Whats the topic for today?
I'm going to talk about insulinomas in dogs.
What are those?
It’s a type of tumour that grows on the pancreas
And what problems does it cause?
It’s a bit like the opposite of diabetes. In diabetes (type1)the pancreas stops producing insulin. Insulinomas however produce far too much insulin and that causes the blood glucose levels to drop dangerously low.
What sort of symptoms does it cause?
Initially shaking and trembling and behavioural changes but this can progress to collapse and seizures. It all depends on how low the blood glucose gets.
So are they like that all the time?
No the blood glucose fluctuates dramatically during the day. Sometimes it will be normal and the dog will appear perfectly normal as though nothing was wrong. But the situation can change very quickly so the next minute they might collapse.
Is it easy to diagnose?
It can be quite tricky. Basically the diagnosis is made from a blood sample if the glucose level is low but the insulin level is high. The trouble is that these levels fluctuate during the day and a single blood sample may come back as normal.
So how do you get around that problem?
If you are lucky enough to get a blood sample whilst the dog is seizuring then your chances of making the diagnosis are increased. Otherwise it’s a matter of taking several blood samples during the day until you catch one where the blood glucose has suddenly plummeted.
Is there any treatment?
Yes and no! It is possible to surgically remove insulinomas by removing part of the pancreas. The trouble is that insulinomas are usually very small and sometimes you cant see them with the naked eye. Also 50% of insulinomas in dogs are cancerous and are likely to have already started to spread before surgery.
Is there anything else that can help?
Without surgery the only thing that can help is to feed several small meals during the day which helps to keep glucose levels more stable. Steroid drugs have some anti-insulin effects and can help a little.
Does feeding glucose help?
Sometimes if the dog is showing signs of collapse you can give a small amount of sugar or glucose. However its not a good idea to do this unless its absolutely necessary as the pancreas responds to increases in blood glucose by producing even more insulin. So you can get a big drop in blood glucose after feeding glucose.
Are some dogs more likely to develop an insulinoma than others?
Yes some breeds are more susceptible to them like the fox terrier and the boxer.
Whats todays question?
Today we have been talking about insuliomas. Which gland of the body are they found in? (pancreas)