Reasons for performing study: Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is diagnosed rarely in equine practice although it may be under-recognised. A greater awareness of the condition and therapeutic considerations would be to the benefit of such cases presenting in practice. More investigation into the pharmacological management of these cases is needed.
Objectives: Three cases of diabetes mellitus were investigated using a specific test for insulin sensitivity and pancreatic β cell function in order to define accurately and characterise the existence of T2DM in all 3 subjects.
Methods: The insulin-modified frequently sampled i.v. glucose tolerance test was performed in each case and the data so obtained were subject to minimal model analysis of insulin-glucose dynamics. Cases were then monitored following treatment using a combination of dietary modification, metformin, glibenclamide and pergolide.
Results: Marked insulin resistance was identified in each case and, furthermore, severe pancreatic β cell dysfunction was present therefore classifying each case as end stage T2DM. Treatment was nevertheless associated with restoration of normoglycaemia in all cases.
Conclusions: T2DM in horses may be more common than generally considered. In some cases individuals may respond to therapy aimed at restoring insulin sensitivity and pancreatic function. Drugs used in other species for the treatment of T2DM have not yet been adequately tested in horses.
Potential relevance: T2DM should be considered as an important differential diagnosis in mature to elderly horses and ponies suffering from weight loss, polydipsia and polyuria. Clinicians should be encouraged to offer treatment and management advice when such cases are encountered.