Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Diabetes insipidus

Synonym(s): DI

Contributor(s): Sarah Pellett, Lesa Thompson


  • Diabetes insipidus has not commonly been described in the rabbit. A literature review found a single article describing the condition.
  • Although prevalence in exotic animals is not published, several case reports have been reported across the broad category of exotic pet species. Causes described include congenital factors, idiopathic, subsequent trauma or related to neoplasia.
  • In one study, rabbits that were immunized with lysine-vasopressin bovine serum albumin conjugate displayed signs relating to diabetes insipidus syndrome.
  • Cause: the failure to produce or secrete anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) or the lack of  renal effects of ADH, therefore describing the two forms: hypothalamic-hypophyseal diabetes insipidus or nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.
  • Signs: profound polyuria and polydipsia, low urine specific gravity.
  • Diagnosis: hematology, biochemistry, urinalysis.
  • Treatment: various chemotherapies described in other animals.
  • Prognosis: varies.



Central form
  • Partial or total failure to synthesize or release ADH can be caused by:
    • Destruction of paraventricular nuclei and supraoptic nuclei which produce ADH within the hypothalamus.
    • Loss of major axons that carry ADH to storage sites within the pituitary.
    • The inability to release stored ADH.
  • May be primary (idiopathic) or secondary (due to head trauma, neoplasia, inflammatory or vascular damage).
Nephrogenic form
  • Failure of distal renal tubules to respond to ADH.
  • May be primary (rare and only reported in humans) or secondary either as:
    • A non-specific condition causing impaired ADH action or;
    • A renal or metabolic disorder causing loss of the ability to respond to ADH.
    • Examples of etiologies reported in other species include:
      • Hyperadrenocorticism/hypoadrenocorticism.
      • Hypercalcemia Hypercalcemia.
      • Renal insufficiency.
      • Pyometra Pyometra.
      • Hypokalemia Hypokalemia.
      • Hepatic insufficiency.
      • Hyperthyroidism.
      • Iatrogenic and post-obstructive ureteral disease.

Predisposing factors


Central form
  • Neoplasia.
  • Trauma.
  • Inflammation.
  • Idiopathic.
Nephrogenic form
  • Renal medullary fibrosis, tubular necrosis.
  • Hypercalcemia Hypercalcemia.
  • Idiopathic.


  • Profound polyuria and polydipsia due to absolute or relative deficiency of ADH.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Kamoi K, Hama H, Ito S et al (1977) Immune complexes in diabetes insipidus syndrome of rabbits immunised with vasopressin.  Endocrinologia Japonica 24 (3), 239-243 PubMed.
  • Boorman G A & Bree M M (1969) Diabetes insipidus syndrome in a rabbit. JAVMA 155 (7), 1218-1220 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Mitchell M & Tully T N (2016) Current Therapy in Exotic Pet Practice. Elsevier. ISBN: 9781455740840.