RVC Supervisor(s): Prof. Lucy Davison, Prof. Brian Catchpole

Department: Clinical Science and Services

Background, aims and objectives:

Canine diabetes mellitus is a common endocrine disorder, affecting 1 in 300 UK dogs and requiring lifelong insulin therapy. In up to 30% of cases, diabetes may be complicated by exocrine pancreatic disease such as acute or chronic pancreatitis, which is associated with reduced survival. It is not known if pancreatitis is a cause or consequence of diabetic hyperglycaemia, but certain breeds are affected more frequently, suggesting a genetic basis. There is an unmet need for improved diagnostic tests and specific treatments for canine pancreatitis.  Recent work by the Canine Diabetes Genetics Partnership has identified novel, potentially functional, genetic variants associated with canine diabetes risk. Intriguingly, some of these variants are in genes involved in exocrine pancreatic function.  

We hypothesise that dogs with concurrent diabetes and pancreatitis will carry distinct diabetes- and pancreatitis- associated genetic variants, and their serum metabolic profiles will differ from those of diabetic dogs without pancreatitis.  Identification of genetic variants and metabolic biomarkers associated with concurrent diabetes and pancreatitis will assist with clinical prediction and recognition of pancreatitis, and will also highlight novel pathways for diagnostic and therapeutic targeting. 

Using archived samples, the aims of this project are to:

  • Evaluate serum from diabetic dogs of high pancreatitis-risk breeds for pancreatic inflammatory markers
  • Identify novel pancreatitis biomarkers by serum metabolomic analysis of diabetic dogs with and without pancreatitis
  • Identify high or moderate impact variants in existing diabetes genomic data within genes plausibly associated with pancreatitis risk
  • Undertake targeted genotyping of 20-50 selected variants in breed-matched dogs with and without diabetes and pancreatitis
  • Undertake functional work in vitro of selected pancreatitis-associated variants, to support their potential role in pancreatitis and / or diabetes  

In addition to 3 years of research, the student will spend 2 x 3 month industrial placements at Dechra Veterinary Pharmaceuticals, the industrial CASE partner, during the PhD.   The results of this work will contribute to the development of a precision medicine approach to canine diabetes management.  


  1. Genetics of canine diabetes mellitus part 1: Phenotypes of disease. Genetics of canine diabetes mellitus part 2: Current understanding and future directions. Denyer AL, Catchpole B, Davison LJ; Canine Diabetes Genetics Partnership. Vet J. 2021 Apr;270:105611. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2021.105611. Epub 2021 Jan 15. PMID: 33641807
  2. Diabetes mellitus and pancreatitis--cause or effect? Davison LJ. J Small Anim Pract. 2015 Jan;56(1):50-9. doi: 10.1111/jsap.12295. PMID: 25586806
  3. Serum trypsin-like immunoreactivity in dogs with diabetes mellitus. Hamilton K, O'Kell AL, Gilor C. J Vet Intern Med. 2021 Jul;35(4):1713-1719. doi: 10.1111/jvim.16208. Epub 2021 Jun 30. PMID: 34196025



  • Must meet our standard PhD entry requirements
  • Must be a qualified Veterinary Surgeon
  • Keen interest in small animal medicine and genetics
  • Highly motivated, flexible, organised and communicative 
  • Willing to undertake 2 x 3 month industrial externship placements during the programme


  • Previous relevant research experience e.g. an intercalated degree
  • Experience of managing canine diabetic cases in UK small animal first opinion practice
  • IT competence e.g. Powerpoint, Excel, EndNote software
  • Willing to undertake training in genomics/ bioinformatics

This is a 3.5 year fully-funded studentship, covering tuition fees and stipend, including industrial placement. This studentship is open to applicants eligible for "Home" fees. International applicants are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between "Home" and "Overseas" tuition fees. 

The studentship will commence October 2023.

How to Apply

For more information on the application process and English language requirements see please see How to Apply.

If you are interested in applying for this position, please follow the link below.  Please use your personal statement to demonstrate any previous skills or experience you have that you consider relevant to this role.

Interviews will be held March 2023 (specific date TBC).  

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to Prof. Lucy Davison : ldavison@rvc.ac.uk 

Deadline: 07/02/2023

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