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16-Year-Old Diabetic Cat Cured

November 4, 2009

Tommy was a 16-year-old diabetic long-hair white cat with yellow-gold eyes.  I met him for the first time when he stopped eating for 4 days.  When I gently pinched the skin over his shoulder blades, it stood up, and did not bounce back into a normal, flat position.  I tried the same trick over his hips; Tommy’s skin just stood up.  This is called a skin turgor test, and in this case, it meant Tommy was severely dehydrated.

Many people become confused by the fact that a cat drinking tons of water can be dehydrated.

“But he’s drinking tons of water, Doc.  I thought that meant he was okay.”

Drinking the proper, usual, regular amount of water is okay.  Suddenly drinking tons of water, is very , very bad.

Tommy’s eyes stayed half closed, his heart rate was too fast (over 240 beats in a minute, even when one is nervous at the vet’s, is still awfully fast).  Normally, I’ll bet his kitty heart rate was around 120-150 beats per minute.  His body temperature was 99F.  What’s normal cat temperature, you say?

101 – 102.5 F.

Tommy was shutting down.  The next step was coma!

A quick blood sugar revealed a level of 550!  The urine had greater than 450.  Given the symptoms, and the test results, I knew Tommy had diabetes mellitus.  Most cats newly diagnosed with diabetes also have urinary tract infections.  A urine culture and sensitivity test showed Tommy did, too.

Tommy needed to stay in the hospital for intravenous hydration, tests, insulin, and close regulation of his body vital systems.  Money was not a severe limiting factor for Tommy’s father, so I was optimistic treatment could proceed.

“Doc, can I talk to you in private?”

“Of course, what’s on your mind?”

“Doc, I’m old, and my knees are shot.  My hands shake, and there’s no way I can catch him.”  Uh, oh, I hope he doesn’t tell me he wants me to put Tommy down…

“Doc, it breaks my heart to say this…” Oh no!  Here it comes…

“Can you help me find a good home where Tommy can live out his days.  I’ll sure miss him, but he needs better care than I can give him.”  Thank goodness!!!!

I spoke with one of my nurses about the dilemma.  With a devilish twinkle in her eye, she offered, “Well, if he takes Spunky, the feline aids positive cat we need to find a home for in exchange, I will take Tommy home and nurse him back to health.  Do you mind if I tell Tommy’s dad I will do that?”

Do I mind? Do I mind? Do I mind if an angel solves my problems without my own cat disowning me because I brought another one home?

Tommy’s dad was tickled pink.  We swapped cats.  Tommy went home with the nurse.  Mr. Tommy went home to prepare for the new cat.  He knocked his back out cleaning and arranging cat beds on the chair, sofa, and two windowsills.  A week later, he was well enough to take Spunky home.  She thought she was in kitty heaven, after her life of abandonment and living on the streets!

A little-known factoid about diabetes mellitus in cats: if treated aggressively enough, with the right kind of insulin, and if you are lucky, it can be cured in up to 75% of the cats!  Within three weeks, the nurse came to me with news.

“I haven’t given Tommy any insulin in three days, and his blood sugar is good.  He is so happy and my other cats wash him every night!”

Spunky stayed with Tommy’s dad until, one day, Mr. Tommy had to go to the ICU, so Spunky came back to the animal hospital.  Being such a cat-lover as he is, as soon as Mr. Tommy came back out of the hospital, we drove Spunky back to stay with him.  Spunky sleeps on Mr. Tommy’s head every night, and sheds fur all over the sofa by day.

My nurse checks on Spunky and Mr. Tommy every other week.  She brings cat food and sugar cookies.  Mr. Tommy’s memory is not great these days, but he always welcomes “my cookie lady” for a quick visit!  Tommy never looked back.  He poses for pictures, which Mr. Tommy enjoys.  But both boys are happy in their new situations and wouldn’t have it any other way!

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