Archive for diabetes

Cat Call

Posted in Columbo with tags , , , on June 16, 2011 by telescoper

Just time for a quick post today, as I’m off to the airport this afternoon for a short trip (which I’ll no doubt blog about at the weekend when I get back). I’m also late into the office because I had to take my cat Columbo to the vet for his six-monthly check-up.

Columbo is now 17 years old (and a few months) and has been diabetic for the last six or seven of those. He needs to have a check-up every 6 months primarily to monitor whether his insulin dose (which is administered twice a day) is adequate to control his blood sugar level. The vet also gives him a general medical, and weighs him, during these visits.

This morning Columbo was even more reluctant than usual to get into his box for the trip to the vets. Eventually I got him in, but was apprehensive. Usually when he’s in that sort of mood he retaliates by befouling the box. This time, however, he settled down quite quickly and there were no toiletary disasters en route. The vet’s waiting room was empty when we arrived at 9am so we got seen straight away.

The vet was impressed by his age, especially when she saw how long he has been diabetic. Even without this condition 16 is a pretty good age for a tom cat. Columbo has been through a number of serious medical episodes, at least a couple of which took him near death, but he has always managed to bounce back. He may be an old boy now, but he gets 10/10 for resilience. Looking back over his (substantial) medical history, the vet seems to be amazed by his powers of recovery although history is now definitely taking its toll and he’s looking a bit frail nowadays.

The vet noted the effects of the advancing years. His eyesight has clearly dimmed. He’s never been very good at catching birds and mice, but I think he struggles even to see them nowadays. Despite the glucosamine treatment he has been having, his arthritis has also deteriorated. The stiffness in his joints makes it difficult for him to groom himself, so his coat isn’t in great condition even though I brush him regularly. He’s also lost a bit of weight since the last visit; not enough to be life-threatening, but significant nevertheless.

On the other hand, his heartbeat and other vital signs seem to be in order, and he purred contentedly on the table during the examination. The vet was a little concerned about his weight loss, but said he clearly wasn’t in any discomfort and trying to prod and probe, take blood samples and whatever to find out the reason was just going to cause him distress. And even if they could fix it, he was still going to be a very old cat if and when he recovered and there’s no cure for old age.

During these visits the vet usually takes a blood sample in order to check glucose and fructosamine levels for diagnostic purposes. This time, however, she suggested that it was probably best to skip it. The business of drawing a vial of blood from a cat’s neck is unpleasant and extremely distressing for the animal. Given that his bodily signs were OK, there seemed little point in subjecting him to this. Instead she suggested we just maintain the current insulin level unless and until something appears to go wrong. I agreed.

Not doing the blood tests saved me a bit of money, but that’s not the point at all. I know the old boy is much nearer the end of his life than the beginning. I just want his last days to be as comfortable and happy as possible. I don’t see the point of making him uncomfortable to satisfy veterinary curiosity or to prolong his life by a few months. When the time comes, I’d rather he went peacefully.

The one thing I did agree on was to try some anti-inflammatory treatment for his arthritis, stuff you squirt on food. If that works it might make it easier for him to get around, and also groom himself. It does have a side-effect with some cats, making them nauseous, so I have to build it up slowly and keep an eye on him in case he gets sick.

Anyway, when it was time to go he climbed willingly into his box – the cat-box process is a very different business at the vet compared to what it’s like at home. When we got home he bundled out at high speed and headed straight for his food dish. He still has a healthy appetite, that’s for sure.

Here’s a quick picture for his fans, taken just before he went in his basket for a nap.

The Trouble with Columbo

Posted in Columbo with tags , , , on November 20, 2010 by telescoper

So far it’s been a busy and extremely frustrating Saturday all on account of my old moggy, Columbo…

Today I took him to the vets for his six-monthly check-up. All went well, even to the extent that he didn’t try to take the vets arm off when they took a blood sample for the fructosamine test that checks whether his diabetes has been under control since the last visit. He’s even lost a bit of weight, which won’t do him any harm, although at 6.8 kg he’s still not exactly slim. His only indiscretion was to have a wee in his carrying box on the way there, but that’s nothing particularly unusual and was easily dealt with.

However, when I went to pick up his supplies (food, medication, syringes, and insulin) the vet informed me that the manufacturer of the kind of insulin he normally gets is no longer supplying it. This particular type is of a flavour called “Protamine Zinc”, although I don’t know really know what’s so special about that. Anyway, given that I’m running low the vet wrote me out a private prescription for human insulin, which apparently they are allowed to do if the supply of veterinary products runs out.

