How to respond to client fears about feline diabetes
Five minutes in your hospital is sometimes the difference between life and death for an emergency patient. Dr. Arnold Plotnick, DACVIM, DABVP (feline), wants you to consider the five minutes in your exam room with a client after you diagnose a cat with diabetes just as important. Here's what you should explain to a worried owner of a newly diagnosed diabetic cat:
"Your cat has an illness. The illness is treatable." Clients have just learned their cat has a disease that may never go away and will require more supervision and care than ever. Despite these challenges, Dr. Plotnick says his clients at Manhattan Cat Specialists in New York, N.Y., accept this diagnosis more readily than some more exotic diseases. "They understand diabetes," he says. "They may know somebody with diabetes, and that person seems fine."
"You will probably need to give your cat insulin injections." Needles give some people the heebie-jeebies, but emphasize that injections can be much easier on clients and their cats than giving a pill. Dr. Plotnick or a team member demonstrates injections for clients, and his handout includes tips as well."Figuring out just the right insulin dose for your cat will take a few tests over a few weeks." After the appropriate insulin dose is established and the cat is doing well, Dr. Plotnick sees a diabetic patient three times a year instead of the two visits recommended for healthy cats: not a big change.
"A diabetic cat requires extra supervision, but it's not as hard as it sounds." Dr. Plotnick explains to clients that the days of loading up the food and water bowls and leaving the cat for a day or two are over. But boarding personnel, professional cat sitters, and even trained adult family members and friends can administer injections quickly and painlessly while a client is away from home.
"You're not crazy to care for your pet by giving daily injections." Dr. Plotnick has many clients who reliably give their cats lots of medications. But other people in the client's life may not understand the reality of caring for a chronically ill pet. Dr. Plotnick's handouts—like his exam room visits—offer compassion and support for those working hard to keep their cats healthy and happy: "Friends, relatives, and coworkers may make insensitive comments that you must be crazy to care for a chronically ill pet," the handout explains. "They obviously don't understand the special bond you share with your cat. Your good friends will understand your choice and will be supportive, and one of them may even be a suitable backup caretaker."
Dr. Plotnick emphasizes to clients in those first five minutes after diagnosis that diabetic cats can lead happy, healthy lives and that regular insulin injections are neither prohibitively expensive nor time-consuming or difficult with a little practice. "It's no big deal," he says. "It's a perfectly manageable disease. Clients just have a cat that now requires regular medication."