Feline Diabetes And Taking Care of Self

My cat was diagnosed as being diabetic last year and I’ve been giving her insulin shots and testing her blood glucose the way that one would do as a human ever since.  My life has been wrapped around this little fur ball’s numbers, tests, shots, food and careful watching and recording ever since. As a matter of fact, it’s become an obsession that strikes fear into my gut like I’m standing on top of a girder 100 ft in the air, looking down to the ground.  Let’s face it, taking care of a diabetic cat is a tough and rough road to go down. Anyone else who has had to treat and care for a diabetic pet whom they love like a family knows that our lives have been turned upside down in the blink of an eye too and, it’s not easy on any of us to have the responsibility of taking care of a much loved feline family member.

From the moment that we hear the diagnosis that our baby has diabetes, we are in shock mode. In a few short minutes, many of us are simply handed some printed sheets (if that much), given a quick lesson on how to inject insulin, a prescription for insulin, told to feed them some over our heads in cost prescription food from the vet’s shelves and told to head to the pharmacy/drug store/Walmart to pick up what we need. We don’t even get time to adjust mentally and emotionally to the situation until we’ve run around like chickens with our heads cut off, getting what our newly diagnosed furry family member needs to have his/her diabetes taken care of and, it’s only once we are once again at home that the panic sets in as we sit there with some pretty frightening stuff in front of us, not knowing if we can even do this, let alone how.

For many of us, we will flounder through the first day or two of trying to get an injection into our babies. With trembling hands, we apologize to our babies and stick them with the syringe that we’e agonized filling scrupulously to the marks on the syringes. OUCH! we think to ourselves as we stick them and most of us, will cry as we do it because we hate “hurting” our loved ones in any way.

As the days set in and the shock wears off, we decide that we’re going to learn more about this condition and do some research on the net. The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know and that becomes even more frightening and overwhelming.

Of course, many of us will find the Feline Diabetes Discussion Board site. “Oh boy! There’s hope? There’s a chance that they will revert? There’s help? There’s OTHERS dealing with this? I’m not alone? I can talk to others who will help me?” As quickly as our fingers will type, we sign up and BOOM…we are amongst friends and there’s information galore to read and to get to know. Darn it though…we are intelligent people so, we will learn it, right? More than anything, people in here seem to know what they’re talking about, are extremely knowledgeable and will help more than our vets have, can or will, right?

So, with that in mind, we start off learning everything we can about Feline Diabetes and we may even make some posts or, if we’re totally feeling lost and overwhelmed, we’ll just post our frustrations and fears on the boards, hoping for other members to throw us a life saving ring somehow.

As the weeks go by, we learn to shoot the insulin we were told to shoot, given tips on how to do it, what foods to feed (not necessarily the bag or cans of food that we bought from the vet that cost us an arm and a leg), how to test, to set up a spread sheet (usually with the help of a member in here who has generously given up their time to help us all to do it). We’ve learned trick, tips and hints that our vets never took the time to give us and we make friends in here…even if only as a group and not individuals.

But, here comes the kicker. No 2 diabetic cats will react in the exact same way and for some, there are other health issues involved as well that separate each cat even further. We quickly realize that there aren’t many “text book cases” and we consult our vets whose opinions vary greatly from one to another, confusing us even further from what we’ve now learned and committed to memory. We may even find that our vet’s opinions differ greatly from what this forum and its more knowledgeable members have told us. Who do we believe now? What do we do? We’re feeling again, overwhelmed because we’re vacillating between what we’ve learned here and what our vets are telling us to do. Another internal battle ensues as the vet admonishes us that he/she is “The Authority” and “right” yet, we’ve learned everything we know from these boards and other members, dealing with diabetic cats and all of their knowledge about diabetes in specific, not our vets usually. Anxiety, guilt, anxiety, dread, anxiety, inner struggle anxiety. Now we’re afraid to leave our cats alone, watching them day and even all night, typing in numbers onto spread sheets that some vets won’t even look at as they don’t believe in home monitoring or in the amount of changing dosages that is done, without them telling us what to do. Do we risk ticking off our vets? After all, we have to rely upon them for other issues and prescriptions. What to do? More anxiety!

On top of that, we are now no longer able to go out freely or even away on vacations or needed trips because we worry endlessly about our Sugar Kitties at home or who will take care of them should we be unable to do so. Our days and nights revolve around these little fur balls and we feel like we’re doing “less than” our best if we don’t follow what others are following in here or, worse…our vets are ticked off at us. Everything in our days now become about blood glucose numbers, shot times, feeding times, foods, watching every move and wondering if they’re going to go “Hypo” on us. Yes, that word strikes FEAR into our minds with such a vengeance that we often miss events and even a lot of sleep because we’re either monitoring our fur babies or we’re worrying about them and what we don’t know. We’re totally obsessed with it now and neither our cats nor us, are really living a quality life anymore. We are no longer people with lives but, we’e become Feline Diabetes Caregivers. Another cry, another anxiety attack, another set of questions running through our minds.

