Insulinoma in Dogs and Cats What is Insulinoma in Dogs and Cats and How To Treat It?

Insulinoma in Dogs and Cats Photo by EVG Kowalievska:

Insulinoma is a scarce type of pancreatic cancer in dogs and cats. This article exposes the causes, symptoms, and treatment of insulinoma in dogs and cats.

Insulinoma is a rare type of tumor that develops in the pancreas and causes the overproduction of insulin. This condition is most commonly found in dogs and cats but can also occur in other species. Insulinoma occurs when islet cells become malignant and begin producing insulin in excess.

In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for insulinoma in dogs and cats.

Causes of Insulinoma in Dogs and Cats 

The specific causes of insulinoma in dogs and cats are not well understood, but the following are thought to contribute to the development of the condition:

  • Genetic predisposition: Some breeds of dogs, such as Yorkshire Terriers and Miniature Pinschers, may have a higher risk of developing insulinoma.

  • Age: The condition is more commonly diagnosed in older dogs and cats.

  • Weight: Obesity has been associated with an increased risk of insulinoma in pets.

  • Pancreatic disorders: Chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) or other pancreatic disorders can increase the risk of developing insulinoma.

  • Exposure to toxins or certain drugs: Certain chemicals or drugs, such as pesticides or metoclopramide, can cause damage to the pancreas and increase the risk of insulinoma.

  • Other underlying health conditions: Pets with other health conditions, such as hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's disease) or hypothyroidism, may be more likely to develop insulinoma.

It's also worth mentioning that the exact cause is not always identified.



Symptoms of insulinoma in dogs and cats may include:

  • Weakness and lethargy: Pets with insulinoma may appear tired, sluggish, or weak.

  • Tremors and seizures: Insulinoma can cause hypoglycemia, which can lead to tremors and seizures.

  • Collapse: Pets with insulinoma may suddenly collapse or become unconscious.

  • Increased appetite: Pets with insulinoma may have an increased appetite and may be more vocal about asking for food.

  • Weight loss: Despite increased appetite, pets with insulinoma may lose weight due to an inability to absorb nutrients properly.

  • Behavioral changes: Pets with insulinoma may experience confusion, disorientation, or become more aggressive.

  • Vomiting and diarrhea: Gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea can occur with the condition.

  • Excessive drinking and urination: Pets with insulinoma may drink and urinate more frequently due to a blood sugar level imbalance.

It's worth noting that some of these symptoms may also be caused by other conditions, so a proper diagnosis by a veterinarian is crucial to determine the underlying issue.



A veterinarian makes the diagnosis of insulinoma in dogs and cats through a combination of physical examination, clinical signs, and laboratory tests. The following diagnostic tests may be performed:

  • Blood glucose test: A low blood glucose level is highly suggestive of insulinoma.

  • Blood insulin test: Elevated insulin levels can indicate insulinoma.

  • Blood chemistry panel: This test can provide information about organ function and electrolyte levels.

  • Abdominal ultrasound: An ultrasound can reveal any abnormal growths or masses in the pancreas.

  • Biopsy: A tissue sample can be taken and examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Glucose curve: tracking blood glucose over a period of time after fasting to see how it responds to normal food intake and measure the insulin level

  • CT or MRI: these advanced imaging techniques can help to identify and locate the tumor, but they are not commonly used.

After the diagnosis is confirmed, further tests such as ultrasound or x-ray may be performed to determine the tumor's size and location and rule out any possible metastasis.



Treatment for insulinoma in dogs and cats typically involves surgery to remove the tumor and control the production of insulin. The recovery process and prognosis vary depending on the individual case, and close monitoring is important. The following treatment options and recovery processes may be recommended:

  1. Surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment for insulinoma. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and restore normal insulin production.

  2. Medical management: Medical management may be used in conjunction with surgery or as a standalone treatment in cases where surgery is not possible. Medications such as diazoxide and prednisone may be used to reduce insulin production and manage hypoglycemia.

  3. Diet and Glucose monitoring: Feeding a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet and frequent blood glucose monitoring to maintain adequate blood glucose levels are essential to prevent recurrent hypoglycemia.

  4. Monitoring: Close monitoring is essential after treatment to ensure that the pet is stable and that the tumor has not recurred. Follow-up visits with the veterinarian will likely be necessary to check blood glucose levels and monitor for any other complications.

  5. Follow-up care: Long-term follow-up care, including regular blood glucose monitoring and possibly additional imaging, may be necessary to check for the recurrence of the tumor.

  6. Recurrence: Insulinomas have a tendency for recurrence and may require additional surgery or more intensive medical management if it occurs.

It's important to note that Insulinoma is a serious condition, and prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to ensure the best outcome. However, a good prognosis is possible with early diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management.

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