Samson is a 12 year old domestic short-haired cat with a great success story. In July 2012, his owner brought him to see us because she had noticed him drinking a lot of water and urinating more than usual. These symptoms can be signs of several illnesses common in older cats so Samson's owner was right to be concerned.
Dr Tanya examined Samson and took a blood sample to send to the laboratory for testing. The results showed lots of glucose in Samson's blood. Samson was diagnosed with diabetes.
Diabetes in cats is similar in many ways to type two diabetes in humans. Due to a high fat diet and low activity levels, the pancreas produces lots of insulin. The body's cells then become resistant to insulin making it harder for glucose to enter the cells to be used for energy. The pancreas can also become worn out from producing too much insulin and shut down production.
Like humans, Samson was going to need daily insulin injections to control his blood-glucose levels and make him feel better.
Samson's owner was very keen to treat his diabetes so Dr Suzanne and our veterinary team provided her with information about diabetes in cats and taught her how to give the injections to Samson at home.
In order to find the right insulin dose for Samson, he was required to come into the clinic for regular tests so we could monitor how well his dose was controlling his glucose levels. This test is called a 'Blood Glucose Curve' and involves taking a small blood sample every few hours over the course of a day and measuring its glucose content. We expect the glucose levels to rise after a meal and begin to fall after insulin is given. Once all the insulin is used up, glucose levels should start to rise again. By monitoring the levels throughout the day, we can make sure that Samson's blood-sugar levels never get too high or too low.
Over the next few months, Samson came to see us regularly for Blood Glucose Curves. His owner even took a few readings for us at home.
Soon, Samson's glucose levels were consistently staying low. This meant that his insulin dose could be lowered. It can be dangerous to give insulin when the blood-glucose level is normal as this could cause the glucose level to become too low - a condition known as hypoglycemia.
Samson's owner continued to take readings at home and alerted us when she noticed that his glucose levels were close to normal before giving the insulin injection. This was a sign that Samson's diabetes could be going into remission. Once the body's insulin levels have been normal for a while, the pancreas can recover from the stress it was under before treatment started. Likewise, the body's cells lose their resistance to insulin and normal function returns. Samson was taken off his insulin injections and tested regularly. He was deemed to be in remission and taken off insulin therapy altogether.
Samson is now living without daily injections, on a low fat, high fibre diet. His owner still regularly monitors his blood-glucose levels at home and so far Samson is doing great. Samson's story is a wonderful example of how successful veterinary treatment can be when problems are noticed early and the veterinary team and owners work together.