Insulinoma in Dogs

Insulinoma in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Collapse / Disorientation / Seizures / Shaking / Weakness

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Rated as moderate conditon

11 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Collapse / Disorientation / Seizures / Shaking / Weakness

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Insulinoma in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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What is Insulinoma?

Canine insulinoma is a rare disease, yet it is the most common tumor of the endocrine pancreas. Insulinomas receive this name because they affect the endocrine functions of the pancreas, which handle hormone control—including insulin. Most regularly, insulinomas put an excess of insulin into the body. Insulinoma occurs most often in middle-aged and older dogs, averaging nine years in age. They affect both sexes and are more likely in larger breeds. The most commonly afflicted breeds are German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Boxers, Golden Retrievers and Terriers.

There are two distinct types of pancreatic cancer — exocrine and endocrine. Insulinoma falls into the latter category, affecting the hormone secretion by the pancreas, causing an excess of insulin to enter the body. This excess of insulin induces hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in the body, and can result in a number of symptoms, including confusion, weakness, seizures, and collapse, up to and including death. Treatment almost always requires surgery, which can be risky and not always effective. Average life expectancy ranges from 6 to 24 months after diagnosis.

Symptoms of Insulinoma in Dogs

Canine insulinoma affects the endocrine function in a way that an excess of insulin is put out into the body. This excess of insulin induces hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in the body. This decrease in blood sugar can result in the following symptoms:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Lack of alertness
  • Changes in behavior
  • Weakness
  • Disturbance of vision
  • Muscle degeneration
  • Decrease in reflex of appendages
  • Seizures
  • Collapse
  • Coma
  • Death
Types

There are two distinct kinds of pancreatic cancer, both of which have separate symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments.

  • Exocrine carcinomas

    are cancerous tumors that impact the exocrine functions of the pancreas. An exocrine carcinoma impacts the digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. Exocrine carcinomas spread quickly to the lining of the stomach, liver, and other organs.

  • Endocrine carcinomas

    are cancerous tumors that impact the endocrine functions of the pancreas. An endocrine carcinoma impacts the hormone production of the pancreas. These tumors can affect other parts of the body through their influence on hormone production. Additionally, they may spread quickly to the liver and lymph nodes.

  • Insulinoma

    is an endocrine carcinoma that primarily affects the production of insulin by the pancreas, causing a decrease in blood sugar known as hypoglycemia.

Causes of Insulinoma in Dogs

As with many forms of cancer, there is no definitive cause for pancreatic cancer. It is believed that there is a genetic component to the likelihood of this cancer occurring, supported by the prevalence of the disease in certain breeds and body types. Ultimately, any definitive causation of pancreatic cancers, including insulinoma, is unknown.

Diagnosis of Insulinoma in Dogs

Because of an insulinoma’s effect, a persistent case of hypoglycemia is very suggestive of the presence of an insulinoma. To diagnose an insulinoma, multiple tests may be conducted, including:

  • Multiple blood tests
  • Analysis of insulin and glucose levels
  • Abdominal ultrasound/x-rays
  • Abdominal surgery

In most cases, abdominal surgery is required to definitely diagnose insulinoma. The process involves opening the abdomen so that the surgeon can feel the pancreas for any tumors. In addition, a blue stain is used to mark any insulinoma cells in the pancreas.

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Treatment of Insulinoma in Dogs

There are a few initial steps in treatment that can aid in regulating the dog’s blood sugar:

  • Feeding the dog small meals through the day
  • Medication to help raise blood sugar
  • Diazoxide can be used to supplement insulin secretion

It is important to address the hypoglycemia and get it under control before continuing treatment for the insulinoma. Once the hypoglycemia has been addressed, surgery is usually the only successful treatment for insulinoma, and even then the prognosis is poor. During surgery, the dog will be monitored for pancreatitis, which can be fatal.

There are several medications that can aid in suppressing insulinoma and keeping it from spreading, but be aware; they can have toxic side effects.

