Already fretting over words like fructosamine, glucose curve, and glucometer? If your pet has recently received a diagnosis of diabetes, it may seem as if everyone around you has started speaking a strange new language. What’s more, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed… for now, anyway.
But don’t worry too much, if you’re like most of my practice’s diabetes people, you will start to feel less worried, more in control, and less like you’ve entered a new dimension where everyone expects you to do superhuman things like give shots, take blood samples, and use high-tech, handheld medical equipment on a regular basis.
For starters, depending on your diagnosis, you may not have to do any of the those things (though you’ll probably want to at some point). You will, however, have to do some homework. Which is not really such a big deal.
To get you on your way, I’m offering you a few wise tidbits of advice by way of inspiration (I hope):
#1 Listen carefully to your veterinarian and his/her team.
Ask questions! Take notes! Request handouts! Find your favorite veterinary technician and ask if you can call them later if you have questions. So you know, techs are often your best allies. Making friends with them is one of the smartest things you can do.
#2 Do some online research.
For starters, know that there are different kinds of diabetes pets commonly get. Dogs get type 1 diabetes mellitus and cats get type 2 diabetes mellitus. Make sure you know for sure what kind of diabetes your pet suffers from.
(Note: There is a kind of diabetes called diabetes insipitus that they can acquire, but it’s considered relatively uncommon compared to diabetes mellitus. This is a totally different disease and, as such, I won’t be discussing it here.)
If you have a diabetic cat, you can read the basics here. After that, you may want to head over to Cornell Vet School’s feline diabetes page. For a more all-encompassing dive, I recommend FelineDiabetes.com.
You can digest the fundamentals of canine diabetes here. Ultimately, however, you may want the support of a larger community. CanineDiabetes.org offers just this, along with a treasure trove of materials for deeper understanding of the practical and theoretical aspects of this disease.
#3 Take it slow.
Just because your pet has been diagnosed with it doesn’t mean you need to down the entire encyclopedia of diabetes in one gulp. Though you should prepare yourself to learn how to give insulin, don’t worry about it too much. You’ll soon learn that giving injections is easier than giving pills (by far!). And don’t worry about all the other stuff yet. Getting the basics of insulin administration down is the most important thing to learn right now.
#4 Ask for an estimate of your projected monthly expenses.
I know this sounds kind of crass to discuss, but diabetes is an expensive condition. The new diet may be more expensive than your previous one, the insulin is expensive, as are the many follow-up appointments for the frequent monitoring that all diabetic pets require. If you’re willing to learn how to do some of the monitoring at home you’ll find that your expenses will go way down.
#5 Stay positive.
This is a totally manageable condition in most cases. Even if your pet is sick enough that she has to be hospitalized for a few days or more, you should know that the majority of even the sickest diabetes patients tend to survive.
Plus, there’s a big up-side to diabetes that many of my pet people tend to overlook amidst all their understandable hand-wringing: Diabetic pets get lots of attention, which has a way of strengthening and deepening the bond between person and pet. This silver lining is a lovely thing for an outsider to observe.
To be sure, it’s a trial by fire of sorts, but diabetes almost always results in a successful adventure in pet caretaking. I know it’s a funny thing to say but I do believe most people ultimately enjoy the journey.