Low Blood Sugar Symptoms in Dogs

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Small dog laying beside bowl of food.
Small dog laying beside bowl of food. (Image: Pavel Timofeyev/iStock/Getty Images)

Any dog can have an episode of low blood sugar, regardless of age, sex or breed. Hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, can occur due to illness or in response to medication. Puppies and very small mature dogs are prone to hypoglycemic episodes, even if they are otherwise healthy. Although diabetes is the disease most commonly associated with hypoglycemia, it is not the only one that can cause a drop in blood sugar.

Hypoglycemia

According to PetPlace.com, hypoglycemia occurs when a dog’s blood sugar drops below a concentration of 70 milligrams per deciliter. Hypoglycemia can be detected by using a blood glucose meter, readily available in drug stores and department stores. Hypoglycemia has several causes. It can be associated with breed, size or disease. Dogs that do not eat before vigorous exercise can experience hypoglycemia. Diabetic dogs can experience hypoglycemia if improperly medicated. A drop in blood sugar levels can be a life-threatening event, so quick detection followed by immediate treatment is necessary.

Signs and Symptoms

Hypoglycemia symptoms typically appear when a dog’s blood sugar concentration drops below 50 milligrams per deciliter. Dogs experiencing a hypoglycemic episode may have dilated pupils or seem blind. If your dog seems to be extremely tired or weak; is trembling, twitching or uncoordinated or if she begins to have convulsive seizures, you should suspect hypoglycemia. Extreme hypoglycemia might result in a coma. Her symptoms may vary based on how quickly her blood sugar dropped, how much it dropped and how frequently a drop in blood sugar occurs.

Hypoglycemia vs. Diabetes

Hypoglycemia is part of diabetes; however, diabetes primarily is associated with hyperglycemia. Hypoglycemia in diabetic dogs is usually iatrogenic; that is, it is brought about when they receive too much insulin during their treatment. Iatrogenic hypoglycemia can occur if the dog has received a double dose of insulin or if her insulin dose was not adjusted to accommodate a weight loss. Unlike hypoglycemia, diabetes affects older dogs, typically 7 years and older. It also tends to affect female dogs and neutered males more than it affects intact males.

Puppy and Small Breed Hypoglycemia

Puppies are physically unable to regulate their blood sugar very well. In addition, they require a lot of glucose to grow and to function. The most frequent cause of puppy hypoglycemia is insufficient food or foods that lack nutritional quality. Intestinal parasites and stress also may cause puppy hypoglycemia. Very small breeds, such as Chihuahuas, Maltese and toy poodles are prone to hypoglycemia both as adults and as puppies. Puppies under 12 weeks of age of these and other toy breeds are particularly sensitive to hypoglycemia. They should be fed small, frequent meals to reduce the possibility of hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia Treatment

If your dog is exhibiting signs of having hypoglycemia, rub her gums with a palatable liquid containing a high concentration of sugar. Corn syrup, pancake syrup, honey or even sugar dissolved in water. Her energy should return almost immediately; she should appear less confused and more capable of focusing. If she does not immediately respond, bring your dog to her vet or to an emergency veterinarian. Once the crisis has passed, hypoglycemia is treated by identifying and correcting the issue that led to the episode. In some cases, your dog may be treated for underlying diseases, such as liver disease or a pancreatic tumor.

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