Recovery of Insulinoma in Dogs

After surgery, the dog will have a recovery period and will need to be monitored closely for reoccurrence of hypoglycemia. It’s possible that the veterinarian will suggest dietary restrictions and multiple feedings through the day to maintain blood sugar. In the event that hypoglycemia is still present after surgery, this means that part of the tumor is still present in the body. At this point chemotherapy may be required, but the prognosis for survival is not good. On average, survival rates of insulinoma range from 6 to 24 months after diagnosis.

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Insulinoma Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $14,000

Average Cost

$8,500

Insulinoma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

Rambo

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Boxer

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Moderate condition

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Hypoglycaemia

My dog had surgery to remove insulinoma on August 1st. The surgeon removed what he thought was a nodule from the pancreas as well as two tiny spots on the liver that were paler than the rest of the liver. After surgery his blood sugar remained in the 3’s (mmol/L), and did not increase from where it was before surgery. Biopsy results stated that the nodule from the pancreas was not insulinoma and rather was thickening of pancreatic tissue. The spots on the liver were insulinoma so obviously it has spread to the liver. The source of insulinoma in the pancreas was not found and not removed. His blood sugar is currently being stabilized with prednisone, but the vet said another surgery is an option. To wait for it to get bigger and try to remove it again. My question is, “is it worth it” for lack of better words. What is the prognosis if we did remove the insulinoma Tumor from the pancreas this time knowing that it had previously spread to the liver (even though those two spots were removed from the liver). Would it actually buy him any more real time.

Aug. 23, 2018

Rambo's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

This is all on a case by case basis, however it would be beneficial to remove any insulinoma if it enlarges but it may just help to stabilise the blood glucose but the overall prognosis wouldn’t be favourable for the long term if there has already been signs of metastasis. Your Veterinarian would be able to tell you more and you should get regular ultrasounds to look for any enlargement in the pancreas, but the best method of detection is feeling for an insulinoma during exploratory surgery. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 23, 2018

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Rider

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Border Collie Aussie Shepherd Mis

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7 Years

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Mild condition

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Seizures
Hypothyroidism

I'm wondering if there is any connection to hypothyroidism and insulinoma? A few people have posted that their dogs have hypothyroidism and have concerns of insulinoma as well - so I'm wondering if there is any connection. My dog recently began getting seizures and it was noted he had a low functioning thyroid which the vets thought might be the reason for the seizures - but we're treating the thyroid and he's still had a couple of episodes. My concern is insulinoma, but feel it's very hard to diagnose. He's had a clear Ultrasound (which i know doesn't always show), and his glucose was tested once after he fasted, but wondering if I should continue to intermittently fast and recheck. I purchased a glucometer but I'm unable to get blood from his ear to check myself. He's a stressful dog in the car, and my vet is far away, so I've avoiding doing it... but if it's recommended, I'll do it.

Aug. 3, 2018

Rider's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

Thyroid disease is somewhat common, while insulinoma's are very uncommon. Border Collies are a little bit more prone than other breeds for epilepsy, and that would be more likely than insulinoma, as well. It may be best to start him on anti-seizure medication and see if that resolves his problems. You can discuss that in more detail with your veterinarian, and they may be able to help you over the phone if needed.

Aug. 3, 2018

dog-name-icon

Rider

dog-breed-icon

Border Collie Aussie Shepherd

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild condition

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Seizures
Hypothyroidism

I'm wondering if there is any connection to hypothyroidism and insulinoma? A few people have posted that their dogs have hypothyroidism and have concerns of insulinoma as well - so I'm wondering if there is any connection. My dog recently began getting seizures and it was noted he had a low functioning thyroid which the vets thought might be the reason for the seizures - but we're treating the thyroid effectively and he's still had a couple of episodes. My concern is insulinoma, but feel it's very hard to diagnose. He's had a clear Ultrasound (which i know doesn't always show), and his glucose was tested once after he fasted, but wondering if I should continue to intermittently fast and recheck. I purchased a glucometer but I'm unable to get blood from his ear to check myself. He's a stressful dog in the car, and my vet is far away, so I've avoiding doing it... but if it's recommended, I'll do it.

Aug. 3, 2018

Rider's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

Thyroid disease is somewhat common, while insulinoma's are very uncommon. Border Collies are a little bit more prone than other breeds for epilepsy, and that would be more likely than insulinoma, as well. It may be best to start him on anti-seizure medication and see if that resolves his problems. You can discuss that in more detail with your veterinarian, and they may be able to help you over the phone if needed.