First of all, our feline family member’s diabetes has to be important to us but, we also need a life too. Easier said than done given everything we now know about it all. We know testing is an important part of taking care of our cats so, we’re doing that but, are we doing it too much? Is there such a thing? Can we test and record too much or too little?
Secondly, there’s a distinct line between what vets will tell us to do and what we will learn in here to do. What to believe? Who/what do we follow?
The answers to this lay within you and your lifestyle in my humble opinion and experience. There is no “right or wrong” in how we deal with this as long as it’s what’s right for us and our feline diabetes patient. We love them and we want them around for as long as we can possibly can with as much health as we can. But, there’s a few key questions that I think we all need to ask ourselves.

What are we truly willing to do, how much and realistically, how much can we handle? Remember that just as Every Cat Is Different (ECID), every human is different and everyone’s lives are different, with differing degrees of ability, time and responsibilities. That means that every cat is going to react differently and be either more or less tolerant than the next or even every other cat in here. We need to learn OUR limitations as well as theirs. What 30 people in here can do with their cats, may be pretty difficult with our own cats. That does NOT make us less capable than the 30 others or less effective. It only makes it us and our cats and the differences between us all. That’s quite the equation to deal with. We can all only deal with our own set of circumstances, not everyone else’s. Trying to be like “everyone else” is a set-up for anxiety, sleepless nights and avoiding leaving our homes…at least without a great deal of angst.

Knowing how far you wish to take what’s offered in the site and what YOU can deal with. Keeping the above in mind, take into account your level of “nerve” and your lifestyle. Remember that those who shoot down to lower numbers, are doing so because they feel that they are able to get their cats to do so more easily than perhaps, you can for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which includes your own anxiety/stress levels. Some people handle it all more clinically while others are a mess emotionally already because of other factors in their lives. The lower one tries to bring their cat’s numbers, the more testing that will need to be done. Don’t feel like a “Less Than” because others are testing 9 to 10 times in a day and getting their cat’s blood glucose levels down into the nice green numbers and keeping them there and you can’t handle going that low or the required testings (or your can’t won’t allow it without turning you towards taking up drinking or sedatives.) That is their level of comfort. Yours may be different. Don’t feel guilty. You are already doing more than a lot of diabetic cat parents would do so, pat yourself on the back for it and leave it there.

No one there is a vet and you still need to work with a vet for your feline family member’s health in all other areas as well as the diabetes. There are some “bad apples” in the vet world, no doubt Not all vets were created equally so, it’s important to find one that YOU can talk to when you need to and will be there for you almost as much as they’re there for your pets. Ticking them off by arguing things out because you’ve read this or that here, doesn’t help you or your pet. If you’ve found a vet that you click with and your vet is there for you and matches YOUR philosophies/thinking….listen to them too and don’t argue it out. Know where they stand on this issue but, follow your own gut given what they are telling you to do or not do. Not many vets will agree with what is being taught here, in totality. Recognize that fact and realize that there’s “compromise” between what you’re learning here and what your vet will likely give advice to do. Find your own ground but, do listen to what your vet is telling you and ask questions of him/her as well. Again, NO ONE here is a vet but, they have a lot of learned knowledge which doesn’t make them right and your vet wrong or vice versa. Go with your own level of tolerance.

Give yourself a break and don’t compare yourself to everyone else in there. Once again, every cat is different and every pet caregiver’s levels of tolerance as well as lifestyles are different so, give yourself a break from the never-ending beating you’re giving yourself. You’re trying your best and doing your best. Even finding this site means that you care enough to learn as much as you can to help your feline baby. What others can do, you may not be able to do for all sorts of reasons. Do what YOU can, to the level that you can and don’t compare yourself to everyone else. For every person in these forums, there’s 10 more feline diabetes caregivers who are NOT here and doing far less than you are likely doing while being in here, given all of the knowledge that’s available to everyone here. Your life and tolerance levels are YOUR life an tolerance levels and NO ONE should judge you on that, including YOU. So, stop, breathe, think about your limitations and abilities, pat yourself on the back for what you ARE doing and let go what isn’t for you or your cat without feeling guilty about it.

