Dear Daisy Dog
My 10-year-old standard poodle had a seizure, which her veterinarian said was caused by a tumor called an insulinoma. Is this condition similar to diabetes? My friend’s diabetic dog once had a seizure. What can you tell me about treating an insulinoma?
Think of these two diseases as opposites.
An insulinoma is a pancreatic tumor that secretes excessive insulin, a hormone that decreases blood sugar levels.
In contrast, diabetes occurs when the pancreas secretes insufficient insulin, which allows blood sugar levels to rise. Diabetic dogs are treated with insulin injections; excessive doses can drop blood sugar so low that seizures occur.
Dogs with insulinoma develop signs of hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, ranging from lethargy and poor coordination to seizures and collapse.
Most canine insulinomas are malignant cancers that eventually spread to nearby organs.
Treatment options include surgery to remove the tumor, medication to maintain blood sugar levels within a safe range, and high-protein meals fed frequently.
Many veterinarians recommend surgical removal of the insulinoma because the procedure is so effective.
A 2007 study of 28 dogs with insulinoma showed that dogs who received only medication survived 6.5 months, while those whose tumors were removed surgically lived 26.2 months, and those who had surgery followed by medication survived 43.9 months.