Hypoglycemia in dogs

Hypoglycemia in Dogs


It is important to learn about hypoglycemia when you are bringing home a new puppy.  If your puppy is under 3 lbs -- he or she will be at higher risk of having a hypoglycemic episode.  This doesn't mean that there is "something genetically wrong" or that your puppy is "sick", it simply means that your puppy is SMALL and burns through his or her sugar reserves quickly. We have this information here so that you can know what to do and how to react quickly -- being knowledgeable, staying calm, and reacting quickly is the best defense against an hypoglycemia episode.  Hypoglycemia is serious, but following the steps on this page will help to prevent it from happening, or assist you if it does happen.  This page addresses ALL possible causes, but if you just purchased a puppy from us at Pleasant Meadows -- the signs and prevention are the most important parts to read.


Canine hypoglycemia refers to a state of abnormally low blood sugar in puppies and adult dogs. Since sugar (glucose) is a primary source of energy for all bodily functions, and because the brain has little capacity in the storage of glucose, hypoglycemia in dogs can cause problems to the nervous system, resulting in seizures and even coma. Prolonged low blood sugar in dogs can lead to severe brain damage. Read on and learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of canine hypoglycemia. 


Hypoglycemia usually occurs in toy breed puppies when they are young (from 6-12 weeks of age), because they are less able to store and mobilize glucose. In addition, toy breeds have more brain mass per body weight compared to other breeds. As a result, they need more glucose for brain function.


Adult dogs who are overly exhausted due to sustained exercise or activities and those who have certain underlying diseases can suffer from hypoglycemic attacks as well.


Common Causes of Hypoglycemia in Puppies and Dogs


In puppies, hypoglycemia is often caused by stress, such as being boarded in a kennel, or stress from shipping or simply leaving their mom and littermates. Other common causes of hypoglycemia are things that may happen rather frequently (e.g. the puppy is too cold, too hungry, or too tired; or having an upset stomach). All these can easily cause hypoglycemia in puppies because the energy reserves in the liver are overly-taxed.  Stress of going to a new home is the most common reason for hypoglycemia to occur in young puppies.


Puppies who have had repeated episodes of hypoglycemia should be examined by a veterinarian to see if the problem is caused by some underlying diseases, such as liver shunt, or enzymatic or hormonal deficiencies.


If hypoglycemia is not caused by any underlying health problems, when a puppy gets older, sometimes (but not all) it will outgrow this condition.


In dogs, those with diabetes can suffer from hypoglycemia if given an excessive amount of insulin.


Dogs suffering from Addison's disease do not have sufficient secretion of the corticosteroid hormones from their adrenal glands. Insufficiency of these hormones can bring about hypoglycemia in dogs.


Older dogs with unexplained hypoglycemia are likely to be suffering from insulinomas, which are tumors of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. These tumors can cause an increase in insulin production, resulting in low blood sugar levels.


Symptoms of Hypoglycemia in Dogs


The typical signs and symptoms of canine hypoglycemia include:




Muscle weakness and incoordination

Staggering gait

Confusion and disorientation

Tremors (especially of the face)

Seizures and coma, sometimes death (In severe untreated cases)


Sometimes, however, a dog suffering from a hypoglycemic attack does not show most or any of the above symptoms. In fact, episodes of hypoglycemic attacks often happen without much warning.


Treatment of Puppies/Dogs having an episode of Hypoglycemia


Quick action is essential to reverse the state of hypoglycemia in dogs and puppies. The aim is to restore the blood sugar to its normal level.


If the dog or puppy is alert and awake, give him a source of sugar such as corn syrup, honey, jam, or sugar water orally. Improvement should be seen in about 30 minutes. If not, take him to a veterinarian.


If the dog or puppy is unconscious, dip your finger in some honey or corn syrup and gently rub your finger on the dog's gums. Then take him to the vet at once. Do not give any sugary solution by mouth if the dog is unconscious because it will be inhaled.


A dog with a hypoglycemic attack is likely to suffer from hypothermia as well, so be sure to keep the dog warm with a blanket.


Prevention of Hypoglycemia in Puppies


If your puppy is prone to hypoglycemia (usually a puppy under 3 lbs), you should have corn syrup or liquid honey on hand and if your puppy isn't eating well, or seems tired -- feed your puppy about half a teaspoon of corn syrup or honey at least 1-2 times per day when you first bring your puppy home for the first week. Also, food should be given at least 3 times a day.  Treating a puppy with corn syrup or honey is your best defense, and if you do it as a preventative measure when you have a small puppy -- a hypoglycemic episode would be very rare!  And if you do need to go the vet -- their treatment method would be the exact same (a dose of glucose (sugar) and keeping your puppy warm).


You can also purchase a High Protein paste called Nutrical and feed as directed on the label:




Keep your pup calm and warm all the time, and do not over exhaust him by too much play or exercise.



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