Diagnosing Hypoglycemia in Dogs With Blood Tests

Hypoglycemia in dogs occurs when your dog's blood glucose concentration falls below 60 mg/dl. Your vet will use a variety of methods to diagnose your dog's condition. Besides a thorough physical exam, accurate diagnosis depends on a series of blood tests.

Blood Glucose Concentration Test

Blood glucose concentration is the amount of glucose or sugar per deciliter of blood. A dog is hypoglycemic if his blood glucose is lower than 60 mg/dl. A glucose concentration above 45mg/dl is considered mild.

This test can result in an inaccurate "positive" if the blood is kept for longer than a few hours before running the test.

You can perform this test at home using kits you can find at any drug store. Your vet can advise you on which kits are the most accurate. Perform this test at home using test kits for humans.

Complete Blood Count

A Complete Blood Count, or CBC, is a common test which measures the three types of cells in your dog's blood: Red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes) and platelets. The number, shape and appearance of these cells indicate how well your dog's organs are functioning and helps the vet track down possible underlying conditions that may be causing your dog's hypoglycemia. For example, a low red blood cell count or anemia may be a symptom of Addison's disease or liver disease, common causes of hyperglycemia in older dogs.

If a severe infection is causing the hypoglycemia, you may find an increased number of white blood cells.

Serum Biochemistry Profile

A serum biochemistry profile or serum biochemistry panel is a series of tests to analyze the chemical composition of blood serum. Serum is an important component of blood, and the results of these tests indicate how well particular organ systems are functioning.

Some tests that may help determine the underlying cause of hypoglycemia in dogs are:

  • Blood proteins (albumin and globulin)
  • Liver enzymes (Alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and gamma glutamyltransferase (GGT)
  • Kidney function (creatinine and blood urea nitrogen or BUN )
  • Glucose
  • Muscle enzymes
  • Cholesterol
  • Electrolytes.

Liver disease may cause an increase in some liver enzymes. Chronic liver disease may cause a decrease in glucose, cholesterol, albumin and urea. Addison's disease may cause the composition of the electrolytes to change.

Serum Insulin Concentration Test

A serum insulin concentration is the measure of insulin in the blood. This test is commonly done in conjunction with a blood glucose concentration especially if your dog exhibits only hypoglycemia with otherwise normal test results. The results of these two tests may indicate the presence of a tumor of the pancreas called an islet cell tumor. These tumors commonly cause hypoglycemia in dogs by secreting excess amounts of insulin into the blood thus lowering blood sugar.

These blood tests provide your vet with the information to effectively treat your dog's hypoglycemia.