What is Pancreatic Cancer (Insulinoma)?
Insulinoma is a cancerous growth (also known as a tumor) located on the pancreas in dogs. A healthy pancreas helps produce insulin, which controls the glucose levels in the dog’s body. Insulinomas prevent the pancreas from functioning properly. These tumors cause the insulin levels to rise dramatically, which in turn, cause the glucose levels to decrease. Low levels of glucose can lead to dogs collapsing, or suffering from seizures or other neurological problems.
Insulinoma are tumors on the dog’s pancreas, the organ which regulates and controls both insulin and glucose. These tumors prevent the pancreas from functioning normally. The dog’s decreased glucose levels begin to cause weakness and neurological disorders, and can lead to death if left untreated.
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Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer (Insulinoma) in Dogs
If your pet begins to show behavioral changes that cause you concern, do not delay in seeking a veterinary opinion. Symptoms of insulinoma include the following:
- Muscle tremors
While physical collapse is the most common symptom, a dog exhibiting any of these symptoms should be given medical attention immediately. Symptoms can be sporadic due to the release of insulin; it may help to record any of these signs as they appear to assist your veterinarian in the diagnosis.
Causes of Pancreatic Cancer (Insulinoma) in Dogs
Insulinoma is caused by cancerous growth on the pancreas. The presence of these tumors cause the dog’s insulin levels to increase, in turn decreasing the glucose in their bloodstream. Without a functioning pancreas, dogs can become weak and suffer neurological problems. It is also likely that this cancer will metastasize and spread throughout the body, possibly causing death.
Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer (Insulinoma) in Dogs
Diagnosis of insulinoma often begins after the dog has exhibited several symptoms consistent with the disease. Your veterinarian will likely request that a blood sample be taken to examine the glucose levels. If low glucose levels are found, your veterinarian may want to continue to test for insulinoma and monitoring the dog’s glucose levels. To do so, they will likely order multiple blood samples - particularly ones where the dog is fasting and not fasting to see if there is persistent hypoglycemia. Additional tests for “amended insulin:glucose ratio” (AIGR) may be performed, particularly if the dog’s insulin levels are on the lower end but still considered to be relatively normal. Your veterinarian will also make sure to rule out any other diseases that could be causing the symptoms or changes in glucose levels during this time. In additional to blood tests, diagnostic imaging may also be utilized to determine the presence of a tumor, along with its possible size (though this method can be difficult due to the small size of the pancreas). Unfortunately, the most effective way of diagnosing insulinoma is visualization of the tumor during abdominal surgery, during which the surgeon will examine the organ for any growths. However, if the veterinarian does not feel comfortable putting the dog through surgery (or has other confirmation that the tumors are present), they will likely begin treatment without direct visualization of the tumors.
Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer (Insulinoma) in Dogs
Emergency treatment is needed. If your dog collapses or exhibits any of the other symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. Immediate treatment typically involves administering glucose to the dog, though steroids and intravenous fluids may also be needed. Once the tumor is located, removal will depend on several factors, such as the dog’s age and current health status. If the procedure is not considered too risky, your veterinarian may elect to surgically remove the tumor. Additional treatment will be needed if the growths have metastasized and spread throughout the body. Medications, as well as chemotherapy, can help treat insulinoma but there are some serious side effects to these treatments. Your veterinarian will likely also consult with you regarding your pet’s nutrition - a dietary plan may be put in place to help monitor your dog’s glucose levels.
Recovery of Pancreatic Cancer (Insulinoma) in Dogs
Prognosis is poor if insulinoma is detected late or symptoms are ignored. Due to the aggressiveness of this cancer, it is often metastatic and malignant. If insulinoma is caught early, survival rates are fair. Treatment options such as surgery, chemotherapy and dietary management may help extend the pet’s life.
