Susie's Early Days
Susie was born in September 1989. I was contacted about 2 years before she died by the family who owned Susie for the first 4 years of her life. They told me about an early trauma in Susie's life when she was thought to have been hit by a car and suffered a smashed jaw and also hurt her right hind leg. Also surprising to me was that she shared her early years with Rex, shown in 2 of the pictures that they kindly scanned for me.
These pictures of Susie are also displayed on the main gallery page.
Susie was her original name as a pet and it has remained her
name ever since.
I first got Susie in October 1995 when she was 6 years old. All went well for about 4 years, with nothing very eventful in terms of her health, and this remained until the summer of 1999 just before her 10th birthday.
Onset of Susie's Diabetes
In August 1999, I noticed that Susie was drinking a lot more water than usual. Until that time, she had only ever seemed to take a few sips from her water bowl, but I became aware that she seemed to be constantly thirsty, lapping up her water for a minute or more at a time, at frequent intervals throughout the day. I initially responded by making sure that she always had plenty of water to drink, often leaving out more than one bowl for her. I also needed to provide a second litter tray since she would need to use it perhaps 5 or 6 times during the day.
Realising that something was clearly wrong and that Susie was not going to return to normal within a few days, I began to look in various cat care books for any clues. There was very little information available in the books, but at least I was able to find that her thirst was probably the result of one of two conditions - kidney disease or diabetes.
It was at this point that I began to look elsewhere for more information and began a few searches on the internet. I knew nothing about either of the conditions, so I was grateful that I was able to find out a lot about both through a wide variety of websites. Tests at the vets confirmed that Susie was suffering from diabetes and I found myself coming to terms with what this might mean.
Stabilisation of Susie's Diabetes
Treatment of Susie's diabetes began very conservatively. Everything that I did at that stage was under veterinary supervision. The basic idea when treating diabetes is to find a way to lower the blood sugar down to normal levels, but without taking it too low, i.e. to do the job that the animal's natural insulin would normally do. This can be from medication (tablets or injections) or sometimes by close regulation of diet.
Susie was started on a tablet (Glipizide), initially at a low dose and gradually increased. After nearly 2 months without any change in her condition, I began injecting her with a very low level of insulin, initially once a day, then twice a day and gradually increasing the dosage over a period of 2-3 months. At first, there was little or no change, but slowly she began to improve and it was clear that Susie's diabetes was being brought under control. It took 6 months from diagnosis to reach the point where I could say that I had Susie's diabetes under reasonably good control.
I was monitoring Susie's condition in 2 ways, by measuring her urine glucose level with test sticks, and by the assessing the amount of water that she was drinking. The first indicator that Susie's diabetes was beginning to be stabilised was a slight reduction in the water that she was drinking. To monitor this more accurately, I started looking at the ratio of the amount of water that she was drinking to the amount of food she was eating, and calculating this in a very specific way (more about this on other pages). When first diagnosed, Susie's ratio was about 6 (i.e. 6 parts total water to 1 part dry matter). Beginning in November 1999 and continuing through December, this ratio decreased steadily and significantly. During this period, her urine glucose levels remained too high to show any effect on the indicator sticks and it wasn't until February 2000 that I was able to measure a sustained reduction in Susie's urine glucose.
When was Susie's diabetes finally stabilised properly? The event that I normally consider to represent this point is the first time that her urine glucose was zero. This was in March 2000, by which time her ratio had dropped from 6 to 2.5 and was fairly stable. Her ratio eventually reached its minimum level of about 2 in the middle of 2000, and generally stayed between 2 and 3 until I stopped monitoring it. Likewise her urine glucose levels since then were either within the scale or were brought back with small adjustments in her insulin dosage.
Susie's diabetes generally remained under very good control until the last year of her life when other factors complicated things. I used to change her insulin dosage occasionally in response to repeatedly high or zero urine glucose results, but over the years, managing her condition remained largely uneventful.
There were a few exceptions, generally when she had been unwell, off her food or perhaps bringing it back up. Occasionally, Susie suffered hypos, all of which had a recognisable cause. Each was the result of being ill and not eating after she had already been injected. Two examples are mentioned below.
In spite of her diabetes, Susie had otherwise been in good health and had faced her advancing years well until the end of 2005. Her activity levels had been declining for some years and in her final years it had become rare for her to disappear through the cat flap for more than a few minutes before returning to the security of the house and the opportunity to find somewhere warm and quiet to curl up or stretch out as she fell asleep.
In the final years of her life, there was a fear that she might have been starting to show early signs of kidney disease. This was based on blood tests and a sudden increase in the amount she was drinking. Several tests throughout the rest of her life showed no further deterioration in kidney function.
Susie's Final Days, January 2006During the latter part of 2005 and into 2006, Susie's health began to fail. With significant weight loss and loss of appetite, and the development of other complications as a result, it was clear that Susie was starting to suffer. After several visits to the vets in her final months and weeks, Susie's life came to a dignified and peaceful end on 27th January 2006 before her suffering became too much for her to bear.
Important note: All information and opinion in the Susie, Diabetic Cat pages is from personal experience. Nothing in these pages is intended to be a substitute for proper professional advice, which should always be sought from a qualified veterinary surgeon.
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