Aug. 3, 2018

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Rambo

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Boxer

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Hypoglycaemia

I have yet another question about my dogs insulinoma. We took him in for his surgery and the vet initially said to do a CT scan (his ultrasound and X-ray came back clear but insulinoma was essentially diagnosed via blood test). I was very on the fence as it would be another 2k to do this imaging (in the past year and a half we’ve spent about 20k on him for all his problems he’s had). The surgeon came in right as I was saying fine we’ll do it and said it’s not necessary and although it helps he will be able to look and feel for the insulinoma. So I didn’t end up doing the CT. The surgeon called me after the surgery and said they removed a 2-3mm spot on the edge of the pancreas for testing as well as two pin point spots on the liver (he said they were slightly paler than the rest of the liver but not hard like a nodule but he removed them just in case). It’s been just over 24 hours since his surgery (he went in just after 9am yesterday and it’s 1:00pm now). The vet called me around 8am and said he’s doing well but that his blood sugar is still a bit low. It was in the 3s the day of surgery and went down to the 2s overnight. Before surgery he was always around 3.7mmol/l. They said they’ll put him on a low dose of prednisone for now then he might be able to go off it at his 10 day post op appointment. I have two questions: 1) what is the most accurate way to see these insulinomas? I’ve read that surgery was the most accurate before. But if it was too small for him to see or feel would a CT scan even be able to pick it up? I’ve heard those aren’t 100% either. I’m stressing I made the wrong decision not doing the CT and they may have missed something because of it. 2) how soon do dogs blood sugar level out after surgery? Is it too soon to say “yes he is still hypoglycaemic post op”? Is there anything else that could cause his blood sugar to be lower than it was before surgery? Stress? The dextrose he was on? Coming off the dextrose he was on? I’m very stressed that I put him through surgery and spent 4-5k all for nothing.

Aug. 2, 2018

Rambo's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Visualisation and biopsy during surgery is the only real way to diagnose insulinoma, CT and ultrasound can be indicative but not always reliable (depending on the literature cited). CT scans may miss small tumours (just make a Google search) in the pancreas or elsewhere in the body. A nodule was found and sent for histopathology, this will give you and your Veterinarian more insight into whether it is an insulinoma or not; after removal of an insulinoma the blood glucose may rise to critical levels due to a decrease in insulin production and your Veterinarian should be monitoring the blood glucose levels. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/insulinoma

Aug. 3, 2018

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Rambo

dog-breed-icon

Boxer

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild condition

thumbs-up-icon

2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Hypoglycaemia

My 10 year old boxer was just diagnosed with insulinoma via blood test. (We had taken him to the vet one morning about 1.5 weeks ago because he was very lethargic, unstable and not eating. Found out his sugar was very low. They leveled out his sugars and tested for insulinoma). Two days after diagnosis we did an ultrasound and X-ray which both came back clear (could not see the insulinoma either but that was expected) so we are hopeful it has not yet spread. His activity level returned to normal after the initial vet visit once we started feeding him every 3-4 hours. You would not know anything was wrong other than his pre-existing conditions (idiopathic epilepsy which has been controlled with medication and hypothyroidism). The plan is to go through with surgery and I’m meeting the surgeon tomorrow for a consult. But I’m wondering what I should expect for longevity? I hear these almost always come back. Also, will I be able to return to a normal feeding schedule? (3x/day instead of 6) and will he need to go on any medications after or should the surgery in theory clear up this problem for a while?

July 30, 2018

Rambo's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Firstly we need to confirm that there is an insulinoma, sometimes they are only visible during exploratory surgery and visual observation is the best diagnostic method as they don’t always show on ultrasound. If there is a single insulinoma then life expectancy is longer (around 18 months) than for dogs with multiple masses; any aftercare would depend on Rambo’s recovery and blood glucose levels after surgery as some cases result in hyperglycemia due to a drop in insulin production, each case is different and there is no reliable way to know how Rambo will be afterwards. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/insulinoma

July 31, 2018

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Hondo

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Golden Retriever

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Critical condition

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Not Known

I am researching the background of a potential sire for my breeding program and his father died of insulinoma at age 10. Should I eliminate this dog from consideration from breeding because of this? Should I assume a genetic component or is it really more random?

