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Dr. Paul: How an Early Diabetes Diagnosis Saved My Cat

Reviewed by Dr. Peter Kintzer, DVM, DACVIM on Friday, October 2, 2015
Posted September 11, 2015 in A Vet's Life

Orange Tabby Cat

As a veterinarian, I am continually advocating for early disease detection, intervention and treatment. Many of the diseases that affect our pets are deteriorations, rather than sudden failures of the body. Signs and symptoms are often subtly progressive and once these disease states arise, they frequently progress to an irreversible state. It is critical to know your pet and observe changes that may be early indications of disease. Some changes should be addressed right away, including changes in:

  • Food intake
  • Water intake
  • Activity level
  • Body weight

Metabolic diseases such as kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes may all be similar in their initial signs (changes in appetite water intake). My own cat, Ritz, recently demonstrated that with an early diagnosis and immediate intervention, a better outcome is possible. For Ritz, an early diagnosis saved him from a lifetime of inconvenience—at the very least—and possibly even from an early death.

My cat, Ritz
Ritz is a 10-year-old orange tabby with a grouchy disposition. He lives completely indoors with his roommate, Mobier. For the last couple of years Ritz has struggled with a chronic itch, and my wife and I have struggled to help him. In spite of our best efforts, a diagnosis remained an enigma. The itch responded only to cortisone injections. We ruled out allergies, parasites and, to the best of our ability, stress induced problems.  Finally we were forced to either treat him with cortico-steroids or let him itch.

Ritz was given periodic injections of steroids with mixed results.  We tried to minimize his dose, along with the frequency of administration, and for a while things seemed pretty good. Then one day, about 2 weeks after an injection, things changed.

Signs that something was wrong with Ritz
We noticed that after Ritz used his litter pan, the litter was always wetter than it used to be. He also spent more time drinking water than usual. We thought it was probably the steroids, but we wanted to be sure. We submitted to blood and urine tests for Ritz. He had always been very healthy, but we were concerned.

Testing results for Ritz
For Ritz, urine was strongly positive for glucose, but his liver and kidney function were normal. His blood glucose was very high and his level of fructosamine confirmed that he was in fact diabetic. To make matters worse, we had probably caused it.
We started insulin right away and called our friend, Dr. Deb Greco, for her thoughts. Dr. Greco is one of the foremost authorities on feline diabetes and she offered us a straw to grasp: perhaps his diabetes was, in fact, due to the steroids. If so, there was a chance that it was only passing and Ritz would return to normal.

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.

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The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of all veterinarians, Pet Health Network, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.