Albuquerque CS, Bauman BL, Rzeznitzeck J, Caney SM, Gunn-Moore DA. Priorities on treatment and monitoring of diabetic cats from the owners’ points of view. J Feline Med Surg. 2019 Jun 26; 1098612X19858154
Diabetes mellitus is a common disease of cats. Often caused by obesity, the physiology of diabetes mellitus (DM) in cats mimics that of type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus in humans. Despite being a manageable condition, DM in cats requires significant owner effort including strict diet control, insulin administration, and often the treatment of secondary conditions. The level of care required may be over or underestimated by owners, as may the effect on both their own and the cat’s quality of life.
The purpose of this study was to identify owner’s priorities and perceptions on DM management, efficacy of veterinary communication regarding the disease, and effects on the human-animal bond. The study was designed as a prospective survey-based observational study.
Two questionnaires were open to people who currently or previously owned a cat with DM. The first survey was more in-depth and the second a simplified version- owners could only answer one of the two and not both. Data from the two were combined for analysis.
892 questionnaires were returned, of which 114 were removed due to incomplete data or duplication leaving 748 useful surveys. 43% of respondents were from the USA, followed by the UK (36%), Canada (7%) and the Netherlands ( 6%) with assorted other countries making up the remainder.
Of the cats, included, there were 412 neutered males, 210 neutered females, 66 intact males and 60 intact females (64% male overall). 70% had been diagnosed with DM at least a year previous. 18% of cats alive at study completion were in remission.
At the time of diagnosis, only 46% of veterinarians discussed signs of “unstable” diabetes (ie poor glycemic control), 41% discussed remission, and 40% home glucose monitoring. 25% did not discuss a diet change. 25% were not shown how to draw up insulin, and 27% not shown how to administer it, and 51% had no veterinary staff supervise the first administration. These are all topics of great relevance to the owners of diabetic cats, however, it is important to note that it is well known that owners recall less than 50% of what is discussed in a veterinary appointment.
Only 45% of owners were confident in recognizing hypoglycemia. 76% of owners felt that websites and internet forums were the most valuable source of information on diabetes. 39% were not fed a diabetic diet, however, 71% utilized home blood glucose monitoring. Of owners using home monitoring, more than half received information on doing this from the internet.
Clients reported initial concerns about costs, boarding, the effect on their daily life and potential negative impact on the human–pet bond. However, these concerns abated significantly after institution of therapy.
There are inherent drawbacks to any survey-based data, including reporting bias and recollection bias, as well as the selection of the initial population. Specifically, the population of British cats and owners chosen may not be specifically replicated elsewhere in the world, and the priorities of these owners may not be the same as those in other geographic or socioeconomic regions.
Despite these potential liabilities, this paper provides a foundation on which to help veterinarians target key owners of concern to owners of their diabetic patients, and may allow better control of DM in cats.
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