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Lilly

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Jack Russell/Corgi

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Moderate condition

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Seizures

Lilly started having seizures (shaking, tremors, loss of coordination, depressed, etc) and so I took her to the vet and they put her on phenobarbital. She’s been on it for almost a year now and up until recently I thought it was controlling them. Recently, she has been having those tremors and loss of coordination more. She had her first grand map seizure two weeks ago and I took her in the following day. Her glucose was at a 26 and they wanted me to try feeding her more and actually making sure she’s eating. The last couple days, she has been having those tremors every day and shaking, losing her balance and just not being herself. She loses control of her bladder as well sometimes. I took her in today and her glucose was at a 56. They will be testing for several things on Tuesday, including insulinoma. I’m extremely concerned and worried I may have to put her down and I will be absolutely devastated. Has anyone had similar experiences and what was your outcome? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Amber

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Pit bull

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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Critical condition

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-1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Depressed
Low Energy
Hypogl

I have an 11 year old Pit with no prior health issues. Last month, she became ill and I took her to the vet. The vet suspected a Pyometra. She was spayed immediately and did great for a few days after the procedure. Then she started displaying signs of a pseudo pregnancy. She was lactating, carrying around a toy she treated like a baby, whining, barely eating, and nesting. She was nesting to the point of low blood sugar. Her front limbs would become weak and she would fall onto her bed. She also has arthritis so I equated her behavior to low glucose, excessive nesting, and very little food intake. In these instances, I would give her honey and she would rest. She had never had a seizure or been unconscious. Last Friday, I got home from work to find her barely able to stand. I rushed her to the vet and her BG was 46. They administered dextrose and high calorie food and she was feeling better within 30 min. Our vet advised us to take her to an emergency veterinarian to be watched. We went in and the vet suggested monitoring her closely and feeding her small meals of the high calorie food. We did this on Friday night and Saturday and she seemed great. Sunday morning I woke up to find she had gotten sick throughout the night. I again took her to the emergency vet and she was admitted. Upon arrival, her BG was 31. She has been there for 36 hours at this time. She had a seizure overnight and they are having difficulty keeping her blood glucose within acceptable limits despite her being on prednisone and fluids containing some type of sugary agent. Before her spay 3 weeks ago, she had no symptoms. The dr is saying she is so severe that surgery may be our only option. I am so conflicted and not convinced that what we are dealing with is just an insulinoma. Could her fluctuating hormones be impacting her BG? I would also like to mention that my other dog (8.5 yr old Yorkie) was diagnosed with diabetes less than 3 weeks ago and also has no prior health issues. Could the two be related? Has anyone experienced extremely low sugars after spaying?? Any feedback would be appreciated.

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Chelsea

dog-breed-icon

terrier

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical condition

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Seizure

Last Friday my little girl Chelsea had a seizure and I rushed her to the vet. In the past three months she has had three surgeries to remove other tumors. The vet did blood work and found that her glucose level was about 26 which they said was dangerously low. They started her that morning with IV's of dextrose. They told me that her glucose level would go up but after an hour or two it would drop again. They gave her four rounds of dextrose over about a nine hour period but could not get her to stabilize. I finally had to make the decision to have her euthanized which was the hardest decision I have ever made. She turned 10 last October and was a beautiful Terrier mix. Still wonder if I made the right decision.

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Riley

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West Highland White Terrier

dog-age-icon

16 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Hypoglycemic
Hypoglycemic Seizure

My dog was diagnosed over 1 year ago with an insulinoma. It was diagnosed by multiple blood tests. At the time they suggested surgery but at 15 years old I could not bear putting him through that. He was treated with prednisone periodically and he had been OK. The last several months have been a challenge and he is receiving a depo-medrol injection every few weeks. We have been trying to find proglycem for him but the cost is very high. Is there anything more we can do for him? Is there somewhere you may know of that I can get proglycem at an affordable price?

Insulinoma Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $14,000

Average Cost

$8,500

Cannanine