!

Oh, and Penny wants more crunchies again!

After she is done with me for the moment, I must prepare “cheesy snacks”. Which is actually Mischief’s Prozac (more on that to come) wrapped in the cheese so that pilling Mischief is a TREAT and not a tragedy…for ME, that is. Once he gets his cheesy snacks and I give Penny extra cheese off my fingers because she has been in her ‘last days’ for the past 17 months and I will do whatever she wants, I go outside to change the rest of the water bowls for the ferals, give out more free treats (in case anybody is wondering why I have the fattest feral cats in town), cuddle Oreo and Trouble some more and I MUST sing to Fluffy or else she will not let me leave without taking a chunk out of my ankles.

So, finally, after coming inside to scoop the litter boxes…

But, wait! Patchy wants to cuddle, climb me like a jungle gym and lick my pants first!

So, after REALLY FINALLY scooping the litter boxes, I have to weigh Penny and see if it’s okay to give her sub q fluids (again, the kidney disease), warm her fluids, change the five water bowls throughout the house, top off the five crunchy bowls throughout the house, and THEN, after singing The Penelope Song to Penny while she gets her fluids, the next couple of hours are mine.

Unless Spunky, Rascal or Mischief want to help me work out. Or if it’s the day I have to test Penny’s blood glucose (more on her diabetes and remission to come…). But only AFTER Rascal sits in my lap for 5-10 minutes while I sing to HIM. And I must be careful not to scare Mischief while I’m exercising since he likes to sit on my bed and watch. Which means not jumping too much and OMG NO I CANNOT drop the weights!

I get a little time to feed myself and work…

So, it’s now 4-5pm and it’s time for their next wet meal! I don’t overfeed my cats. They get several mini-meals throughout the day to keep Penny’s blood glucose levels stable even though she is currently in remission from her diabetes. But, God forbid I feed Penny and NOT feed the others! So mini-meals it is!

Then it’s BACK OUTSIDE to the feral cats for their evening meal. Which they hardly eat anything because they had been free-fed all day, but since the Creatures of the Night will come steal their food overnight, I must make sure. And NO MATTER THE WEATHER, I must play with Trouble and Fluffy (and sometimes Orange). Although, he’s SOL if there’s lightning around.

Then it’s back inside to REALLY bang out some work for two hours. But ONLY AFTER Penny has some crunchies again…and then I MUST sit on the couch in the living room on my laptop to work so that Penny can take a nap next to me. And if I don’t, you ask?

She will take one of her fuzzy balls in her mouth and wander around the house howling loudly until I do what she wants me to do.

In the evening, when I’m done my “to do” list for work, I SNEAK into the shower while all the cats are passed out…but if they CATCH me, I have to distract them with toys so I can lock myself into the bathroom and shower, unsupervised.

Then it’s time for more Fancy Feast broth and Penny’s Pepcid (kidney disease). Which she BEGS for because the broths are “forbidden food”.

8pm meal time is usually pretty quick because by now, they are ready for evening play time. And if I have more work to do, or just tired or, God forbid, sick, it doesn’t matter. They will hover UNDER FOOT while I’m scooping their litter boxes once more until they ALL get some interactive play time with Mommy, and sometimes Grandmom. Even though they have EACH OTHER to play with! And even though they often blatantly YAWN in my face or Mom’s face while we knock ourselves out to entertain them!

Then, and only then, after they are spent, I’m “allowed” to eat. Although, Penny usually wants water or crunchies or attention JUST when I’m fixin’ to sit down to eat. Hence the quote at the beginning of this post.

Bedtime is time for Penny to have one more wet meal (again, the kidney disease…I will get into her regimen). After I hook Penny up with some tuna water and prepare her Snuggie next to my bed, and if Penny is not in one of her attention-hogging moods, I’m allowed to settle down and do some reading or watch “The King of Queens” before retiring for the night.

I doze off while listening to Rascal run around for NO GOOD reason chatting it up, hoping to get one of the girls to play with him.

Or Spunky chirping and giggling and squeaking while she tries in vain to drag her favorite wand toy up the basement steps. Or…

Oh! Gotta go! I’m LATE for Penny’s pill and she’s practically doing cartwheels at my feet to get my attention! I’d better snap to it!

Spunky holding my lap hostage before bed.

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

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.