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Diabetes in Campbells

Author: Neil Wheadon MRCVS

From Issue 12 Jan 1995

I write with regard to the suspected incidence of diabetes in Campbells. In April 1994 I humanely destroyed a sick hamster belonging to Miss Tye which was showing definite signs of excessive drinking and weight loss.

With the kind help of Trevor Whitbread who is a leading veterinary pathologist, the internal organs were examined under the microscope. The pancreas, which is the organ that secretes insulin, was abnormal with the insulin-producing glands filled with cells called macrophages. This left no functional tissue to produce insulin, resulting in diabetes. Urine was also tested and this had a high level of glucose in it, which is a good diagnostic indicator for diabetes.

Two main points arise from this:

  1. Diabetes in animals is due to a loss of functional pancreatic tissue. In this hamster, there is no doubt that this happened and therefore diabetes does exist in hamsters
  2. In other animals, diabetes is due to loss of pancreatic tisse. In this cas the glands were filled with macrophages which are produced in cases of infection. This is very unusual, indicating that diabetes may be secondary to an infective process. More work would need to be done to establish a link

At the time of writing (1995), Neil Wheadon was practising at the Haycombe Veterinary Surgery, Bath.