Saturday, November 15, 2014

Managing Diabetic Dogs with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

My problem patient is a 9-year old, female spayed Yorkie with concurrent exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and diabetes mellitus. The stools, which had been very large and odoriferous, are smaller and not as smelly now that we have started the pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy.  However, the stools are still not completely normal. The dog remains very thin, but she has gained a pound over the past month.

The diabetic control has been more problematic. Six weeks ago, the dog was on 3 units of Novolin N every 12 hours and had serial blood glucose values running in the range of 400-600 mg/dl throughout the day.  After starting on the enzyme powder, the insulin dosage has fallen to only 0.5 unit twice daily. The current glucose curves start with a morning reading of 400 mg/dl, but the blood glucose then drops down during the day to values in the 100's or, at times, to as low as 45 mg/dl. The owner is trying to be as consistent as possible in feeding (the dog has a very good appetite) and giving the insulin. The dog has shown signs of clinical hypoglycemia, despite the low blood glucose values.  

What do you suggest? Is there a better insulin for this dog?  Would a special diet help?

My Response:

The vast majority of dogs with EPI have a concurrent B12 (cobalamin) deficiency; therefore, cobalamin should be part of this dog's treatment regimen (1). If this Yorkie weighs less than 7 kg, I would suggest administering 250 µg SC every 7 days for 8 weeks, then 250 µg every 14 days for 2 months, then 250 µg once monthly for a couple more months. The treatment may need to be repeated based on serum cobalamin levels.

In addition, some dogs with EPI have dysbiosis (the new term for bacterial overgrowth/gut microbial imbalance), so metronidazole or tylosin power given for a couple weeks plus a probiotic may be helpful. Lastly, if the stools don't get better with the above treatments then the dog may have inflammatory bowl disease (IBD) in addition to the EPI (2). This breed appears predisposed to developing IBD or lymphangietasia (2). As far as what to feed this dog, I'd recommend a diet low in fat because of the concurrent diabetes and GI issues (1).

As far as the insulin type, it looks like the duration of NPH activity is too short for this dog. Use of an insulin with a longer duration of action, such as Vetsulin or glargine, may be a better choice for this case. Based on the fact that the insulin dose is so small and the dog is so very sensitive to the insulin, I'd go with glargine, starting with 1 U,  twice daily. This insulin is much less potent than either NPH or Vetsulin in dogs, making hypoglycemia less unlikely (3).

  1. Wieberg, M. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in dogs. In: Bonagura JD, Twedt DC, eds. Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy, Volume XV. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier, 2013;558-560.
  2. Simmerson SM, Armstrong PJ, Wünschmann A, J., et al. Clinical features, intestinal histopathology, and outcome in protein-losing enteropathy in Yorkshire Terrier dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2014;28:331-7. 
  3. Fracassi F, Boretti FS, Sieber-Ruckstuhl NS, et al. Use of insulin glargine in dogs with diabetes mellitus. Vet Rec 2012;170:52. doi: 10.1136/vr.100070.

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