Diabetes can’t be “forced” into remission if it’s not meant to go that way. People often come into that site, seeing the “OTJ stories” (Off The Juice/insulin) and think “if I can follow all of this…I can force my cat into remission too and off of the insulin.” For SOME…that is true but, for others, it isn’t. Some cats, once diabetic, will always require insulin to some degree or another because of genetics or some other reason. For others, they were forced into diabetic status because of foods or illnesses or medications. They are more likely to go into remission with proper care and giving their pancreas a break/rest. Those are the cases where they were going to come out of it anyways with full care. Don’t feel that because your cat hasn’t been able to come off the insulin, you’ve somehow done something wrong or haven’t followed the protocol. Pushing your cat down to low, low numbers and keeping them there, may or may not bring them out of needing insulin but, it’s certainly a “risk” that you are taking if you’re unable to do as much monitoring as those caregivers can. Be realistic with yourself because there is NO real and hard fast rules that will bring your cat OTJ. What isn’t meant to be isn’t going to be no matter what you do. It can’t be forced but, you can up the chances by following this protocol *IF* you can tolerate trying and have the nerve to try. There’s NO guarantees though one way or another. Remember that you need a life as does your cat so, be realistic as to how far you’re willing to take this and try. It’s ok if you can’t do this exactly as the protocols call for. This is a set of protocols set up according to a small study, not The Golden Rule or Ten Commandments or a “Do A, B and C and you’ll come out with D” type of situation.

Most of all, take care of YOU. Without you, your cat doesn’t stand a chance of being healthy for long. Without you taking care of them, they wouldn’t thrive from treatment. YOU need to be healthy in all ways too so, remember to relax a bit and take care of yourself too. It’s important that you keep that rule above everything else that you learn and have learned. KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS AND BE REAL ABOUT THEM WITH YOURSELF.

Best of wishes from my little corner of life.  (And, yes…I still have panic attacks and my vet is ready to have me put in a psych ward at times. I’m learning my tolerance, lifestyle, nerve and other limitations as I go along this road too.)

Canada’s Pet Food Industry Needs To Step Up To The Plate

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Canada’s pet food industry needs a giant overhaul and nobody is willing to deal with the issues including the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspections Agency, Animal Divison).  

My cat was recently diagnosed with diabetes at nearly 10 years of age.  In doing a lot of research, it’s been made clear that the foods that our cats and dogs eat nowadays, are largely a culprit in this disease as well as in chronic kidney disease.  Yet, we have little choice in our pet food selections in Canada to choose from short of veterinarian prescribed and over-priced “prescription foods” sold by them, produced by Hills, Purina and Royal Canin.

In wanting to start off my kitten’s life properly, I intently listened to her vets from the day that I got her and started feeding her the usual recommended foods produced by Hills and Royal Canin.  After all, what does a lay person know when it comes to pet nutrition by comparison to the pet’s vet?

Hills Science Diet prescription formulations were tooted as “the best” on the market and I was told that anything commercially made, would result in big troubles down the road.  So, with that in mind, I set out to feed my kitten (as well as my dogs), Hills Science Diet formulations, made by Hills.

Later, rather than sooner, every single pet I’ve had, has ended up with some sort of a disorder or health issue by comparison to those I’ve had who have been fed nothing but, “supermarket level” canned foods or kibbles. Two of my cats were diagnosed with diabetes, while all 4 of my dogs had dull coats and were eventually all diagnosed with either pancreatitis or cancers.

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Can I say with 100% certainty that it was Hills foods that caused these issues?  No…at least not with anything other than circumstantial evidence.  There is no proof and I am waiving all liabilities by saying so here and now. However, I was told that my cat’s fur was “lacking in something” by 2 vets and was cautioned most harshly to feed her Hills Science Diet with a bag swiftly plucked from the vets’ shelves in almost commercial like motions on several different occasions.  When I told each of the vets that she had been on it since Day 1, their faces turned a few lovely shades of red and even some wile pretty purples.

Since then, she and another cat I previously had, has been diagnosed with diabetes and, in wanting help my pet to the best of my abilities, I’ve taken a far more pro-active role in her health by doing a lot of research, talking, question asking and searching.

What my travels in education have revealed is that cats are “obligate carnivores” and do not drink much water, even if we see them at the water bowls we leave around our homes for them.  Kibble is not a good food for any cat as the moisture content is far too low and can create issues for other reasons, within their urinary tracts.  Most of all, most kibble is above and beyond the carbohydrate needs and the ability of the feline body to deal with it.  Eventually, there is a good likelihood that cats will develop either diabetes, urinary tract issues or chronic kidney failure.  Yet, vets are very quick to hand over bags of the stuff as long as it’s produced by Hills, Purina or Royal Canin.

Once a pet has been diagnosed with a health condition such as one of the above, the prescription formulas from the very same manufacturers are then prescribed.  It feels almost as though the companies producing these expensive foods, sold solely by vets, are the ones that create the health issues then, the prescription formulas from the very same companies are the ones that are supposed to help it.  What’s wrong with this picture?

