To give your cat the best chance of success as a diabetic, it all comes down to monitoring. If you can record information in a diary, it will be invaluable to your vet when your cat goes for their regular check up.
Monitoring at home
Your cat’s weight. Just a weekly weight will be fine. See my post on how to do this at home here.
Your cat’s urine. Again, just weekly or even fortnightly or monthly will be fine unless your vet tells you differently. If your vet asks you to do this, they will give you a simple glucose strip to test it with. To find out how to collect your cat’s urine for a urine sample, see my video here.
How much your cat is drinking. This can be vital information for your vet but can be tricky if you have more than one cat or other animals at home. You will need to measure out their water in the morning from a measuring jug and pour it into their empty bowl. Then 24 hours later, measure the amount left over. Subtract the second measurement from the first and you will know how much they’ve had to drink over the last 24 hours.
How much your cat is eating. This is important in terms of appetite – are they losing their appetite or is it normal? Also note if there has been any vomiting or diarrhoea. This will all be helpful to your vet.
There is also a newer technology called FreeStyle Libre sensors. This allows for blood glucose readings to be taken at home. It’s a human product but many cats will tolerate the sensor. The cat’s owner downloads an app and scans the sensor to get a reading. This gives really accurate information as it’s done at home so stress doesn’t interfere with the blood sugar levels as it would in a vet hospital situation. Speak to your vet about whether this is an option for your cat.
Monitoring at the Vet
Your vet will want to take blood tests from your cat on a fairly regular basis. In the early stages of treatment, or following any dose changes, this may require fortnightly visits to your vet, possibly with a day in hospital for your cat to be assessed throughout the day – this is called a “blood glucose curve”. The vet will take a small sample of your cat’s blood every 1-2 hours throughout the day and see how the blood glucose level sits at these intervals. If you were to pinpoint this data on a line graph, it would show a ‘curve’ hence the name.
If your cat is stable and has been for some time, your vet may do a blood test called a ‘Fructosamine’. This doesn’t require a stay in hospital and is normally done during a consultation. This blood test shows more of a historical indication of how the blood glucose levels have been over the previous weeks and indicates whether any adjustments are needed.
Signs of a life-threatening hypoglycaemic episode
There is always risk when giving insulin that your cat may have a hypoglycaemic episode. This is a life-threatening condition and needs immediate emergency treatment at your nearest vet so it’s important to know the signs to look for.
Hypoglycaemic episodes are more likely to occur when increasing an insulin dose for the first time or if your cat has lost their appetite and isn’t eating well. The signs of hypoglycaemia are weakness, disorientation, walking like they are drunk, they may collapse and this can progress to seizures. It is frightening for a pet owner to witness their beloved cat going through this so it’s important to be aware of these signs so you can take early action.
Contact your vets or your nearest emergency vet immediately and then, before bundling your cat into the car, put some glucose syrup, glucose powder or honey in their mouth. Remember, their blood sugar levels have fallen too low so you need to add sugar quickly by giving them glucose or honey. Be careful if they are seizuring – use a spoon as you may get bitten inadvertently. It is worth having glucose powder on hand at home in case this emergency were ever to occur. Once you have done this, take your cat straight to the nearest available vets.