Back to square one(ish)

It’s roughly seven months since Gryff was diagnosed with diabetes and – despite some encouraging progress towards the end of last year – we’re not a whole lot further forward in terms of managing the condition. To say things have been frustrating is a fairly massive understatement.

In January we had a huge set back when for the second time he developed ketoacidosis, a life threatening complication of diabetes. As things stand, we’re not entirely sure what caused this dramatic downturn in his fortunes although we have managed to rule out pancreatitis, a brain tumour, and hyper-thyroidism. One of the few advantages of having a diabetic cat is that you get to know exactly what isn’t the matter with them, even though you’re still not entirely sure what actually is the matter with them.

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There are lots of things that are very definitely not the matter with me….

Until recently we were using Caninsulin, the market leader in insulin treatment for pets, and for a time we had some reasonable results. At 11 units a day we got a reasonable glucose curve but the concern remained that the nadir was too low and the peak too high. Unfortunately at 12 units a day we got a fairly flat curve with some eye wateringly high numbers. In other words, somewhere between the 11 and 12 units, Gryff’s body started doing something unusual, and pretty unhelpful, with the Caninsulin.

11IU

12IU

We discussed the situation at length with our vet – who, by the way, is absolutely fantastic. The options were to stick at the 11 units a day, and accept the risks associated with the high peak or to move to ProZinc, a newly released product designed specifically for cats. In clinical trials ProZinc does pretty well for cats like Gryff but the downside is going back to a fairly low dose at first while we figure out what the optimum dose looks like. In some ways, changing his insulin is like going all the way back to square one which is not without risks of it’s own.

In the end our decision was made on the basis that we felt ProZinc had to be worth a shot – we’d come this far and if we couldn’t get him any further along on the Caninsulin we owed it to him to see where we could get him to with ProZinc.

He’s been on the new insulin for a week now. The dose is so low that we’re already beginning to see a return of the outward symptoms of his diabetes – weight loss, thirst, and a remarkable volume of pee. We were expecting this and know it should be temporary until we can start getting towards a more realistic dose but it’s hard to see and even more hard not to panic….

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Keep calm and have a nap

Gryff is a special cat and we love him dearly. He makes us laugh – and swear – on a daily basis, he keeps us company, wakes us up for work (even at the weekends) and makes sure we never have enough money to spend on a rock n roll lifestyle. In short, Gryff makes our lives better and in return we’re doing what we can to make his better too.

Upwards and onwards!

Lots of love from WeeGee and Gryff xoxox

Here we go again….

Don’t count your chickens until they have hatched – so the saying goes, and so Gryff has very ably demonstrated over the past week….

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Here we go again then…..

Our last post was published as scheduled on Tuesday evening and all was well – he was a perfectly happy and healthy cat. Nothing out of the ordinary happened that day and I know this to be true because everything that happens to Gryff is logged and recorded in our ‘taking care of Gryff logbook’

And then, out of the blue, he refused to eat his dinner.

Gryff has only refused to eat his dinner once before in his entire life and that was last August immediately before he keeled over with ketoacidosis. So, after I was done pleading with him and panicking, I checked his blood glucose levels (not great, but not terrible) and called the vet – we agreed I would continue encouraging him to eat, skip his insulin, keep an eye on him and bring him in first thing.

Over the next twelve hours the happy and healthy cat I’d spent the day with slowly disappeared before my eyes. By the early hours he’d started drinking water by the gallon and was treating us to regular repeat performances of his spectacular projectile vomiting act. By 9am poor old Gryff was back in hospital, back on the drip, and back to square one – his blood glucose was no longer controlled and he had developed ketoacidosis again.

Over the course of the next three days the vets and nurses did all they could to get him better whilst simultaneously doing battle with a very angry Gryff. It’s impossible to overestimate how stressed out the experience of being away from home makes him, or how badly he responds to any kind of veterinary procedure – even getting him out of his basket is a three man, towel over the head, wing and a prayer kind of job…. Those people are heroes, each and every one of them.

We brought him home on Saturday. His blood glucose levels were still a bit ropey but he no longer needed the drip and was back on injectable insulin so home was the best place for him. When they brought him into the consulting room and we both instinctively stuck our hands into his basket to pet him, a small crowd of nurses gathered to marvel at the sight – nobody could quite believe anyone would dare to stoke him. He really does give a bad impression of himself.

