Hypoglycaemia has been identified as a life-threatening metabolic complication in almost 20% of severely ill dogs suffering from babesiosis due to Babesia canis rossi infection, and has been correlated with mortality. Hyperinsulinaemia as a result of inappropriate insulin secretion may precipitate hypoglycaemia, and has been suggested as a possible cause of hypoglycaemia in human and murine malaria. This prospective, cross-sectional, observational study, including 94 dogs with naturally occurring virulent babesiosis, sought to identify the presence of inappropriate insulin secretion in hypoglycaemic canine babesiosis.
Pre-treatment jugular blood samples were collected for simultaneous determination of plasma glucose and insulin concentrations. Animals were retrospectively divided into three groups: hypoglycaemic (BG < 3.3 mmol/L; n = 16), normoglycaemic (BG 3.3–5.5 mmol/L; n = 62), and hyperglycaemic (BG > 5.5 mmol/L; n = 16). The median insulin concentrations for the hypoglycaemic, normoglycaemic, and hyperglycaemic groups were 10.7 pmol/L, 10.7 pmol/L, and 21.7 pmol/L, respectively. Statistical analysis revealed no significant difference in insulin concentration between the three groups. Additionally, the median insulin concentration in the hypoglycaemic and normoglycaemic groups was below the detection limit of the assay, suggesting that insulin secretion was appropriately low (i.e. undetectable) in these cases. Only two dogs had inappropriately elevated insulin concentrations. One of these dogs was hypoglycaemic.
We conclude that hyperinsulinaemia is an infrequent cause of hypoglycaemia in virulent canine babesiosis. Other causes of hypoglycaemia, such as increased glucose consumption, depletion of hepatic glycogen stores, and hepatic dysfunction with impaired gluconeogenesis, are speculated to play more important roles in the pathophysiology of hypoglycaemia in canine babesiosis.