What Causes Insulin Resistance?

Posted by Michelle for PetTest, AAHA Certified Diabetes Educator on Jun 22nd 2021

What Causes Insulin Resistance?

We know that our dog’s pancreas is no longer functioning properly because they are diabetic. And for some of us, while managing diabetes we can see from blood glucose curves and insulin increases that insulin is just not dropping blood glucose levels. There are diseases and illnesses that can contribute to insulin resistance, so today I want to look at several common issues that can cause this. Grab a cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage and let’s get to it!

Rebound / Somogyi Effect – This is a common issue with diabetic dogs due to being given too much insulin and is why it is recommended to increase insulin slowly after a curve is run. When too much insulin is given, the liver dumps glucose in the blood stream as an emergency response. To break rebound / Somogyi Effect insulin needs to be reduced by at least 25% and can take six doses for the liver to reset. Another curve should be run after the seventh reduced dose to confirm rebound / Somogyi Effect.

Corticosteroids – These are synthetic hormones that are given for many different health issues to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. Corticosteroids can cause insulin resistance, pancreatitis and diabetes. If your dog is diabetic, giving corticosteroids should be reserved for when there are no other alternatives.

Diestrus – If your diabetic female dog is not spayed, heat cycles will cause insulin resistance. After estrus (menstruation) the body goes into diestrus. During diestrus the body is replicating pregnancy and progesterone levels are increased. Progesterone is a hormone and this increase can last for over 60 days causing severe insulin resistance. Spaying a female diabetic dog is extremely important and should be performed as soon as possible. To read more about diestrus, please click here.

Cushing’s Disease – Cortisol is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands, when there is overproduction of cortisol due to tumors in either the adrenal or pituitary glands, diagnosis is Cushing’s Disease. Excess cortisol hormones can cause insulin resistance.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excess thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Pot belly
  • Hair loss
  • Thinning of skin
  • Skin infections

To diagnose Cushing’s Disease specific bloodwork is necessary. Low dose dexamethasone suppression test (LDDST) and the ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) stimulation test and a urine cortisol: creatinine ratio are used to diagnose Cushing’s disease. The ACTH stim test is recommended for dogs with diabetes. Medication can be given to help control Cushing’s disease.

Hyperlipidemia - Increased level of lipids (fats) in the bloodstream: triglycerides and/or cholesterol can cause insulin resistance. Miniature Schnauzers, Shetland Sheepdogs and Collies are prone to hyperlipidemia. High fat diets, medications like steroids, genetic predisposition, metabolic diseases and pancreatitis can cause hyperlipidemia. There are typically no symptoms unless the dog has pancreatitis, but some dogs can have diarrhea, decreased appetite and vomiting. Diagnosis of hyperlipidemia requires blood work.

Treatment is as follows:

  • Low-fat, high fiber diet
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Appropriate medications for underlying diseases/illnesses causing secondary hyperlipidemia
  • Triglyceride/cholesterol medications (if lipid levels do not drop with the above treatments)

I hope this blog has been informative and you learned some of the reasons dogs can be insulin resistant. Please come back next week for a blog dedicated to Cushing’s disease, we see a lot of diabetic dogs with Cushing’s, and symptoms of both diseases mimic each other, so a deeper dive into Cushing’s is important.

If your dog is insulin resistant it is especially important to monitor blood glucose and ketone levels in urine. A serious complication due to uncontrolled blood glucose levels is diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is fatal if not treated and you can read more about it in a past blog, click here.

Until next week, stay cool and have a great week!

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