Insulinoma (Pancreatic Cancer) in Dogs

Insulinoma (Pancreatic Cancer) in Dogs

Health & Safety

Insulinoma is a condition that negatively impacts a dog's pancreas because of a tumour that develops which then causes an excess of insulin being produced even though a dog's stomach is empty. The insulin is released into a dog's bloodstream and this causes a dog's blood sugar levels to fall dangerously low leaving dogs feeling weak and light headed. The condition is also referred to as pancreatic cancer and when dogs develop insulinoma, they start to show definite signs of there being something wrong with them which needs to be investigated by a vet sooner rather than later.

Symptoms Associated with the Disease

The symptoms most commonly associated with insulinoma include the following:

  • Weakness
  • Intolerance or lack of enthusiam for any sort of exercise
  • Fainting
  • Lack of appetite

Diagnosing the Condition

A vet would ideally need to have a dog's full medical history and be told how the onset of any symptoms first presented themselves. The more information a vet can be given the better because it all helps establish whether a dog might be suffering from the condition. With this said, diagnosing insulinoma in dogs can often prove challenging because there are no specific symptoms associated with the disease and as such blood tests are often inconclusive. However, once a vet has established a preliminary diagnosis based on the blood glucose and insulin levels in a dog's system, they would typically recommend carrying out the following tests which would help confirm a diagnosis:

  • Abdominal ultrasound which would establish if the tumours have spread to other parts of a dog’s system
  • Chest X-rays which would establish if the tumours have spread to other parts of a dog’s body
  • A surgical biopsy - which a vet would only do if they are sure of what they would find

Treatment Options

Treatment options depend on the severity of a dog's condition, but if only one tumour is found in a dog's pancreas, a vet might refer them to a veterinary oncologist who would be in a better position to recommend a treatment which includes whether it would be wise to surgically remove the growth. The problem is that the condition can easily spread to a dog's lymph nodes and their livers which means that all too often surgery would not be an option. If this is the case, a vet would typically recommend some other form of supportive therapy.


When it comes to prognosis, this depends on the severity of a dog's condition when they were first diagnosed as suffering from insulinoma. It would also depend on how well a dog responds to any treatment or therapy and whether there are any complications. With this said, studies show that dogs suffering from insulinoma have a life expectancy of around twelve to eighteen months once they have been diagnosed with the condition and where surgery was an option. However, where surgery is not an option and dogs can only be given therapy, their life expectancy is only around a few months or so.



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