How to Treat Insulinoma in Dogs

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Insulinoma in dogs is a type of pancreatic cancer, and the prognosis often isn't good. It affects the beta cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for insulin secretion. Insulin regulates blood sugar, or glucose, throughout the body. If an insulinoma tumor grows, excess insulin results, and the dog develops hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. The disease usually occurs in dogs aged 8 and up.

Tip

  • While it's obvious something is wrong with your dog if he passes out or experiences seizures, take him to the vet if he exhibits more subtle symptoms such as lethargy or behavioral changes. As with most cancers, earlier detection may result in a better prognosis.

Insulinoma Symptoms

The first indications of insulinoma in dogs may be collapse or seizures. Other symptoms include:

  • lethargy or weakness
  • trembling
  • odd gait
  • or behavioral changes.

Tip

  • While it's obvious something is wrong with your dog if he passes out or experiences seizures, take him to the vet if he exhibits more subtle symptoms such as lethargy or behavioral changes. As with most cancers, earlier detection may result in a better prognosis.

Insulinoma Diagnosis

Your vet will take a blood sample to determine whether your dog's symptoms result from hypoglycemia, although quite a few tests may be required to make a definite diagnosis. If your dog is hypoglycemic, your vet will conduct tests to rule out other possible causes, such as Addison's disease or a severe bacterial infection. If testing reveals too much insulin production, your vet will perform an ultrasound to look for tumors in the pancreas. The ultrasound also shows whether the tumor has metastasized, or spread.

Treatment and Prognosis

If your dog has just one lump in his pancreas, surgery is an option if the cancer hasn't metastasized. Even so, it's a difficult surgery, as removing the tumor may cause insulin levels to go into overdrive. If your pet survives potential post-surgical complications, such as inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis, he may go into remission for a year or more. Even if the cancer returns, with medical management he might live three years or more.

If the cancer has spread, the prognosis is different. There's not much point in subjecting your dog to an operation. Medical management, including steroids and dietary therapy to control hypoglycemia, may offer your dog a few months of a good quality of life. Your vet may also recommend chemotherapy to treat the insulinoma and prolong your pet's life.

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