Cats with Diabetes

Cats are territorial animals and therefore maintain a strong bond with their environment. A cat displaced from their environment will experience stress and anxiety, which in turn leads to hormonal changes that can cause a cat to restrict food and water intake. For cats with diabetes, the behavior of food restriction is very dangerous on several fronts. Restricting food heavily impacts their blood glucose levels and is hard on a cat’s liver.

We will address the harm to the liver first. Cats cannot efficiently metabolize large amounts of mobilized fat content because cats are obligate carnivores and therefore derive energy principally from protein, not fat. Food restriction causes a cat’s body to metabolize fats. Once mobilized fats accumulate in a cat’s liver, the liver swells, causing dysfunction and eventually liver failure. We employ the best monitoring systems and utilize swift interventions to support a cat’s well-being when they engage in food and water restriction.

Now we will address blood glucose readings. Food intake and restriction directly influences a cat’s blood glucose levels. A healthy blood glucose level in cats is about 80-120 mg/dl. It is much safer for a cat to be high in glucose than low in glucose. A cat’s energy demands change dramatically while boarding with us. Our enriched environment means cats are more alert, often more engaged, and awake for more hours of a day, resulting in higher glucose demands on the body, which lowers blood glucose levels naturally because glucose is being utilized by the body. A cat injected with insulin when their blood glucose is normal or low will be poisoned, injured, and could die. Insulin is a very powerful hormone. We never inject a cat with insulin without a blood glucose reading. We call that injecting blind. A facility injecting blind is irresponsible and could be fatal. Any facility that will inject a cat without first testing blood glucose is putting the cat’s life in danger.

The fee for cats with diabetes isn’t only for the injection. The fee includes skilled team member(s) with medical training, capable of handling and manipulating a cat, obtaining a blood sample, able to use the technology to do the reading, and then able to make independent decisions about how to respond based on that reading. For instance, if a cat on insulin does not eat on their first day of boarding, which is common, and they inject a cat blind, they could send a cat into hypoglycemia, creating a dangerous situation and medical bills. If a cat eats at 7pm, and their blood glucose is normal, we have to wait an hour to double check that the glucose levels are on the rise by doing another blood glucose reading. If it has fallen, we need to manually feed and continue to intervene until we see stabilization. All of this literally adds hours to the labor cost of providing service to cats with diabetes.

For more than a decade Dan and I personally provided the service for cats with diabetes seven days a week. We now limit our hours to 50 work hours a week. This means we have to pay skilled providers to deliver the services we just described. We pay living wages, with benefits. Services for cats with diabetes consequently pushes team members to a 12-hour day, which equals overtime for our team members. Since we no longer personally subsidize the cost of care for cats with diabetes, the cost of skilled overtime labor is a huge factor in the cost of providing the service.

Veterinarians that refer their diabetic clients to us do so because we follow best practices. If a guest is able to get by with blind insulin injections at another facility or with friends and neighbors, then they don’t need our level of service. Our skills are a limited resource and we are here for those who need us. We’re not willing to take the risk of injecting a cat without a blood glucose reading. Given the risk is so great, and since meeting the demands of best practices is complicated and expensive, many facilities in the city have ceased servicing cats with the disease altogether. After being turned away or after having their cat injured or worse through blind injections at another facility, our guests rejoice at the lengths we go to ensure they receive a healthy cat at checkout.

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