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I’m a little arsehole: still wearing the pressure bandage he wouldn’t let ANYONE remove.

As things stand, he’s doing okay. He’s been a little clingy which is highly unusual behaviour but otherwise, he’s pretty much back to his normal self. We did a full glucose curve yesterday which didn’t give us any cause for concern and the spot checks I’ve done today have all been fairly encouraging.

We still can’t quite believe that things went south as quickly as they did. The likeliest cause of the dramatic downturn in his fortunes, we were told, was a urinary tract infection, although there’s no certainty and it could just as easily have been any number of other things, including, rather frustratingly plain old ‘bad luck’. We’re still trying to figure out how you mitigate against bad luck…..

I suppose we had hoped that Gryff was going to be an easy case – that we would get to a point where he was ‘cured’ and that would be the end of it. That wasn’t to be and we’ve learned a valuable lesson: Gryff’s condition is precarious and we need to be prepared for things deteriorating, without much warning, at any time. We knew that diabetes in cats is difficult to manage – and now we know that even when you think you’re managing to manage it, you really can’t take any of it for granted.

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I really don’t know what all the fuss is about

Lots of love from WeeGee and Gryff

A clean bill of health…. sorta.

We were never in any doubt that looking after a diabetic Gryff cat was going to be an experience. The vet was pretty clear with us from the get go so we were prepared for the frustration, heartache and expense that was invariably coming our way. Plus, we’d known Gryff for 11 years – of course we loved him with all of our hearts, but you can love a cat with all of your heart and simultaneously know that when push comes to shove he’s a bit of an arsehole….

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I may well be cute, but I’m also a very naughty cat…..

In the five months that have followed Gryff’s near-death experience we’ve come to realise that when the vet told us this would be difficult, he really wasn’t over egging the pudding. Every time we thought we were getting somewhere we’d take a ginormous step backwards – we’d get one decent glucose curve and then eight that steadfastly refused to be curvy; his weight would tank for no apparent reason; he’d be as good as gold for weeks and then steal and eat half a cucumber, still in it’s plastic wrap only to spend the next three hours depositing it, partially digested, on the CREAM carpet (replete with the unholy yodelling that only a cat who has eaten half a cucumber in it’s plastic wrap is capable of).

By the end of November, it was beginning to feel a tiny bit hopeless. We were giving him 10 units of insulin a day by that point and yet still clinically, things barely seemed to have improved. He was drinking around 100ml of water a day, was skinny as a rake, and – most upsetting of all – was so demented by ravenous hunger that we were beginning to worry about his quality of life.

Crisis talks were held. The vet was honest but reassuring. Cat’s respond notoriously slowly to insulin therapy and while Gryff’s response had been even slower than expected there was no immediate cause for concern. His organs were all working, overall his weight was up and in the end, the hunger thing was very probably more distressing for us than it was for Gryff. We were reminded that a slow response was better than no response – our resolve was renewed and we headed home to keep on keeping on. Which is exactly what we did.

Out of the blue, December was a good month. We weren’t expecting it, but suddenly our awesome little tiger seemed to decide that it was time to REALLY get better. His thirst began to abate and the meat started gathering around his bones again: he looked so much better. We did a glucose curve and it was pretty damn near perfect. We didn’t believe it so we did another one – damn near perfect again. We did another one. You guessed it: damn near perfect.

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Not bad, eh?

We took him to the see the vet last week and he earned himself an almost clean bill of health. We’re up to 13 units of insulin a day, and it really is doing the trick. We get a nice neat curve (slightly higher than a non-diabetic cat, granted) and his weight stands at a whopping 3.57kg – in case you’re not familiar with cat weight that is actually perfect, no damn near about it. His little heart is beating away just as it should, his kidneys are doing their job and his coat is as good and shiny as it ever was. He drinks about 50ml of water a day, pees no more than normal and is pretty happy in his own little self. In other words, five months on we are finally managing to manage his diabetes!

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This calls for a celebratory fish….

