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Insulinoma in Dogs

Learn about insulinoma in dogs.

Insulinoma is a type of tumor in the pancreas that secretes insulin in an amount that is more than the dog needs to break down the sugar in the blood. It causes extreme low blood sugar.

Signs of Insulinoma in Dogs

The signs of insulinoma in dogs include:

  • Wobbliness
  • Listless behavior
  • Twitching
  • Trembling
  • Mental dullness
  • Seizures
  • Coma and death

Diagnosis of Insulinoma in Dogs

When a dog is exhibiting signs that may be consistent with insulinoma, the veterinarian will do some basic blood testing first. Those tests will probably reveal low blood sugar. However, sometimes, the blood sugar may be normal or low normal if the dog ate very recently.

Once the veterinarian is aware that the dog has low blood sugar, he or she will be considering a few different conditions, including:

The veterinarian may do other testing or ask specific questions to rule out some or all of the above conditions, which are more common than insulinoma. Once the doctor is considering insulinoma, a special blood test for insulin level can be sent to the lab.

An abdominal ultrasound should show the tumor in the pancreas.

Treatment of Insulinoma in Dogs

Insulinoma tumors in dogs are usually malignant, which means they are aggressive and spread to other parts of the body. Before treatment, the veterinarian will run more tests to stage the disease. If it is confined to the pancreas, it's Stage 1. If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, it's Stage 2. If it is in the liver or another distant organ, it's Stage 3.

Surgery to remove the insulinoma is the first level of treatment. It's a difficult and dangerous surgery that generally requires a specialist. Blood sugar must be closely monitored before, during, and after the surgery, and as much care as possible must be taken to avoid traumatizing the pancreas, which can result in painful pancreatitis.

If surgery is not possible, the veterinarian may prescribe medications to help manage the high insulin levels. Steroids that increase blood sugar levels are commonly prescribed, and diet change can also help control the signs of insulinoma.

Chemotherapy drugs may help slow the cancer's spread, and may be used after surgery as well.

The average survival time for a dog with Stage 1 insulinoma is about a year and a half.

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