Pancreatic Cancer (Insulinoma) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My baby, Marley, a shepard lab mix died in sept of 2004 or so. He was diagnosed 2 years before that. We took him to the vet when we noticed disoriented behavior. We were told that his tumors were like little blisters all over his pancreas and were inoperable or would not likely extend his life. I was told that he would die within 6 months. I was told to feed him several small meals to keep blood sugar steady and to give him small bits complex carbs if I noticed any signs of disorientation. I gave him cubes of bagels or chunks of meat or the like on the regular, about every hour to keep him ok. Worked very well. He stayed active with my other dog. I kept him in the yard worried he would have an issue away from home and he was too big for me to carry any distance. His last six months he did start having seizures and i used a squeeze bootle of honey, and would carefully squeeze a little honey just a bit at a time between his cheek and gum so he would not choke and he would quite quickly come out of it. Always move them carefully away from things they can hurt themselves on. Always be extremely careful around the mouth during seizures as they snap their mouths closed quite loudly and I assume its quite a strong bite! Anyway I did get up at night to give him his snacks and make sure he drank and went outside. He had a really happy 2 years with us and his dog buddy. Our other lab mix oliver. When it was time, you know. It happened rapidly. Hee couldnt " be a dog " anymore. He couldnt stand up, much less get around with oliver. He looked tired
Slept alot. Lost interest in food. And then seemed restless yet could not get up. I fashioned a towel to support his weight to help him get out to do his business, and spend time outside. Bless him he smiled and was so happy after getting out to the yard to lay in the sun his, last full day. I then had trouble keeping his blood sugar up and he was very agitated and disoriented the next morning. I think he was quite confused. I had arranged with my vet to come to my home when it was time. He came mid morning, my other animals were able to say goodbye, and understand what happened, Marley was in his home surrounded by love and comfort. And we said goodbye. Taking care of him for 2 years nigjt and day was a lot of work.but i had the honor of walking by my best friend on his final journey till the end. I miss and love him so much.
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Back in Oct 2018 Cruizer had 2 episodes of pancreatitis - both treated & cleared up but came back a third time so I requested bloods - insulin levels where high & Cruiz was really unwell this time - in 12 yrs he has never gone off food so I knew it was bad - ultrasound in early November revealed 2 tumours in pancreas only (one 9cm & one 1.4cm) - it wasn’t showing anywhere else via ultrasound & other blood levels were normal so we were told it’s definateky a cancer but cant determine without surgery what type - either adenomacarcinoma or insuloma or both as 2 cancers - but surgery was not an option as even if they could discover what the cancers are chemo etc won’t cure it so we were offered palliative care - today is 13th Jan 2019 & Cruizer is still going strong - no signs of pancreatitis & he is eating & pooing without problem - if I hadn’t seen the ultrasounds pics of the tumours I would not believe he has cancer - he has had to come of Pred as blood test last week showed that the steroids were causing a liver enzyme to be a prob & at risk of Cushing Disease so we have dropped the dosage to half every second day - his diet has always be BARF but we have added more feeds - every 4 hrs nigh & day - Tramadol is at 150mg every 5-6hrs & Metrogyl is for the gut to prevent infection from steroids - he has a few skin issues due to Pred so has Cephalexin for next few weeks whilst Pred is decreased. So what does this say - it says no one can predict time - we would have euthanised him on the day of diagnosis as he was so unwell but our vet wanted to try the regime he is on & he responded to it & is very well at the moment - we see the vet weekly to check lymph’s & do bloods fort nightly to compare but nothing is showing other than the reaction to long term Pred so if he continues along we will redo ultrasound in March to assess tumours & if they have spread - our vet & the specialists involved in his care have no idea why he is not worsening but we are all stoked that he is doing so well & not suffering. Hopefully we can get more time but we just go day by day & be grateful for every e tra one we get with him!
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how do you know when it's time to say goodbye to your friend? My was diagnosed 8 months ago. In the past month he has started having seizures at least once a week. We have started giving him doses of sugar (agave or corn syrup) with his meals as well as .25 mg of CBD oil 2 times per day and that seemed to help. He was seizure free for almost 3 weeks until this morning. He had 2 major seizures back to back. We can continue to feed him and dose him like we are because it did seem to help but how long do we do this? Is he in pain when he is having a seizure? We understand the inevitable for our poor friend but don't know when enough is enough....Help.
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We found out that my dog has cancer in his pancreas and the doctor had said that the optional thing to do is to put him to sleep my family and I were planing to do so on 11/27/17 but we have been so frustrated
Because we are trying to see if there is another way to keep him at least for a little of months . Also to let you know the doctor had said that if we try to do chemotherapy there is one out of hundred that it would work . What can I do ?
- sincerely Kelly
My little dog has pancreatic cancer, diagnosed in Sept. 2017, it is now 2.6.18, he does not have too much longer, however the Palladia is very effective. The draw back on the Palladia is that it can cause bleeding stomach ulcers. It worked well for a while, had to take him off of it because of the ulcers. The steroids helped keep the blood sugar up, however, they are not as effective after several months, had to start giving him Karo Syrup in a shringe once a day, then twice a day, now 3 times a day. He is now doing an IV therapy Chemo, but not near as good as the Palladia was. I know we don't have too much longer, however, we have made it 4 months now since diagnosis. Unfortunetly it had aleady spread to other areas and they said operating was not an option. Just a note to those trying to do all they can, adding probiotics to the diet helped Jack, I also added other cell enhancing suppliments. Baby food works well when they have ulcers. Bless you on your journey - Corey
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