In the past 2 months of researching, I’ve seen that the U.S. has a great number of pet foods on the market that Canadians just cannot get in this country.  Low carbohydrate foods with higher non-plant based proteins can only be gotten in canned or prescription formulas here.  Yet, the U.S. has access to not only more than double the amount of choices in canned foods but, also to several low carb kibbles for cats who are considered, “Kibble Addicts”.  These foods are not sold by vets and can be bought commercially however, even were one willing to drive to the U.S. to stock up on these foods for their diabetic cats, Canada will not allow them to be carried across the border.

The producers of Young Again Zero, the ultra low carb kibble, can only be bought online only but, with a shipping fee to Canada of $32 U.S., a 6 lb bag being $54 U.S., duty and HST (Canada’s sales tax at 13%), who can afford to do it on top of insulin, testing materials, vet fees and other things needed to save a special needs cat?

Innova EVO kibble is said to be second best behind Young Again however, in a call to Mars, the manufacturers of EVO, customer service has said that Mars had made the decision to “discontinue shipments to Canada” as the profit margins are too slim.

Where does that leave us as consumers with pets with health issues who require these types of low carb foods?  Squarely back into the grips of the companies that we started off with and possibly, though not provable, may have been the cause of the issue in the first place.

One can gather a conspiracy theory that Canada has somehow been “bribed” by these big U.S. based companies so that it’s nearly impossible for other manufacturers to produce foods that would compete against the 3 big vet endorsed manufacturers of Hills, Purina and Royal Canin.  One might also conclude that the lack of ability for commercial pet food manufacturers to label their foods so that consumers might have a chance of deciding between commercial products or vet prescribed products from “the big 3”, has been limited greatly.  It’s ironic that Hills, Purina and Royal Canin can label their foods as foods for diabetes or kidney diets but, there’s no chance for other companies to be allowed to make the same claims in their marketing.

There is nothing prescription worthy in corn, corn gluten, corn meal, chicken by-products, brewers yeast or brewers rice nor, is it healthy for cats as carnivores.  Yet, The Big 3 companies have somehow managed to grab the prescription labels and market these foods as desirable for these health issues.  Hard to believe but, true.

In a large study, it was proven that cats put onto what one would consider the lowest grade foods such as Fancy Feast, 9 Lives, Friskies and a few others that can be bought at any supermarket or corner store, diabetic cats have actually lowered their blood glucose levels with some requiring no insulin or just short terms of it.  Others have gone into complete remission on them as long as they are continually fed.  What is that saying?  It’s telling lay persons that they needn’t spend the huge bucks on the prescription formulas that their vets will push and to feel good about what the alleged lower quality foods are doing for their diabetic pets.

In belonging to a group that follows a vet who devoted her life’s work towards helping diabetic cats, called Feline Diabetesit’s been clear that Canada has fallen behind the 8-ball in its pet food industries and that the Canadian governments have been lax in helping Canadian pet food manufacturers not only produce quality and suitable foods but, it’s helped STOP the production and marketing of quality foods that meet the same criteria as the prescription formulas and even causing U.S. producers to pull out of the Canadian Pet Food Market, leaving pet owners and lovers with quite the quandary, expense and upset over their beloved pet’s health conditions which may have been produced by improper foods.

Much like the big pharmaceutical companies that court our physicians towards their prescriptive medications, it appears that the pet food industry in Canada may have also become tainted by the Big 3 companies with brainwashing veterinarians into believing that their foods are the only foods that can be fed to pets healthfully.  Nothing could be further from the truth as some research shows.

In wanting to help my pets, it seems that something is amiss in the Canadian Pet Food Industry that needs to be looked at in-depth as well as the government agencies that oversee this issue.

It is a lot of pet owners who wish that vets would take the time to educate themselves beyond what they were taught in vet college or through the big 3 pet food companies and realize that what they are being sold to sell their patients, may also be the very same foods that are making these pets ill.  It’s time for vets to stand up and recognize that their pockets needn’t be lined by the big 3.  If they want to sell us foods, there should be other companies allowed that chance as well. These vets can still sell from their shelves but, it needn’t be prescription only foods nor, need it come from Hills, Purina or Royal Canin just because they have the best marketing skills with vets.

From my little corner of life right now, I see vets as needing to learn more about nutrition beyond the Big 3’s sales pitches, quit worrying about their wallets and stop pushing the prescription formulas.  I also see that vets need to step up to the plate, become involved in what is manufactured and help develop more nutritious as well as cost effective foods for pets and pet owners.  More than anything, it’s high time that the Canadian governments encouraged pet food manufacturers to come up with commercially similar and available foods that can be used by special needs pets.

I may be dreaming but, the dollar isn’t the only important thing in Life.  Love is strong and the want to keep that love in our lives is by far, much more valuable than the money the Big 3 make off of their prey.