Monday, March 2, 2015

Why you would want to learn to home test your cat

One of the major reasons diabetic cats lose their lives is because people find treating diabetes so incredibly intimidating. I would like to take a few minutes to try to explain to you why it isn't, and why it is such a great live skill to have.  If you can home test a cat's blood sugar levels you will have one incredibly useful skill. One that could and easily can save a life. A life like Abby.

A lot of people when faced with the idea of home testing, they are introduced to it by a vet who wants to sell their client a pet glucometer. These glucometers are generally very expensive and you have to go back to the vet to buy even more expensive strips for the meter.  Since you normally want to test your cat twice a day when giving insulin (once before each shot) and occasionally you will want to do 'curves' - where you test ever two hours between the two shots - so you can see how quickly you will go through strips.

There are many inexpensive glucometers at your local megamart. I tend towards the Relion brand sold at Walmart, because that is what is sold near me. The last time I talked about this meter a very kind reader, Jamie Kowatch, offered to send me an Accucheck meter to see if the issues I was having with Abby's numbers was the meter or not. Each meter has it's own quirks and personality, so if you are going to use more than one meter it is helpful if you get a few 'duplicate tests' (a test on each meter) to see where it falls. Meters in the US are regulated by the FDA to an accuracy of has set accuracy criteria to ±20 mg/dl for levels less than 100 mg/dl or ±20% for glucose levels greater than 100mg/dl for at least 95% of results.  If this is good enough for people, it is good enough for cats.

Three different human glucometers
lancets - for poking the ear and making it bleed
Now I will fully admit that the learning curve for treating feline diabetes is pretty steep - but it is very short. We are all taught that blood needs to remain on the inside, and if it isn't it is a problem, so going about with the intention of making your beloved kitty bleed is a hard one to get over. Remember two things, that by doing this you will be contributing to the long term good health of your cat and two, your cat will most likely only be bothered if YOU are bothered.

The general recommendation for giving insulin is to start low and go slow.  A lot of vets will prescribe multiple units of insulin to start your cat off, but it is always best to start off giving one unit. Your cat is far better off with too high blood sugars for long periods of time then going too low even for a moment. Doing a curve will help you understand how that unit of insulin is working in your cat and what the lowest point in your cat's blood sugar is  - usually six hours after giving insulin if you are using a 12 hour insulin. Now you can do 'spot checks' to see where your cat falls throughout the day. This will help you catch any problems such as going too low or not going low enough.

I'm sure all of this seems incredibly time consuming and not something you can do, but trust me it isn't and you can.  I recorded a video of my testing Abby twice. The first time I didn't angle the camera down enough so you don't get a full view of what I'm doing, but I am sharing it here to show you how little time testing takes.

I have found, after testing almost a dozen cats, that the cats do not mind being pricked in the ear with the lancet nearly as much as they dislike having their ears held. I have found using a tissue behind the ear makes it easier for me because I am less fearful that I am about to poke myself through the cat's ear. Cats generally are not a fan of the feel of the blood pooling up on their ear and will want to shake their head to get rid of it. This is another reason why I like using a tissue, because as soon as I have done the test I can use the tissue to staunch the flow of the blood. Some people like to warm the cat's ear prior to testing with a baby sock filled with rice microwaved until warm to help increase blood flow to the ear.

I have used my knowledge on how test the blood sugar to not only treat diabetics, but I used this on my own non-diabetic cats when I wondered if they weren't feeling well or if I was over reacting. High blood glucose levels often accompany illness because of stress. I was very glad to know how to do it.

No one ever wants their cat to have diabetes, but most people who have ended up with one report that it really strengthens the bond they have with their sugar kitties. It is a rare person who is willing to take on a cat with diabetes, mostly because they do not understand how little it takes to save their lives.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Former Foster February ends with Isaac Arnold and Smedley

We are going to close out the fabulous former foster friday February with my favorite kitties. Not that I don't love them all, but I think you all know what a special place in my heart these two have. Anne adopted these two and has been kind enough to allow me to continue glimpses into their lives. To be honest, I still kinda regret not keeping them, but I still know that would not have been a good thing (Jack is currently sitting on my lap attempting to lick my nose proving my point). Now this by no means is the last former foster post until next february.. so if anyone has one of my kittens, feel free to let me know how they are doing, and I will be happy to share them with the world.

Now.. without further adieu....

In October 2013, a friend shared a facebook post of Connie’s - pleading for someone to adopt two adorable devoted sweet twin kittens. I fell in love with these faces and that was that.

Well, okay, it was a bit more complicated than that.

