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, 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.

18 comments:

  1. Our big white cat Fuzzy was diabetic, and I treated him successfully for nearly seven years...he died at age 19, of old age...he was so good about "being shot", even for our cat sitters. I think they associate (after a while) the whole routine with feeling better.

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  2. I'm so glad you put together this post - I wish more humans would know that having a diabetic cat isn't all THAT big of a deal, if you know what to do. And I think about Abby every day and worry about her because the pool of adopters who aren't intimidated by diabetes is so much smaller than than the pool of adopters who will take in an adult cat... which is SO much smaller than the pool of adopters who want kittens. Sigh.

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  3. This is such an important message. I wish I had known so much of this information back when Louie became diabetic. He had such a hard time of things, and I realize now that home testing and exploring other insulins would probably have helped extend his life. Thank you for sharing and getting the word out. Hopefully someone like me will hear it in time to learn more and help their kitty have a better quality of life.

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  4. Great info! We never thought we could do this, then Zoe had that problem and do it we did!

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  5. so well put....it really is never as hard as people think once they get over the initial hump. we gots our paws crossed for Miss Abby

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  6. It does seem daunting at first, but it becomes routine as the months and years go by. The problem is getting someone to do it when you are not around for a day or two.

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  7. This is a great tutorial. I would feel pretty intimidated if I had to start testing blood sugar and giving insulin, but I see how important it is. Trying to just give insulin without testing blood sugar would be a bit of a crap shoot.

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    1. nothing wrong with the idea of learning to do it BEFORE you need it.. :D

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  8. Great information! There are many cats that suffer from diabetes and this can help enormously.

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  9. Being able to monitor glucose levels is vital to management. Being able to monitor at home is awesome.

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  10. Great information, and very useful tutorial ! Purrs

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  11. I've been lucky so far - haven't had to deal with diabetes. This is such great information and a really good tutorial for anyone with a diabetic pet. It certainly sounds like a steep learning curve, but I think for the love of our pets most of us could manage monitoring at home.

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  12. Very informative! Thanks for sharing this. The mom says she hopes she never has to deal with a diabetic cat but it's good to know that it's not as scary as one may think.

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  13. I've had diabetic dogs and agree that challenge is really not there.

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  14. This is a terrific post. Feline diabetes really can seem daunting, but good, factual advice like what you've given is so helpful!

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  15. Excellent information, thanks! Diabetes is so common in cats, a home testing alternative like this is a great thing to have.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Cathy, Isis & Phoebe
    www.dogsluvusandweluvthem.blogspot.com

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  16. Thank you for showing us how to test diabetic cats! :D

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  17. Thank you for this wonderful post. When Tara was diagnosed I was given no direction on how to test at home, so I watched a YouTube video, bought a Relion meter at Walmart, and we never had an issue!

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