Feline Hypoglycemia

Feline hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when the level of glucose in the blood drops to a dangerously low level. The need for glucose is strongest within the brain. Any other cell in the body, aside from those residing in the brain, can use fatty acids produced by the liver to help maintain glucose levels when they drop. The brain is different in that it cannot obtain glucose from anywhere else other than from the blood.

How Feline Hypoglycemia Develops

The most common cause for a hypoglycemic condition is an excessive injection of insulin administered to a diabetic cat. Especially when a cat has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, it's all too common for a cat to receive an injection of insulin that is too high and, as a result, the blood glucose drops to an unsafe level. When this happens, the condition of hypoglycemia is not permanent, but rather it is a side effect of an improper amount of insulin.

In some cases, hypoglycemia can occur in kittens as young as three months of age. A kitten’s body has not yet developed a system in which blood glucose can be monitored and maintained effectively. This type of hypoglycemia is known as juvenile hypoglycemia, and is even more dangerous because kittens are fragile at their young age.

One of the more unfortunate causes of hypoglycemia is poor nutrition. Cats rely on their nutritional intake for important vitamins, calories and sources of fat. When a cat doesn't have a substantial form of nutrition, his body can have a difficult time regulating the blood glucose and it can drop to severely low levels.

Signs of Hypoglycemia

Feline hypoglycemia is a potentially life-threatening condition because of the direct effect that it has on the brain. The warning signs of hypoglycemia are usually very noticeable and very unnerving to a cat owner. Because the brain is the only part of the body that is completely affected by hypoglycemia, the symptoms are all related to issues within the brain. Any of the following signs should warrant suspicion of hypoglycemia:

  • Staggering while walking
  • Constant shaking
  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue or not being able to stand up
  • Glassy look in the eyes
  • Disorientation and acting unaware of surroundings

Diagnosing and Treating Hypoglycemia

The symptoms of hypoglycemia are dangerous, but they can also mimic signs of other serious health complications. In order to obtain an accurate diagnosis of hypoglycemia, a complete blood test and a blood glucose test will need to be performed. The blood test will check for any other abnormalities within a cat's system that could be triggering this response. Likewise, the blood glucose test will very accurately detect the current levels of blood glucose in a cat.

Other testing methods, such as a urinalysis and x-rays or ultrasounds, may be used to determine the underlying cause of the hypoglycemia. When tumors of the brain, liver or pancreas are present, there is the very real likelihood that the hypoglycemia has stemmed from that particular medical condition.

Treating feline hypoglycemia begins with identifying the exact cause of the condition. Whether there is a tumor present or a cat is very severely malnourished, the cause has to be determined in order to provide a sufficient treatment plan. While the cause is being investigated, an injection of glucose may be given to a cat to raise the blood glucose levels until the direct cause can be treated.