Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) in Dogs
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.
Signs of Hypoglycemia in Dogs
Signs of low blood sugar in dogs may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme lethargy
- Muscular twitching
- Unusual behavior
- Dilated pupils
- Apparent blindness
- Stupor or coma
Diagnosis of Hypoglycemia in Dogs
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.
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.
Treatment for Hypoglycemia in Dogs
Optimal therapy of any serious or persistent medical condition depends on establishing the correct diagnosis. There are several potential causes of hypoglycemia and the underlying cause of hypoglycemia must be determined before definitive treatment can be recommended.
Initial therapy should be aimed at diagnosis and treatment of the underlying causes of hypoglycemia. Your veterinarian may recommend or perform the following treatment measures on your dog:
- Provide supplemental dextrose by rubbing corn syrup (Karo® Syrup) on the dog’s gums or a 50 percent solution of glucose administered orally. Special care should be taken to be certain the dog has a normal swallowing reflex so as to prevent aspiration of the glucose solution into the lungs. In some dogs, it may be necessary to administer a sterile solution of dextrose by intravenous injection.
- Placement of an intravenous catheter and administration of an electrolyte (salt) solution that also contains dextrose. Dogs that have hypoglycemia due to hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease) usually are treated with a 0.9 percent sodium chloride (salt) solution.
- Patients with low body temperature should be warmed and body temperature should be monitored closely.
Prognosis for Hypoglycemia in Dogs
Prognosis is dependent on the cause of hypoglycemia. Appropriate diagnosis and treatment of the underlying disorder will assure the best possible prognosis. The prognosis is good in cases of juvenile hypoglycemia, hunting dog hypoglycemia, and Addison’s disease.
Dogs with hypoglycemia due to insulinoma generally have a poor prognosis because many of these tumors have metastasized by the time of surgery. However, with early diagnosis and surgical removal of the tumor, some dogs have lived up to 2 years.
The prognosis for pets with hypoglycemia associated with body wide infection (sepsis) is dependent on the underlying cause of the systemic infection and how effectively it can be treated.
Follow-Up Care for Dogs with Hypoglycemia
Optimal treatment for your dog requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be crucial and may include the following recommendations:
- Administer any medications as directed by your veterinarian. Inability to medicate the dog can be a reason for treatment failure.
- Feed your dog frequent small meals.
- Observe your dog’s general activity level and appetite.
- Observe your dog for signs of recurrent hypoglycemia, such as lethargy, weakness, staggering, unusual behavior, apparent blindness, muscular twitching, and seizures.
- Return regularly for blood glucose determinations. Return of hypoglycemia can indicate re-growth of an insulin-producing tumor.