Take the sting out of a diabetes diagnosis at your veterinary practice

Take the sting out of a diabetes diagnosis at your veterinary practice

Be supportive of pet owners when they're faced with their cat's diabetes diagnosis. Use these communication techniques to ease the burn of this challenging disease.
Jun 01, 2013
By dvm360.com staff

Diabetes. This single word can bite cat owners, especially if they're unprepared or they've witnessed the disease before in other pets or people they know. Although we go out of our way in the veterinary industry to prevent such disease, it's still a common illness that we see in feline patients. With proper communication and commitment, you can help cat owners manage their pet's disease.

As you know, all diabetic patients are treated and managed on a case-by-case basis. They can all experience different outcomes, depending on concurrent disease, lifestyle, personality and so on. Not all clients will choose the same treatment for many different reasons. Your practice will have its own protocols for effective diabetic treatment and may not follow the same approach in this example.

Diabetes diagnosis: the first bite

Mrs. Sweet calls because she's concerned about her 11-year-old cat, Toonces. She says he's been drinking and urinating a lot, and he's not grooming himself like he used to.

Mrs. Sweet: "My friend told me he's just getting old, and not to worry. Should I be concerned?"

You: "Mrs. Sweet, you did the right thing by calling us. I know Dr. Cares will want to take a look at Toonces. She will thoroughly examine Toonces, including checking to see if he's lost any weight or is dehydrated. You might also watch to see if you notice Toonces isn't jumping well or if his rear legs seem flatter to the floor. Dr. Cares will also use blood work and a urinalysis to check for any abnormalities. This will help her give you a more complete picture of Toonces's health and how we can help him feel better."

When Mrs. Sweet and Toonces arrive at the clinic, the veterinary team will perform a physical exam, blood work and urinalysis to check for internal abnormalities.

Mrs. Sweet: "Why does my cat need all of these tests?"

You: "Generally your cat's symptoms help Dr. Cares make a diagnosis, but there are other factors that can affect the success of the treatment for diabetes. For instance if Toonces has pancreatitis or an underlying kidney problem, he may not respond well to the diabetic treatment and this can complicate the situation long term. So we need to be able to rule out concurrent disease so we can offer Toonces the right care to help him feel better."

When the doctor diagnoses diabetes, she may suggest hospitalizing Toonces for the day to perform further diagnostics, such as a blood glucose curve, administer IV fluids to correct dehydration if needed and any other testing required to treat any concurrent disease. It's not uncommon for clients to feel overwhelmed at this point, and it's vital to take the time to discuss the details of this disease and what they should expect in the future.

When a client first learns that their companion may have a lifelong chronic disease, it can be difficult to deal with. It's our job as veterinary professionals to help them understand what treatments are available and support them in any way we can. Many people know someone who's diabetic or they may be diabetic themselves. Sometimes referring to examples of people with this disease helps clients understand that with commitment and proper treatment, they can often manage their cat's condition.

Always try to discuss this diagnosis before bringing the cat into the exam room. Clients have usually been separated from the pet for some time and get very excited. You want them to focus on your information. Once you bring the pet in, give them time to visit. Then say you'd like them to practice giving the cat's injection. This usually gets them back on task.