Hypoglycemia in Small Breed Puppies
Hypoglycemia or “low blood sugar” refers to the condition when there is not enough sugar in the bloodstream. When your dog’s body is deprived of sugar, its main source of energy, the ability to function declines and, in severe situations, loss of consciousness or even death can result.
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Why are puppies at risk for low blood sugar?
Puppies, especially those under 3 months of age, have not fully developed their ability to regulate their blood glucose (sugar) levels. Toy and miniature breeds are especially susceptible to this problem, including but not limited to Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Toy Poodles, and Pomeranians. Predisposing factors for hypoglycemia can include fasting, gastrointestinal upset, low body temperature, intestinal parasites, as well as other ailments.
Clinical Signs of Hypoglycemia in Puppies
The signs of low blood sugar can be vague. It’s important to watch out for them especially if your puppy is a tiny breed that’s most susceptible.
Be alert for any one or a combination of the following atypical behaviors and symptoms:
- Becoming very sleepy
- A wobbly “drunk” gait
- "Glassy" and unfocused eyes
- Twitching, shaking, trembling, or shivering
- Head tilted to one side
How to Prevent Low Blood Sugar in Puppies
Providing proper nutrition on a routine schedule is crucial. Small breed puppies should be fed three to four times a day. Ensure you’re feeding a commercial puppy diet that is formulated for growth.
As other ailments can predispose to hypoglycemia, any signs of illness must be attended to. So, if your puppy is coughing, has diarrhea, is vomiting, has appetite loss, or seems lethargic, waste no time in seeing the vet.
Lastly, make sure to keep your puppy nice and warm at home.
Treatment for Hypoglycemia in Puppies
If your puppy is conscious but showing signs of hypoglycemia (see above), start by offering tasty food that he or she will want to eat, such as canned food. If your puppy will not eat, a fingertip of Nutrical may make all the difference. This product is frequently provided by both veterinarians and breeders for use in toy breed puppies. It consists basically of a malt-flavored paste with sugar and vitamins. Some puppies will readily lap it off fingers and others will only take it if it’s smeared on the roof of the mouth. In most cases, the puppy will respond very quickly to treatment, within 5-10 minutes.
If your puppy is listless, comatose, or seizing, a small amount of Karo syrup can be rubbed on the gums for first aid. It will absorb through the gums; actual swallowing is not necessary. Beyond this, the puppy should be rushed to an animal hospital for treatment.
With any signs of hypoglycemia, make sure your pup is warm by wrapping them in a blanket. When the blood sugar drops, puppies can’t regulate their body temperature. It’s important to keep the dog warm until the glucose level rises.
When to Contact a Vet
A hypoglycemic puppy or kitten is almost always an emergency situation. If caught relatively early, the prognosis for a hypoglycemic animal is good. If presented after seizing for a prolonged period or comatose, the prognosis worsens.
Treatment includes initial IV dextrose boluses, warming to a normal body temperature, IV fluids with a constant rate infusion of dextrose and other supportive treatments. Full bloodwork and other lab work will usually be recommended to rule out any underlying conditions.
The key is prevention by ensuring that the pet is consuming frequent meals and staying warm.
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