Medicine is a passion of mine. So is writing. Apparently you can combine them?
In all seriousness, after studying pre-vet in college and thinking I would go to vet school, I became enamored with creative writing/performing. My strong interest in (and grasp of) science led me to write medical content for a top NYC veterinary hospital, and later for a top instagram influencer. I’ve included two medical blog-length posts below in my portfolio, with some more samples over on my copywriting page.
Diabetes in Cats and Dogs
If you’re a millennial like me, your first introduction to Diabetes may have been through the cringe-worthy and widely-spread “Diabeetus” meme. Then maybe you grew and met a friend with the disease, or watched it develop in a family member. Maybe you yourself have struggled with diabetes and never had the luxury of laughing at a silly meme, when the pain, discomfort and endless monitoring are a permanent part of your daily reality. The truth is, diabetes is a large part of the fabric of our world. And it has not spared our furry friends.
To understand the disease in pets, we use the human Type 1 and Type 2 models. In Type 1 diabetes, a dog or cat (or human) is unable to make insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, a dog or cat (or human!) either does not respond to insulin, or does not make enough insulin. Dogs typically get Type 1 diabetes. There are many factors that can cause this in dogs, including genetics, environmental factors, and pancreatitis1. In contrast, Type 1 diabetes is relatively rare in cats, who are more likely to have Type 2 diabetes. Again, environmental and genetic factors are thought to contribute to the presence of this disease. (When it comes to genetics, the frequency of diabetes is about 4 times higher in the Burmese breed. Maybe skip that one at the pet store? Just kidding, they’re adorable, live your life!)
But what even is insulin? Basically, it’s a hormone that allows the body to utilize glucose, aka sugar, aka energy. If we don’t have insulin (Type 1), our body has no way of accessing the sugar in our blood. If we cannot respond to or are resistant to insulin, or if we do not have enough insulin (Type 2), we again are unable to properly utilize the sugar in our body. Since this sugar is left hangin’, it filters directly into urine and pulls a bunch of fluid out with it. This is why we commonly see pets with diabetes urinate a lot, and in turn drink a lot due to the large fluid loss. It’s something we call polyuria (urinating a lot) and polydipsia (drinking a lot).
Overweight cats are 3.9 times more likely to develop diabetes1. Of course, weight stigmatizing is never cool! We love all shapes of all cats. At the same time, keeping your cat active and feeding a well-proportioned diet can decrease their chances of developing this disease.
So how do we treat diabetes? Of course, with the word of the day: Insulin! The typical treatment is an injection under the skin every 12 hours. Blood monitoring is done regularly with your vet to make sure we are giving the appropriate amount of insulin – we don’t want to give to little, or too much. And yes, you give the insulin at home! I know it sounds scary, but you get the hang of it easily after we show you the ropes.
If injections sound scary, or you’re not sure if you want to treat your diabetic pet, remember that 1. You can do this. 2. You can really do this. 3. Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is very uncomfortable in people, and we can assume the same for pets. and 4. There is a risk of your pet going into Diabetic Ketoacidosis if diabetes is left untreated. Basically, this is where the body starts making Ketones for energy since it cannot use glucose. Then, too many ketones build up and the body can no longer function. Sorry to make this grim, but this causes death if left untreated.
Now for the bright side: did you know that cats can sometimes go into remission? This is a super cool thing that cats (and some humans with Type 2 diabetes) can do because they are magical beings. It doesn’t happen in all cats, and it doesn’t happen immediately, but some cats who are able to manage their blood glucose levels after consistent insulin therapy can enter a stage of remission. Sometimes this lasts weeks, sometimes months, sometimes longer.
All in all, diabetes is something that we are learning more and more about in pets and humans alike. It is manageable with a daily commitment, and we are always here to help. If you have any concerns regarding your own pet, call 212-924-6116 to schedule an exam.
Resources: 1. Nelson RW, Reusch CW. ANIMAL MODELS OF DISEASE: Classification and etiology of diabetes in dogs and cats. Journal of Endocrinology 2014; joe.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/joe/222/3/T1.xml
Itchy dog? Not anymore. Meet my friend, Cytopoint.
For some time, veterinarians had a limited arsenal when it came to treating an itchy dog. There were oral medications, such as steroids or Apoquel (an immune suppressant), topicals (that typically have steroids in them), antihistamines such as Benadryl and Zyrtec, and of course a good old plastic cone to top it all off… literally. But what if an owner didn’t want to use Apoquel long-term? What if they couldn’t keep topicals on long enough for them to be effective? And most importantly, what if none of these treatments were actually working? Cue frustrated owners, stressed vets, and itchy, uncomfortable dogs.
(This is the part where I say, “That is, until Cytopoint came along”. Just wanted to give you a heads up because it’s going to sound corny when I do.)
That is, until Cytopoint came along.What is Cytopoint, you ask? Cytopoint is an injectable antibody. Say what? It’s okay, I’ll explain.
In order to understand how Cytopoint works, we have to understand what makes a dog feel “itchy”. Back in 2013, researchers identified a molecule called Interleuken-31 as one of the main players in canine itch1. Dogs who received an injection of this IL-31 were significantly itchier than dogs who received the placebo. Sans injection, dogs produce this molecule all on their own when something irritates the skin, such as an allergen.
Back to our antagonist, IL-31. When IL-31 binds to receptors on a cell, a signal is sent to the brain that tells the dog, “Woah woah WOAH. I am ITCHY, y’all!” (Exact verbiage yet to be proven.)
That’s where Cytopoint comes in. Cytopoint is an antibody which binds to IL-31 before IL-31 has a chance to attach to a receptor. Or, in simpler terms, Cytopoint is my boyfriend who grabs me before I can press “complete purchase” on that $200 pair of shoes. Each and every time, Cytopoint will snatch a wild IL-31 and in turn, stop them from buying expensive shoes. Or, uh, making a dog itchy.
This method of action makes Cytopoint very safe. It is known as a non-drug alternative and is broken down via normal protein degradation pathways in the body, which means it puts minimal stress on the liver and kidneys2. It’s also very effective: Cytopoint begins working in 1 day and lasts around 4 weeks, though there are some slight variations in this timeline depending on the dog2.
Now, this isn’t to say that your veterinarian won’t recommend a combination of Cytopoint and/or Apoquel as well as topical medications. Your vet will create a customized treatment plan after testing to rule out other causes of itch, such as parasites. And depending on the severity of the itch, your pet still may go home with a cone. Which is the real cherry on top, isn’t it?
For more information on Cytopoint and treating your dogs itch, schedule an appointment by calling 212-924-6116, or visit the Cytopoint website at http://www.cytopoint4dogs.com.
References: 1. Gonzales AJ, Humphrey WR, Messamore JE, et al. Interleukin-31: its role in canine pruritus and naturally occurring canine atopic dermatitis. Vet Dermatol. 2013;24(1):48-e12. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3164.2012.01098.x. 2. Zoetis, Canine Atopic Dermatitis Immunotherapeutic insert, Zoetis 2016; http://www.zoetisus.com/products/dogs/cytopoint/assets/resources/2019/cytopoint-approved-package-insert.pdf.
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