My name is Anne and I live with my mom, Janet. We have had one cat at a time most of my life but we lost our last one about six years ago after a second bout with cancer. We were emotionally wiped out and needed a break … then life happened. We had both occasionally considered getting another cat. We had even tossed around the notion of two but the conversations never developed into commitment and we were not actually looking for new furry family. Then I saw Connie’s post. And her next post. And the next one. And, finally, the threat that they would be taken back to the shelter and possibly split. She kept describing these two as really special and cuddly and soft and just about everything I had on my bullet list for my personal perfect cats. I couldn’t take it and after much talking, many tears, a lot of panic about the state of the house, evaluating finances and my own ability to commit to beings that would very likely have to be accommodated through big life changes over the next decades … we said YES!!

Now about a year and a half old, they have definitely developed their personalities. Isaac Arnold is a gentle soul. He is very cautious about exploring and hangs back to let Smedley go first. He loves “Being With” us - especially with “his mommy”, Janet. He curls up on the side of her desk and lays his head on her hand. (He’s our chin skritches boy. And he is So Soft - almost too soft to feel.) Or, he will come find a spot near us while we are in another room. He generally likes harder surfaces, or at least ones with a lot of support. He cracks us up and we call him the flounder … he lies with his back legs splayed out and gets very flat.

He also is the one that likes to curl up tightly in a protected spot … preferably as small as he can squash himself into! He has found some interesting spots including our aloe plant. But, he always looks very comfy. He takes a while to be interested in playing (as I said, he is cautious) but once he does he is an amazing jumper and will tenaciously protect his toys. He is decidedly a stuffed-mouse-on-a-stick kinda guy. But any toy or red light dot is fair game!

Smedey is our “take no prisoners, barge right in and figure out where you are later” boy. He is into everything and vocal about it. He’s also very very sweet and incredibly affectionate. I am “Smedley’s mommy”. He and I have an almost daily routine of a “Full Smedley” involving him perching on my chest with lots of face buffing, licking, nipping, kneading, writhing, purring, meowing, and just plain cuddling. We both throw ourselves into it and I can’t get enough. Every once in a while Smed will let mom have this experience and every once in a while I can have snuggles with Isaac Arnold but for the most part we are paired up. Last summer I had heart surgery and the big sweetie found ever adaptive ways to manage to cuddle around my incision, contorting himself around a pillow and on my shoulder and my head and everything he could concoct to snuggle. Isaac was the model of decorum on my lap.

Smedley is a sprawler and a big belly rub boy. He usually sticks a leg or two over the edge of his lounging spot and he will turn and bend and grab your hands with his front paws to ensure the required belly rub coverage (full face-to-belly nuzzling also encouraged!) Smed loves feathers. Give him feathers on a string or a stick and he goes nuts. They both still play with the feather toys Connie gifted to them but Smed tends to get wacko about them!

Smedley is an intrepid adventurer. He was the first to jump up on counters, he is always on the front lines of poking through newly opened doors. He noses right in to check out food. He was the one to figure out how to open our kitchen cabinetry and more than once I have discovered that he has peeled off the (now needed) duct tape and has his fuzzy butt sticking up out of our garbage can!

The two of them are an amazing duo. They are so spectacularly twins and Shenanigators (instigators of shenanigans). They still play together, run around together, lick each other, tussle, mirror each other at the window, manage to open our kitchen cabinets and drawers and are generally just a delight to share our lives with. It would have been nice, though, if they would have actually caught the mouse in the bread drawer instead of just waiting for it to come back!

They are both doing well health wise. When they came home, they had both had a long struggle with digestive problems and diarrhea and were having a tough time shifting to canned food. Unfortunately, we don’t have a good local place to get commercially prepared raw food. Adoption day was the day after Thanksgiving. The first couple of months we were scrambling to get the house ready for them to expand into, to play holiday hosts and taking part in our church’s holiday events. At that point we were basically feeding them from the meat counter. (They continue their love of chicken hearts!) With time their systems got much stronger. Now we are able to give them pretty much any food and they will happily chow down. Of course, if they had their way that would extend to first dibs on our meals too! They both tend to try to eat anything. Isaac Arnold has a penchant for anything bread-like or vanilla … he is especially tenacious about trying to get at pizzelles! Smedley is persistent about sneaking yogurt. Frustratingly, this doesn’t end with actual food. They have both scared us to the core and caused lifestyle changes with things they eaten. Isaac can’t be trusted around rubber bands after an Incident without lasting consequences. But at about seven months old Smedley ate … something. We don’t know what it was for sure. One morning he wasn’t able to walk up the stairs. Three trips to vet hospitals, lots of fluids, some meds and lots of tests later he was better. An ultrasound showed something solid in his colon that was clearly passed but it was never found in the stools or identified. Mom and I are SO grateful that he pulled through that unscathed.

So, they are adored. They are wonderful. They are better than fine. And, they are exactly what we needed. We fell in love and that was that. I’m pretty sure they did too.