When our little cat Chester began walking like a rabbit, we knew there was something very, very wrong.
Instead of walking on his hind end tippy toes, like cats do, he began walking rather flat footed, with his ankles nearly touching the ground.
Turns out it is something called plantigrade stance.
Turns out it is caused by nerve damage.
And turns out that is caused by diabetes.
Our little cat Chester has diabetes.
How does a cat even get diabetes?
My educated guess is that it’s the cat food he eats.
There is something perhaps not so cat friendly in the food, perhaps too many carbs and not enough protein.
But that’s just my guess.
It turns out that more and more of our pets, both cats and dogs, are developing diabetes.
Along with more and more humans as well.
And as we mark the 100th year of the discovery of insulin by our own favourite son, Sir Frederick Banting, I decided to delve into what exactly causes this disease in the first place, and the miraculous discovery that can help us manage it.
And it all starts with sugar.
Who knew we even needed it?
I certainly didn’t.
I thought it was the one thing that our bodies could live without.
Turns out I was very wrong.
Our bodies do need sugar, for their very survival.
And our little gland called the pancreas is responsible for helping our bodies convert sugar into a usable source of energy by secreting insulin.
Perhaps better known by another word, carbohydrates are that energy.
They fuel us, keep us going, give us the energy we all need to get through the day, moving, thinking, working, playing.
But of course, as with everything, too much of anything is never a good thing.
Sometimes, our little pancreas gets tired of making insulin.
Sometimes, we wear it plum out and it just can’t make another drop of the life giving hormone.
And that’s when our body starts to feed on itself, as I see it.
Turning to our fat, then our muscle, then our nerves, to provide it with the energy that it is not getting from sugars, from carbohydrates.
No wonder diabetics often lose weight inexplicably.
And seem always hungry or thirsty.
Our bodies are craving something that they are not getting.
Before our little Chester was diagnosed after a blood test that showed his sugar levels were through the roof, he was drinking a lot of water and using the litter box a lot.
A warning sign to watch for in all species that are developing diabetes.
One way to help the body digest sugars better is by providing it with the insulin that it so desperately needs.
Little Chester is now receiving two shots of insulin each day.
And I get to play nurse.
It seems to be helping him quite a bit.
He may never be able to walk normally again, as the nerve damage is likely permanent.
But he does manage to get up on his toes slightly these days, and he still does his frenetic dashes around the house, albeit while thumping along a little bit like a rabbit.
I am assured his legs are not in pain. That if anything, they may feel numb or tingly.
Indeed, he appears merely inconvenienced that he can no longer jump up onto the table anymore.
He seems to know his new limitations, and he seems to understand that the little “bee sting” that I give him twice a day, a.k.a. a little needle with his dose of insulin, is helping him.
His attitude is good. His eyes, coat, ears are clear and bright.
He still gives the gears to the other cats.
And so we take it day by day.
I measure his glucose once per week, although I am supposed to do it every day. However, with cats, their ear lobe has to be pierced each time, and that seemed just too cruel to do on a daily basis. So, weekly it is. And his sugar levels have come down to a respectable number.
I am always vigilant after giving him his insulin shots to watch and make sure that he does not go into insulin overload.
That would mean his body has too little sugar, and coma and even death would be possible.
The fine line between too little sugar and too much sugar is one to be walked with respect and great care.
And it is something that we take for granted every day, when we have our pancreas secreting insulin for us and making sure it is used properly to help us turn our sugar into energy.
And many times an adjustment to our diets will help our bodies if we have only a slight insulin deficiency.
And I believe it is a good idea not to tax our pancreas too much by overloading it with sugars in the first place, be it with food or drink.
Something to keep in mind.
And so, as we live day by day with our little Chester, happy to have him still with us, and always hopeful we can help him with the insulin, and he in return will have a life of some normalcy, albeit with a new type of gait, it is a large learning curve.
And to Sir Frederick Banting, who somehow miraculously discovered insulin one hundred years ago, we give a great and heartfelt Thank You!