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Hypoglycemia in Dogs

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Hypoglycemia is defined as a blood glucose or blood sugar concentration of less than 70 milligrams per deciliter(mg/dl) of blood. Symptoms depend on how quickly the blood glucose concentration decreases but rarely occur until it falls below 50 mg/dl.

Symptoms reflect the rate of decrease of the blood glucose concentration, the underlying cause of hypoglycemia, and the chronicity of the problem. One common form of hypoglycemia is called juvenile hypoglycemia because it occurs in puppies less than three months of age. Juvenile hypoglycemia is common in puppies because they have not fully developed the ability to regulate their blood glucose concentration and have a high requirement for glucose. Stress, cold, malnutrition, and intestinal parasites are problems that may precipitate a bout of juvenile hypoglycemia. Toy breed dogs less than three months of age are most commonly affected.

Other causes of hypoglycemia include fasting before vigorous exercise, which may be a factor in the syndrome called "hunting dog hypoglycemia"; Addison's disease, an endocrine problem caused by a lack of hormone production by the adrenal glands which can cause weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse; excessive insulin administration, as may occur in pets with diabetes mellitus; insulin-producing tumors of the pancreas, called "insulinomas" or "beta cell tumors"; severe liver disease; some other tumors that produce insulin-like factors; dogs with portosystemic shunts, which are congenital blood vessel abnormalities the cause blood from the intestines to by-pass the liver; hereditary diseases arising from abnormal storage of glucose as starch in the liver, or glycogen storage disease; and serious systemic bacterial infection, or sepsis.

What to Watch For

  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Incoordination
  • Trembling
  • Muscular twitching
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Unusual behavior
  • Dilated pupils
  • Apparent blindness
  • Stupor or coma


    Diagnostic tests are needed to identify hypoglycemia and determine its cause. Tests may include:

  • A complete medical history and physical examination

  • Measurement of blood glucose concentration

  • Other diagnostic blood tests such as complete blood count (also called hemogram or CBC), routine serum biochemistry tests, urinalysis, and serum insulin concentration to try and establish the underlying cause of hypoglycemia.

  • Ultrasound examination of the abdomen to try and identify a pancreatic or other tumor that could be causing hypoglycemia.


    Treatments for hypoglycemia may include the following:

  • Administration of glucose orally or by intravenous injection to increase blood glucose concentration.
  • Treatment for the underlying cause of hypoglycemia

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer as directed any medications prescribed by your veterinarian. Observe your dog's general activity level, appetite and attitude.

    If you have reason to suspect hypoglycemia, you should rub Karo® syrup on your dog's gums and call your veterinarian immediately. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to identify, treat, and monitor the underlying cause of hypoglycemia.

    See your veterinarian for regular check-ups as directly.

    Provide a warm environment, frequent feedings, routine vaccinations and de-worming procedures for puppies as recommended by your veterinarian. Provide frequent, regular feedings. Young puppies should be fed at least 3 to 4 times a day.

    Feed a high quality dog food and provide extra feedings or snacks to working dogs.

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