We’ve learned a lot along the way, and Gryff has had to get used to a whole new way of life. Everything he does is carefully monitored and controlled, and we’ve become expert in stabbing our cat with needles on a regular basis. He’s still greedy and prone to scavenging for contraband food and he’s realised that if he growls at us we’ll be too scared to take his loot away from him….. You pick your battles with a cat like Gryff.

Sometimes I look at him and realise that he’s not as young as he used to be – in fact he’s a little old man. But he’s healthy and happy – which is exactly what the best cat in the world deserves from his dotage. Even if he is an arsehole most of the time……

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Mwah hahahaha

Lots of love from WeeGee and Gryff xxx

A news sandwich….

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last update – the humans were really busy juggling the human stuff and the taking care of Gryff stuff and updating the blog fell to the bottom of the pile for a while there. Sorry about that.

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But look – cute paws! Are we forgiven?

As far as the boy goes there’s been good news, not so good news and decidedly average news – always a mixed bag with Gryff. The good news is that he’s a happy, lively cat again. His appetite is good, his water intake (and output) is fairly normal, he’s got plenty of energy and he’s every bit as cheeky as he ever was. The average news is that we’ve finally got his weight back up above that awful hospital weight. He’s currently sitting at 3.61kg (up from 3.2kg when he was in hospital). On the face of it this is good news, but when you consider he was very much a 5kg cat in his prime it gets relegated to average….

The bad news is that his blood glucose levels are still sky high. They are just about moving in the right direction and there is some evidence that the insulin is having an impact but they are averaging out at a ridiculous level and some of the peaks we’ve recorded are pretty much off the scale: the last time we did a set of tests we got a measurement of 38.1 – the highest measurement that we’ve had to date.

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Not a pretty glucose curve…..

The glucose curve tests are becoming more and more difficult to get through. He soooooo hates having it done, and to be fair, he has my sympathy – if someone tried to stick a pin in my ear until it bled I’d be a bit antsy and if they tried to do it six times in one day I can’t promise I wouldn’t try to scratch their eyes out. The trick, as far as we’ve found one, is to keep things as calm as you possibly can when you’re stabbing your cat in the ear but even with the softly, softly approach he gets more and more angry as the day goes on and in the end, the final two measurements are elevated by stress – it makes it difficult to get a true sense of what’s really going on and that’s frustrating.

His hunger hasn’t really abated much, and it’s still pretty difficult to cope with. I’ve lost count of the number of weird and wonderful things we’ve had to prise from his jaws in recent weeks, although to give him his due, he’s become fantastically resourceful in seeking out contraband food items. Just the other day he ate a sizeable portion of a dishcloth, and cleverly managed to alert us when it became stuck on his tooth and human intervention was required. And who could fail to be a little bit impressed by a cat who manages to extract a slice of bread from a toaster – mid-toasting, as it were – without so much a singed whisker to show for it? I felt like such a rotter when I took it off him….

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Can you believe this? I hunted that slice of bread fair and square and STILL she took it off me….

In short, I suppose he’s fine and infinitely better than he was and in that regard, we’re lucky. The longer story is a bit more complicated and we’re still fairly early on in the narrative. The main thing though, is not the average news, or the not so good news, or even the good news. The main thing is the EXCELLENT news: he’s still with us, he’s still full of beans, and, most importantly of all, he is otherwise well: has no ketones or potassium in his blood or urine, his kidneys are doing a grand job, there are no cancerous cells, his thyroid is doing the trick and his lovely little heart is working just fine thank you very much. This, by the way, is one of the few advantages of having a very poorly cat – you get absolute and regular assurances about all the things that are very definitely NOT the matter with your cat.

We don’t really talk about how much all of this is costing us – it was never, and will never be, about the cost because while he’s comfortable and content and while there a positive outcome on the horizon the cost doesn’t really come into it. And that’s the end of that. We also don’t really talk much about how taking care of Gryff has changed our lives – it’s a struggle to organise an evening out together at the moment let alone both of us staying away from home for a night at the same time. Maybe, in time we’ll be able to leave him with someone else but for now everything we do pretty much revolves around him. As far as Gryff’s concerned, that’s exactly the way it ought to be….

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I hope you don’t think you’re going anywhere. I’m going to be needing your assistance….

Lots of love from WeeGee and Gryff xxx