Eugene veterinary technician tries to offer help for owners of cats and dogs who have the disease
By Randi Bjornstad, The Register-Guard
Pets with Diabetes. Just like people, some cats and dogs also become diabetic, and certified veterinary technician Randi Golub has a simple message for their owners: Don’t panic.
“I know the first thing people think about is, ‘I can’t do this,’ ” and then they think they will have to put their pet down. But it’s really not all that bad to deal with,” said Golub, whose many cats through the years have included a couple who developed diabetes.
“It does take some commitment, and it can be difficult and frustrating at first,” she said. “But there’s been a lot of progress with treatment, and it’s really not as hard as you might think.”
Despite her long career in animal health, Golub remembers clearly getting the news that Alex, her 10-year-old cat, had diabetes.
“I went from being a certified veterinary technician to being a pet owner who was worried and scared and trying to find all the information I could all at once,” she recalls. “I was so overwhelmed by the idea that I would have to give him shots that I didn’t even hear the vet giving me information.
“So when I left the vet’s office, I was just lost.”
Once she recovered her equilibrium, Golub began figuring out what she needed to do to keep Alex’s blood glucose levels stable so that his life not only would be maintained, but improved.
She also began writing a book, a basic how-to guide on living with a diabetic pet and keeping its life as healthy and happy — and long — as possible.
Alex, for example, went on to live another seven happy — and even healthier — years.
The book took six years to finish, but “Sugarbabies: A Holistic Guide to Caring for Your Diabetic Pet” is now on the market.
Golub starts right at the most basic level, with “What Is Diabetes?”
It is information about the disease that humans can even apply to themselves, although she obviously casts the book in terms of cats and dogs, with a mention that horses, rabbits, ferrets and birds also are susceptible to the disease.
She talks about symptoms that are suspicious for a diagnosis of diabetes in cats and dogs and runs through the elements of testing and setting up a treatment regimen.
Even before any testing is done, cat owners should be on the lookout for telltale signs — excessive urination and water consumption, ravenous appetite and weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, respiratory problems, matting or greasiness of hair, and decreased interaction with humans — that can signal the presence of diabetes. Symptoms in dogs may be similar, with sudden loss of housebreaking being especially noticeable.
Dogs also may suddenly develop blindness from cataracts.
“When I first became involved with diabetes in cats, there were just a few handouts and a couple of websites available,” Golub said. “But what I wanted was to have a book in my hands — something that was easy to read, explained everything in clear terms, laid out treatment options and also dealt with holistic methods that considered lifestyle, exercise and diet.”
Yes indeed, Golub says, and she includes a chapter on that topic in her book.
“Weight gain has been shown to make diabetes worse,” she writes. “Exercise helps to control weight along with keeping the body’s systems conditioned and in good balance.”
As in people, exercise for cats and dogs helps increase blood circulation, uses blood glucose as an energy source, keeps muscles and joints toned and flexible, toughens the immune system, relieves stress, enhances a sense of well-being and promotes a good night’s sleep.
So taking a cat for a walk — even for five to 10 minutes a couple of times a day — can help control diabetes and improve overall health, Golub recommends.
Spending the same amount of time in active play, using interactive toys such as wands with fun items (such as feathers) on the ends or any kind of household objects that can be chased or wrestled, is important to stimulate a cat’s natural instinct to prowl and hunt — as well as to burn off a few calories. Then, of course, Golub offers instructions on dealing with the less-pleasant aspects of pet diabetes — monitoring blood glucose, giving injections, regulating medication, handling emergencies and facing end-of-life decisions.
“One of the things I really stress in my book is developing a good working relationship with your veterinarian,” she said. “To be successful, that’s a must, because some veterinarians have really strict philosophies regarding control of the disease, and others are more relaxed in terms of keeping things within some acceptable range. You have to find someone who has the same approach that you do.”
Sometimes, a little knowledge can save a whole lot of money.
“I knew one person whose dog went into a blood glucose crisis and ended up at the emergency vet, where they had to start from scratch to figure out what was wrong, and the bill came to $600,” Golub said. “If the owner had been more informed about the situation, the dog could have been stabilized by having corn syrup rubbed on its gums, at a cost of a few cents.”
After teaching herself the ins and outs of dealing with diabetes in pets, Golub hopes her work will smooth the way for others.
“I hope my book will make diabetes less scary to people whose pets have it,” she said. “I want them to feel more confident, for their own good as well as their pets.”
“It’s really not as hard as you might think.”
— RANDI GOLUB, ON CARING FOR AN ANIMAL WITH DIABETES