Is your dog sleeping a lot? Do they seem sluggish, nearly comatose? These are very dangerous symptoms of which every pet owner should be wary. Does my dog have hypoglycemia? While there are many underlying conditions, there is a reasonable likelihood that your pet is suffering from hypoglycemia, that is, low blood sugar. Glucose levels rise and fall based on a number of environmental factors, but low blood sugars can cause severe lethargy that if left untreated can lead to a loss of consciousness, comas, and death.
Causes of hypoglycemia in dogs
First, you should realize that hypoglycemia is a physical condition that is caused by an underlying condition. Hypoglycemia is not a disease on it’s own. When these conditions cause your pet to use or metabolize blood sugar too quickly, their main source of energy is effectively used up. This will cause them to get tired and they sleep a lot. You initially will notice lower physical activity. However in extreme situations has effects on subconscious function (such as breathing).
Insulin – diabetes treatment
Blood sugar levels are regulated by insulin and so if sugar levels are too high, or too low, this is a good place to start looking. Simply stated, insulin helps metabolize blood sugar and is used to treat conditions where high blood sugar exists, such as diabetes mellitus. If blood sugar is too low, it is possible that a diabetes treatment is the root cause. If your dog is receiving insulin injections as part of a diabetes treatment you should immediately look to your vet to discuss options. Perhaps consider reducing or eliminating additional insulin until you have spoken with your vet. This can help prevent further reduction in blood sugar from the insulin treatment. Keep a record of when your dog receives their insulin. This will prevent accidental overdosing. A diabetic coma due to insulin shock is very serious condition.
Insulin – overproduction
Unfortunately, insulin shots for diabetes are not the only source of excess insulin. If your dog is suffering from specific cancer types there is the possibility that it has a tumor that produces and releases insulin, which would have the same effect. Hypoglycemia can be a cause due to insulinoma (pancreatic cancer).
Glucose – over metabolism
It is possible that your faithful friend is actually has a condition that needs a huge amount of energy such as infection, sepsis, cancer, or maybe your fur baby is having more fur babies!
The most likely conditions that cause hypoglycemia are the outlined above, related to the metabolism of glucose. However, it is important to know that low blood sugar can also occur due to decreased production of glucose by the liver (caused by liver shunts or liver disease). Additionally, simple starvation or malnutrition can cause low blood sugars. As you work with your vet to determine the underlying cause, you should expect to run blood panels, including liver enzyme tests and blood sugar curves.
Pets at Higher Risk of Hypoglycemia
- Young pets (typically under 3 months old) can often be at risk because their physiology is still not fully developed. Hypoglycemia can be brought on if there is a trigger such as stress, parasites or simple improper feeding.
- Be careful with toy and small breed dogs as they frequently use more glucose than their small bodies can store. Particularly Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Pomeranians, Poodles and Chihuahuas are known to be susceptible to a low blood sugar level.
- On the other extreme, dogs that work hard, using a lot of energy are at risk. For example, working and hunting dogs.
- Pregnant dogs! Gestation takes a lot out of the mother, but most definitely takes a lot of energy.
It is worth noting that a high stress situation, or environment could cause a dog, that seldom has shown signs of hypoglycemia to start showing symptoms. The excitement or high stress might cause them to burn more glucose and often they are less interested in eating. Especially true if you use a pet sitter, boarding facility or a friend of family member to watch your pet while your gone.
Does my Dog have Hypoglycemia?
You need to consider the most common symptoms in order to answer the question, Does my Dog have hypoglycemia? Specifically, does your pet have any, or multiple, of the following:
- Low energy
- General weakness
- Excessive sleeping
- Appears depressed
- Falling over/bumping into objects
- Unusual behavior
- Increased thirst
- Decreased appetite
- Drop in body temperature
- Collapse, seizure, and coma
While the list isn’t specifically in order of appearance of symptoms, once you see shivering or convulsions you definitely need to find emergency help for your dog. Remember, hypoglycemia is not a disease, but is a condition that can prove fatal for your little friend.
My dog acts like they might have hypoglycemia, what can I do?
If you have a hypoglycemic dog, or a diabetic dog starts showing signs of insulin shock there is some things you can do at home. If the condition is mild and your dog is still alert, offer your dog some honey, Karo syrup, or sugar water. Many dogs will like it straight of your finger if they start feeling better (normally within 30 minutes). Give them a small meal so the body can up it’s glucose level and prevent the condition of worsening, keep a close eye on your dog.
What if you suddenly see your dog faint, or find them barely responding? This will be an emergency. However you can rub some honey, kero syrup or fruit juice on their gums. Be careful orally injecting a liquid in a dog that is unresponsive. As they are not alert fluid might end up making it’s way down in their lungs. Try to get your dog to a veterinarian so they can properly monitor and adjust the glucose levels. Often a veterinarian can stabilize the dog quickly. Although, they might suggest to you to monitor the dog overnight at the clinic to be safe.
If you have a hypoglycemic dog there are some great products that you can keep at home or in the car in case an episode happens and you want to quickly elevate their glucose.