Studying fenofibrate as a possible treatment for diabetes in dogs

Dr. O'Kell and dogs
Dr. Allison O’Kell with her dogs.

Allison O’Kell, D.V.M., a clinical assistant professor of small animal medicine, and Chen Gilor, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of small animal medicine, are co-principal investigators on a two-year, $15,000 American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation Grant to study the effects of fenofibrate on pancreatic and systemic inflammation in healthy dogs. This study is the first step to determine if this medication may have beneficial effects on dogs with diabetes.

Dogs with diabetes mellitus are predisposed to complications that occur throughout the body. These may include systemic, or whole body, inflammation, high fat in the blood, known as hyperlipidemia, and inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis. These complications can, in comes cases, lead to difficulty in controlling diabetes or even diabetic ketoacidosis requiring hospitalization and intensive therapy.  This can lead to enormous psychological and financial burdens to the owners of diabetic dogs.

Studies suggest that some of this inflammation may be caused by leakiness in the cells of the gut, also known as gut barrier dysfunction. Fenofibrate is a medication commonly used to treat hyperlipidemia in humans and dogs. This medication also has additional effects that may help treat gut barrier dysfunction and decrease inflammation in the pancreas. Fenofibrate is already used in veterinary clinics to treat hyperlipidemia in dogs with and without diabetes, and is well tolerated with no reported side effects.

Dr. Chen Gilor
Dr. Chen Gilor

In this study, diabetic dogs will receive fenofibrate for 21 days and markers of systemic and pancreatic inflammation will be measured before and after this treatment. Dogs are also monitored with continuous glucose monitors to track any changes blood sugar and diabetic control during therapy. The results of this study will be used to design larger, longer term clinical trials to determine the effects of fenofibrate on the frequency of pancreatitis and other diabetic complications. The success of a safe, widely available medication to decrease diabetes related complications will have a positive impact on patient health and quality of life, both for dog and owner.


As part of both the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the Academic Health Center, Veterinary Medicine is dedicated to advancing animal, human and environmental health through teaching, research, extension and patient care.


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