Just as a digression from my normal content of posts, I figured this one might be useful to do since it’s such a rare occurrence and also something which at one time I tried vainly to gain useful information on.
In 2001 my then 10-year-old cat Inka became suddenly and seriously ill fairly rapidly. However, when I looked back I could see there were warning signs which I’d ignored or put down to other circumstances. He was one of two outdoor cats, so when I noticed that I had to replenish the water bowl more often than usual I tended to put it down to the warmer weather or the fact that they were both on a purely dry food diet. He’d always been somewhat of a greedy cat too, so when he started looking for food more often again I just ignored it as I was trying to keep his weight to a reasonable level as he was already a barrel despite being on diet food and never leaving the back yard (unlike his brother who did). He was also a very nervous cat who didn’t take well to changes and if memory serves me right he’d just coped with a lot of stress through my having building work done in the couple of months prior to his illness. I had to go away for 3 or 4 days in May that year, and my brother was looking after him, but while he felt Inka was perhaps a bit off colour he equally didn’t see anything majorly wrong with him. However, the minute I went outside I did – Inka was totally out of it, semi-comatose, unable to lift his head or walk – really on the brink of death which was a total shock. The vets immediately assessed him as being in shock but as their initial tests didn’t indicate diabetes it took a while before his blood tests returned to show that his blood sugar was horrendous – 35 mmoles/L (in UK units a normal value would be 4.5-7) and thus I was warned his chances of survival were very slim. The next day after they’d made a lot of enquiries throughout the UK, they diagnosed him as having the rarer form of NKHO diabetes and stated that he was at that time one of only 4 other cats in the UK with the condition, and that up to that point, most others diagnosed with the condtion tended to die within the first week. However, he not only made it past the first week, but went on to be discharged home to me two weeks later, at which point we both had to deal with daily ear pricks and blood tests, as well as continually high blood sugars and equally high insulin doses. Six weeks later we were still battling not only with his DM but also his worsening asthma and general poor condition through being stuck indoors in a small room for weeks on end as he needed to preserve his energy for recovery.
By that time though my vets were pretty much feeling we were on a hiding to nothing with him, as no matter what we did his levels rarely dropped below 26 and were more often back up into the early to mid 30s, and the longer this went on the worse the prognosis was becoming. And all this time he was being fed on what was at the time the standard veterinary prescribed DM diet from Hills – another dry food which Inka certainly ate okay but there was little variation for him. He was what I’d always fondly termed a Hills baby – I’d hand reared him and from a young age put him on Hills because having worked in the industry (veterinary) we were always being told how complete a diet it was, and he thrived on it. Over the years though I’d tried to persuade him to consider wet food but he wouldn’t touch it, nor would he consider fresh or cooked meat in any shape or form surprisingly. So he stayed on the Hills throughout. However, about this time, when I was truly getting totally desperate, I fortunately was put in touch with a lady in England who’d had a lot of experience with DM cats and who suggested I try putting him on to a wet diet for a trial. I resisted given his dislike of it, but she gently insisted I try and persuade him.
I still have vivid memories of opening up the first can of a generic brand of wet food in the room and standing amazed as this cat who a moment before could barely lift his head up from the floor as he’d lost so much weight and was so fatigued, suddenly come alive and start howling at me – he was into the food before I even got the dish to the floor and I knew it wasn’t hunger that was driving him as much as some innate knowledge that THIS was going to help him recover. I was even more shocked when I took his evening blood sugar 4 hours later and discovered it was down to 18, and a further check another 4 hours after that showed it had dropped even further down to 14. By the following morning and two more wet meals later, his sugar was down to 10 and I was elated – in fact, if anything I panicked somewhat because I then had no idea on what insulin he should get and had always been warned about not making large changes in doses. But the vets provided me the relevant info and from that point on, he just continued to make incredible improvements in every respect.
What was yet more incredible was how two months later he’d been given the all clear completely with a total reversal in his DM as he’d not required any insulin for 6 weeks or so, nor did he show any signs of reverting in any sense. And indeed from then until he died 2 years ago he never did have any recurrence and became the first cat in the UK to not only survive the initial ravages of the condition, but to recover 100% so is somewhat infamous. My vet who’d diagnosed him and put in so much time with him wrote a paper for a veterinary journal too, and he’s still used as an example of how you can never be 100% sure of the path of any animal’s illness.
The most important lessons to learn in this episode are that certain animals when fed such a high carb diet, and who are then put under immense stress, do sometimes degenerate to being unable to adequately process their food and thus succumbing to conditions like this. If Inka had either been fed on a more balanced diet, or hadn’t had to cope with all the stress he may well never had had the problem. Also, to be more acutely aware of changes in their habits and not put them down to anything before checking out the possibility of illness first.
And it also showed me how any animal can change long ingrained habits when their health dictates – Inka ended up on a fully wet diet from the point of recovery onwards as we didn’t want to take any chances with him for the sake of trying to keep his weight down, and if truth be told by that point I was SO pleased to see the pounds piling on it was the least of my worries. Sadly he ended up having further major health issues to contend with and succumbed to those at the ripe age of 14.
So for anyone who does ever find themselves with an animal with this condition, it may well be partly down to diet and/or stress, and hopefully you will find some benefit from reading about his story, and hopefully have an equally happy outcome . If you want to know more about the entire saga including sugar charts, fluid charts and more important monitoring info then head to “his” website at http://www.kitsandcards.co.uk/Inka/index.html .