When Floppycats reader, Demik (that’s their user name!), mentioned Diabetic Cats in Need (DCIN) in the Floppycats Ragdoll Cat Forum, I thought it might be a good idea to reach out to Venita for an interview and education for us! Thank you, Venita, for the interview.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself, how you became involved with diabetic cats and how DCIN was started.
With appropriate treatment, Max went into remission and no longer needed insulin. But my involvement with feline diabetes continued when Max’s littermate Ennis became diabetic in 2006.
I saw people coming to the FDMB wanting to rehome their diabetic cats. I would help, mostly on transports. I began a blog to organize those requests and called it FDMB Cats in Need.
I developed a rescue in 2009 from that rehoming blog. It got a new name—Diabetic Cats in Need (DCIN). A nonprofit animal rescue accepted DCIN as an affiliate. DCIN’s primary focus now is keeping diabetic cats in their original and adoptive homes through its Financial Assistance program. DCIN still has its Rehoming program, and hopes to start a Shelter/Rescue program. We also hope to establish DCIN as a stand-alone 501c3 in 2012.
We have expanded our communications channels, reducing our reliance on the FDMB. DCIN now also posts on DiabeticCatCare.com, its own Yahoo Group, and the DCIN Facebook page.
Demand for DCIN services continues to exceed its ability to provide them. DCIN grew this year with the addition of Jennifer as a case manager. We are now training two more case managers, Carl and Céline. DCIN will add more case managers soon.
2. Is diabetes in cats as it is in humans? In other words, there’s Type 1 and Type 2?
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Yes, diabetes is much the same in cats as in humans—both Type 1 and Type 2. However, the overwhelming majority of diabetic cats are Type 2. They are “middle aged” cats that have environmental and medical causes for their hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels).
3. What is the leading cause of diabetes in cats?
Diabetes is epidemic among domesticated cats and even feral cats in managed colonies. With cats, the leading cause, in my opinion, for hyperglycemia is a carbohydrate-rich diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they have a basic metabolic need for a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. But many cat caregivers have been sold on the convenience and “quality” of a kibble diet for cats. Kibble diets, even the most expensive ones, often are 40 to 50 percent carbohydrates. In time, the cats’ metabolic systems become unable to properly function—and the result is diabetes, liver failure, kidney failure, or various other medical problems.
I suggest the website of Lisa Pierson, DVM, for people who want to learn more about cats’ nutritional needs.
4. What are some signs that my cat is diabetic?
Increased thirst for water and increased urination. Lethargy. Weight loss despite increased appetite. At a point, the lethargy may become severe, as the cat becomes ketoacidotic, meaning that its body is no longer processing protein to fuel its cellular activity but is instead processing fat. At this point, the cat’s appetite usually will fail and its metabolic functions—renal, liver, and others—shut down.
5. What are the risks in having a cat with diabetes?
When a cat becomes diabetic, the caregiver needs to (1) recognize the cat’s clinical symptoms, (2) get the cat to the vet for diagnosis, and (3) start treatment for diabetes. If this is not done, the cat may die a painful death from ketoadidosis. With ketoacidosis, the cat will starve to death (because its cells don’t have the insulin needed to “unlock” them to nutrition), passing in a state of coma after some period of struggling to survive.
People with cats that present with diabetic symptoms should take their cats to a vet for diagnosis. There are other conditions that present with certain similar symptoms—such as renal failure and hyper-thyroidism. If the cat is diagnosed diabetic, there are several steps the caregiver can take to best treat the cat’s diabetes. I discuss these next.
6. If I have a diabetic cat, where can I go to get help and support?
There are three basic steps a caregiver can take to best treat a diabetic cat. (1) insulin therapy with an appropriate insulin (Lantus, Levemir, ProZinc or another PZI product, but not “N” insulin), (2) a low-carbohydrate, canned- or raw-food diet (but not a diabetic prescription diet, especially not one that is dry), and (3) hometesting of blood glucose levels with a human glucometer. If there has been or is a risk of ketoacidosis, DCIN also recommends testing urinary or blood ketones.
What? What’s that all mean? That’s all Greek to me. There are two very good message boards (forums) where caregivers of diabetic cats can learn fundamentals and develop a support network. These are at DiabeticCatCare.com and FelineDiabetes.com. The members on those sites collectively have thousands of years experience treating diabetic cats on a daily basis. They also are very welcoming. It’s all about the cats, we say.
7. Is there anything that Floppycats and our readers can do to help DCIN?
I thank you, Jenny, and Floppycats for helping to spread the word about feline diabetes.
Certainly there are all the normal ways that people help animal rescues—participating in our periodic fundraisers, which this fall is a CD-based cookbook; donating cash (including sponsorships for our unrestricted fund and for specific cats); donating supplies; offering to foster DCIN-rescued cats; and volunteering for projects that we post on our Help Wanted page. We also have posted Calls to Action for the month of November—National Diabetes Month—to which we would like people to respond.
However, a special way that people can help DCIN is to learn why they should feed cats a species-appropriate diet, and then do so. A better diet for cats means there will be fewer diabetic cats. Even with that, however, there still will be plenty of diabetic cats to keep DCIN in business for a very long time.
8. Is there anything else that you’d like to comment on that I forgot to ask/mention?
With appropriate care, a cat’s hypergylcemia may be reversible. About 70 percent of the unwanted diabetic cats that DCIN rehomes come “off the juice” (that is, they no longer require insulin shots) within a couple of months of appropriate diet and insulin treatment. However, once diabetic, always diabetic, we say. Those cats should be kept on a species-appropriate diet to avoid the return of hyperglycemia.
About the Kitties Featured in this Interview:
Click on their names to visit their blog posts.
Poughkeepsie—A ragdoll that DCIN helped to rescue from an unfortunate tragedy. I believe he is no longer insulin dependent. This is his blog page, which I have asked his case manager to update to reflect how he is doing in his new adoptive home.
Spivey—an insulin-dependent Maine Coon mix looking for a home. Her blog page is here.
Ralph—a funny boy in a shelter. His blog page is here.
Tawny—An adopted Maine Coon mix that DCIN currently is assisting through an ER visit for diabetic ketoacidosis. She is one of our special cats. Her blog page is here.
Bastian—a dear, dear boy. I have fostered him and treated his diabetes for a bit. He is no longer insulin dependent. His blog page is here.
The Orinch Boyz and here – We have a bonded pair in foster care we call The Orinch Boyz. Their photo is attached to the email. We have tried to adopt them separately, with no luck. So, given no one seems interested, we are putting them back for adoption together. Their separate blog pages, which I have not yet put back together are here for Beasley and here for Twinkie. They are both insulin dependent.
Luna—What a dear young girl. She is in MA. Her blog page is here.