Have Meter, Will Travel

diabetes test 0619Lynn and I have decided we could be our own road show, only I’m not sure how high the entertainment quotient goes. Lately, it seems, the show we take on the road is our expertise with diabetic cats.

Maybe it says something about me, but I have had four cats with diabetes over the decades, three of those in tandem with Lynn. The first one, MacDuff, predated Lynn. He contracted the disease when he was 13, and his vet predicted he would survive another six months. Six years later, I finally said good-bye, and it wasn’t so much a complication of diabetes as it was just old age that did Duffer in.

After Lynn arrived, we got two kittens from my friend Marti (we went to get one and somehow came home with two), and both of them ended up developing diabetes. We adopted Na Ki’o because he had diabetes — he had already been in the Animal Welfare League’s care for something like 18 months, and we weren’t sure anyone else would take him, although his foster person seemed very sad to see him go.

So this is now decades of diabetic experience (plus Lynn has it herself), and while I don’t profess to know more about it than veterinarians, I have learned they often take a rather “textbook” approach when “life experience” might offer less trauma and better results.

When we first got Na Ki’o his diabetes was completely uncontrolled. In trying to get a handle on that, it turned out he also had pancreatitis — and it was difficult to find a vet who would listen to us.

Over the years and with a variety of animals, I have learned to make this less about loyalty to one vet or clinic and to go where I think my pets’ needs will best be served, so we take different animals to different clinics. And when I can’t find an acceptable solution locally, like when Ashoka was itchy or Oz would not stop throwing up, I’ll go to Montrose or Grand Junction.

And the internet has been an invaluable tool in this process. Ki’o’s pancreatitis was diagnosed by an on-line vet, and that’s where we found better options for helping bring his diabetes under control. No local vet suggested or even favored it, but the internet opened up the possibility of home blood testing — and it has made diabetes management so much better that Lynn and I have taken to the road with the zealotry of converts.

Last night, for the second time in about two months, we went over to a friend’s house to introduce this option for newly-diagnosed cats.

Our friend Linda had e-mailed me in distress yesterday, because her cat Sam was going on his eighth day at a vet clinic, where they were struggling to bring his sugar under control. Linda wanted her cat home, and was relieved to hear me contradicting much of what the vet was telling her.

Now, I am a firm believer in vets, as my wallet will attest. When it comes to hobbies that suck up money, Lynn and I don’t own a boat, or snowmobiles, or expensive art — no, we spend our money and time at vet offices. So I don’t want to be cavalier about dismissing their advice. But there is a huge disconnect in how medical doctors approach diabetic management with human patients and how vets take it on with pet owners.

Medical doctors want their patients involved in their own maintenance, and they counsel things like regularly checking one’s sugar and eating a series of small meals to help counter wide blood-sugar swings. For whatever reason, vets seem to recommend the exact opposite approach for pets, and I don’t get it.

For instance, Linda was told to only feed her cat one-quarter cup of dry food twice a day. This is a cat who is used to eating what he wants when he wants, and he turns out to have spent much of his month since diagnosis following Linda around the house, meowing. He’s not fat by any means, so I countermanded the vet and told her to go back to free-feeding. It will calm both Sam and Linda down, and make managing his diabetes easier on both of them.

And, after I drove all over town looking for a battery for the meter Lynn found last week while packing (brand new, but old enough to have drained the original battery), Lynn and Linda —

[Here’s a total aside: Lynn’s e-mail is “noda,” because she used to have to correct people who wanted to call her Linda: Lynn, no da. After Linda learned that, years ago, she decided she could be Lin-yes-da.]

— sat on the floor with Sam and poked his ear to test his blood right in the comfort of his own living room. I don’t have the faintest idea what Linda’s vet bill is after eight days of hospitalization, but at one point a local clinic was charging us $30 per blood test. Home testing makes so much more sense on so many levels.

Sam’s sugar last night was 79, which is a good number. This morning it was so high the meter couldn’t provide a number, so Linda felt confident administering the recommended 7 units of insulin. She will go home in the middle of the day and take another reading. “This feels so manageable,” she reported.

Which is quite opposed to where she was yesterday morning, wondering why her cat couldn’t come home and how she was going to take care of him.

I don’t know why vets don’t mention this as an option to their clients. When we first started home testing, we found ourselves in a constant argument with clinic employees. They insisted we needed to purchase cat-specific meters (much more costly than the Walmart meter cat owners on-line recommended). One vet tech assured Lynn we would kill Na Ki’o, but he is still here, and she is long gone from the valley.

So until we can convert the local vet population to our cause — home maintenance is better for the pet and owner, and offers more accuracy — we’ll just keep taking our show on the road, one cat at a time.


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