Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Let's Hear It For Innovation

A few weeks ago I was at work surfing craigslist for jobs* (show of hands: who else looks at other jobs while at work?) when I saw a listing for a company that is developing a non-invasive blood glucose monitor. I’m sure I’m not remotely qualified for whatever opening they were advertising, but boy, the idea of testing Isabella’s blood without actually having to see Isabella’s blood is mighty exciting. For two seconds, I dreamed of getting free prototypes to test. Of convincing the company that there’s a whole diabetes pet market they could exploit, and on and on.

That got me thinking about how diabetes technology has changed so much and how our little four-legged diabetics get to benefit from innovations made on behalf of humans.

For instance: not so long ago the only way human diabetics could monitor their blood sugar was by peeing on a test strip. Then came portable blood glucose meters (the early models of which, near as I can tell, required the user to practically sever a finger to get enough blood for the test). Those meters got smaller, faster, and required a smaller blood sample as time went by, putting them into the mainstream of human diabetes management. Bye-bye urine strips for first-line monitoring.

In the veterinary world, I’m not sure that home urine testing was ever the norm, but it was – and is – certainly used by some people to monitor their cat. (Here Isabella, pee in this cup…) It’s a tricky business that means you have to catch the kitty doing hers. Understandably, many folks balk at the idea.

Finally, in 2000, some smarties in Switzerland published an article about poking a diabetic cat’s ear for blood testing, noting that the technique could be used at home. Yay!! Since then, more articles have been published and the Canadian Veterinary Association has even stated that home BG testing should be part of standard therapy.

Still, the blood-letting aspect of testing puts a lot of people off. It puts off more than a few cats, too, I’m sure. That’s why I watch with interest for non-invasive methods. A non-invasive BG monitor was approved by the FDA several years ago, but it obviously didn’t make a big splash or diabetics all around would be sporting the wristwatch-type gizmo.

So we’re still waiting. There’s one under development that clips to an earlobe (hey – we’re all familiar with ear-testing!). I think the new technology focuses on shooting light through the skin or something. Infrared? Near infrared? Do I care? Not really: I just want to know two things: When? And will my cat’s fur mess up the reading?

Perhaps the next fashion trend for diabetic cats will be the shaved ear. Oh, I’d do it. You bet I would. Could taking a razor to my cat be any harder than getting her to to pee in a cup?

*Note for Mary, who I know will read this: don’t worry, I’m not really looking for another job, just keeping an eye on the landscape, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Life in Dullsville

Since I try to have a new entry in this blog once a week or so, I’ve been searching my brain and my life for something to write about. A couple of weak ideas came up, but nothing that really resonated, which made me mentally complain about how dull things are. My feline diabetes life is currently so routine that it’s unremarkable. But on the drive to work this morning, it dawned on me: Dull is good. Dull is stable. Dull is proof that the cat’s diabetes doesn’t run my life.

The way things are right now is the way things were before Isabella was diagnosed: Predictable. Steady. And so I’d like to offer up my boring life as a testament to those who are new to feline diabetes that it really does get better. Really.

In the early days, Isabella’s disease dominated my days and nights. There was so much to learn. Like how to give shots or what food and treats she should eat. I had to learn a whole new way to shop. Testing her blood sugar was such an ordeal I was literally sleepless with dread -- afraid of being maimed with each attempt, but scared to give insulin without knowing her BG level. I was constantly vigilant about her condition, concerned about hypoglycemia. I worried all day while I was at work.

Gradually, though all the new things became habit. Even the blood glucose tests settled into an easy routine. I found a pet sitter I trust and I’m able to get away without (much) worry. I learned to trust myself when choosing an insulin dose and to have confidence that I’ll know what to do if Isabella does have a problem.

Oh, I’m still vigilant. I still assess how the cat is doing each time I look at her. I’m always aware of where she is in the insulin cycle, if she's eating and peeing normally and if she's smacking Casey around like usual. And I’m nowhere near happy with her blood glucose levels overall. Isabella still trends way too high and no tweaking of dose or timing seems to change that -- so I’m seriously thinking about changing to a different type of insulin. (That ought to shake up the routine a bit!)

Overall though, it’s Dullsville. Boring, blah, same ol’, same ol’, and that equals good news in the land of Feline Diabetes . Newbies, take heart -- if I can get to Dullsville with a ornery cat like Isabella, you can get there too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Getting Started

I wrote a while ago about my growing collection of glucose meters. I’ve planned all along to donate them to my vet for her to give to people just starting out. A consolation prize, of sorts. Your cat has an expensive, chronic disease. Here’s a parting gift.

Anyway, with that in mind, I typed up a little information sheet called “Feline Diabetes Hints, Tips, and Tricks.” I sewed up some ear-warming rice bags (in very pretty purple fabric) and I gathered up some cute little gift bags.

Then I discovered that not all of the meter kits met my very stringent standards: Three of my spare kits did not come with a starting supply of test strips.

Now, understand that the test strips are the priciest part of diabetes management. (Well, except for trips to the emergency vet, but we won’t go into that just now.) Odds are that the person who receives this wee kit will get it along with a rather big vet bill, so the last thing I want is for them to have to run to Walgreens and fork out another 50 or 100 bucks to get going.

That means, by my standards, three of my spare kits are useless and only one was up to snuff. I didn’t want to bring the vet only one kit, that seemed cheap. So I went back into hunting mode and scored two more meters – with strips – the last of which arrived in the mail last weekend.

Now I’m good to go. I have three fully-equipped meter kits. I have three rice bags. Three “tips & tricks” sheets. Two cute gift bags.

Uh oh. Two.

It turns out I have standards about the bags too. I want nice plain bags in a solid color. No holiday motif. No birthday hats. No fish. Rummaging through my supply of bags I turned up a two-tone silver bag that will have to do. It’s not the same size as the others, which bugs me, but I’m trying to cope.

Now, each bag is cheerfully marked “Diabetes Starter Kit” and stocked with the stuff. They sit lined up and ready to go to the vet’s office tomorrow.

In the meantime, does anyone want a glucose meter kit without strips? I might just have something you’d like…