In some cases it may be. I want to relay the story of our clinic cat Buddy.
Buddy came to us because of chronic pain and a behavioral issue. With the use of gabapentin, meloxicam, and diet, we were able to control the pain from his declaw and the behavior changed.
We noticed that Buddy started drinking excessive amounts of water and his litter box was over flowing. He also had a dramatic increase in appetite and was losing weight.
We did a physical examination and took some blood and urine. You get three guesses and the first two don’t count. Buddy had diabetes.
We started him on insulin. As treatment went along, he did not seem to improve. We slowly increased his dosage and he was up to 7 units twice daily. Most cats only need 1 unit or sometime 2 twice daily.
Something did not seem right. We started checking for other concurrent issues – hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, infection, acromegaly to help determine the reason for the insulin resistance.
Everything came back normal, until we looked into acromegaly. This is a condition where the body is producing to much growth hormone. There is usually a pituitary tumor as the cause.
The first screening test is a blood test that is sent to the reference lab at Michigan State University. After a week, the test came back elevated suspicious for acromegaly.
At this point, Buddy’s health care was in the lower thousands of dollars. Fortunately, we had taken out an insurance policy with Trupanionwhen Buddy came to live with us. We have a $500 deductible and the insurance company then pays 90% of his bills.
We took Buddy to Bush Neurology in Springfield, VA to have an MRI. With anesthesia, the charge was a little over $2000.
Here are the results.
Buddy’ has a small benign tumor on his pituitary gland. This tumor is producing growth hormone, acromegaly. Adults don’t need this hormone, somatotropin, and it is harmful. It is making him resistant to insulin therapy. It also is making his organs enlarge. This is not a big issue for the liver and kidneys. It becomes an issue for the heart and can lead to failure.
Since the tumor tends to be benign, it is treatable and does not require chemotherapy.
The treatment is directed radiation therapy at the tumor. Fortunately, we have a treatment center in Leesburg, VA. Once the diagnosis is made and treatment is going to proceed, a CT needs to be performed. This helps the oncologist map where the radiation will target.
Dr Wright is the veterinary radiation oncologist. There are not many in North America so we are lucky to have someone so close. Dr. Wright and her team were amazing and took great care of Buddy.
Here is the special “hat” that was made to place Buddy’s head in the correct manner.
There were 3 treatments done over the course of a week. Buddy was anesthetize for each treatment. The hope is that the tumor will shrink, he will respond to insulin, and his heart will stop growing.
Cost and Insurance
Total cost from Buddy’s treatment is about $15,000. Trupanion has been wonderful. They have options to pay the veterinarian directly or to pay us. The web site is very easy to use and we just upload his invoices. The veterinarian needs to send his records. We usually have payment in 3-5 days.
Hard to believe how far veterinary medicine has come in my career. I had a cat diagnosed with acromegaly 20 years ago. My options then were to consider travel the Utrecht the Netherlands for radiation therapy (not realistic), or to use as much insulin as needed. Sylvester was up to 35 units of insulin twice daily. He unfortunately had to be euthanized due to congestive heart failure.
Outcome and the Future
We all feel very lucky that we are able to afford this treatment for Buddy. We are also grateful that treatment is a car ride away.
We will be using a new method of monitoring his glucose call FreeSytle Libre. We will keep you informed how it works for us and how Buddy does.