So I took Columbo home with the other stuff, left him in the house and, prescription in hand, romped off to the nearest pharmacy, which turned out to be the first of many I visited this morning. The problem is that human persons who are diabetic generally don’t use the old-fashioned vial-and-syringes approach to administering insulin, but get their dose from preloaded gadgets that look a bit like pens. These won’t do for cats which have skin that’s too thick. So one after the other various pharmacists explained that they would have to order the stuff I needed, and that it might take a while to arrive since there’s not much demand for it these days. None of them had a supplier that was open on saturdays either..

Eventually I gave up trying to find the insulin today and left the chit with a pharmacist to order on monday when their supplier is open. That is, if they’re able to supply it at all.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do if I can’t get the supply Columbo needs. Probably we’ll have to switch to another type of insulin, but the problem with that is that we’ll have to establish the right dose. He’s been stable on his current dose of his normal insulin for a long time now, but it did take a long time to sort how much he needs. If I have to start again on a different type, it will probably require several tests to see how he responds.

Anyway, having hoped to get the business of his insulin supply sorted out today, I’m now forced to wait until monday to see if I can get the necessary from the pharmacist. If not, I’ll have to talk to the vet when the fructosamine results come back to see what to do about starting on a new type. It’s all a bit of a pain, and I’m knackered after traipsing around half the chemists in Cardiff on a wild goose chase.

Columbo, however, is oblivious to all this and is doing pretty well. While I’ve been running around on his behalf he has been sleeping as is his wont, this time in the bathroom. He’s a picture of him taken after he’d just woken up.

Now it’s time to do a bit of relaxation of my own, in the form of the Guardian Prize crossword.


Veteran at the Veterinarian

Posted in Columbo with tags , , on March 13, 2009 by telescoper

Just a very quick update about Columbo, my elderly diabetic cat. I took him to the vet earlier this week for a test of his fructosamine levels because these were higher than expected when I had them tested last time he went.

Today I got the results back, and this time the fructosamine levels were much lower. Now he appears to have excellent control of his blood sugar level. Whatever went wrong to produce the high previous readings remains unclear but, for the time being at least, he’s back to normal and I won’t need to take him back for another 6 months.

The Feline Condition

Posted in Columbo with tags , , , on March 9, 2009 by telescoper

It’s time for my regular update about Columbo, my famous diabetic cat.

I took said moggy to the vet today for a repeat fructosamine test. When I took him a couple of months ago his level was quite high (280), which surprised me because he’s actually been in fine fettle and there was no reason to think anything was going wrong on the health front. Nevertheless, the vet had suggested an increase in his regular insulin injection to 4 units (from three) and a repeat test a bit later. So I went back today.

The fructosamine test measures the level of blood sugar over a period of 1-3 weeks. Fructosamines are stable complexes of carbohydrates and proteins that are produced by an irreversible, nonenzymatic glycosylation of protein. Increased fructosamine values are due to higher quantities of glucose in the blood, resulting in increased glycosylation of proteins. This provides a more stable measurement of blood sugar concentration than a one-off glucose test because the latter can be heavily influenced by stress, such as is induced by visiting the vet….

Just as a check, they took a glucose reading today which came out at 18, much higher than the level he showed on his last visit to the vet (which was 7 on the same scale). I didn’t notice any real evidence that he was stressed out at all when they did this. In fact he was purring in the vet’s examination room. So the glucose result appears to be consistent with his previously high fructosamine test and probably indicates poorer control of his diabetes than we would have wished for.

So they took another, largerm blood sample from his neck (which he never enjoys) to find the fructosamine level. Today proved to be no exception to his displeasure at this procedure, and he’s been in a huff since we got home. They have to send the sample off to a lab for analysis so I’ll have to wait until Wednesday to find out the score and what to do about it.

His diabetes has been pretty stable for many years now, and I’m not sure why it the control doesn’t seem to be as good these days. It’s may be just because his metabolism is changing as he gets older. If the level of fructosamine remains high I’ll probably have to increase the dose again and have another test done to see if it succeeds in lowering his sugars.

Columbo will be 15 on March 31st, and he’s definitely showing signs of age and of his diabetes. He began to develop cataracts some time ago, giving his eyes a slightly cloudy appearance; these are apparently associated with diabetes, although they are a bit more common in dogs than in cats. He probably doesn’t see very well as a result of this but it doesn’t seem to bother him. He certainly still manages to play with moving toys alright so his close-up vision is good enough. The rest of his observable Universe isn’t so very large anyway, only consisting of my house and small garden.

He sleeps a lot, as most cats do, but he still has his playful moments and maintains a healthy interest in the little bits of wildlife that stray into my garden. While I’m a bit concerned about his condition, I’m not too worried while he still seems to be enjoying life.