Hypoglycemia in Dogs

Hypoglycemia in dogs is a condition that occurs when your dog's blood sugar drops too low. Your dog needs blood sugar, or glucose, for energy and brain function. When your dog's blood sugar drops too low, serious complications can occur. Read on to learn more about this urgent medical condition in dogs.

Causes of Canine Hypoglycemia

In normal, healthy dogs, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are too high, the healthy pancreas produces more insulin, which attaches itself to the glucose molecules, lowering blood sugar. Often, hypoglycemia occurs when your dog has too much insulin in his blood.

Insulinomas, or tumors of the pancreas, can increase insulin production, leading to dangerous drops in blood sugar. If a diabetic dog receives too much insulin medication, hypoglycemia can occur. Many toy breeds, and puppies younger than five months of age, are unable to properly metabolize and store blood sugar, which can lead to hypoglycemia.

Sometimes, hypoglycemia has nothing to do with the pancreas, but occurs as a result of Addison's disease. Addison's disease is a metabolic disorder in which the adrenal glands fail to produce adequate amounts of their hormones. These hormones help to regulate insulin production and glucose metabolism. Without enough of them, your dog won't be able to properly metabolize and store glucose, and could suffer from hypoglycemia as a result.

Hypoglycemia Symptoms in Dogs

Dogs suffering from hypoglycemia may exhibit one or all of the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Lethargy
  • Restlessness
  • Trembling and nervousness
  • Seizures
  • Agitation
  • Hypothermia

Hypoglycemia is considered a medical emergency, because low blood sugar can lead to loss of consciousness and death. If your dog exhibits any of the signs of low blood sugar, seek medical help immediately. Mild cases of low blood sugar can quickly become serious and life-threatening. Repeated severe drops in blood sugar, or chronic low blood sugar, can cause brain damage.

Treating Low Blood Sugar in Dogs

If your dog is suffering from hypoglycemia, you may need to administer first aid before seeking immediate veterinary care. Before seeking veterinary care, you can bring your dog's blood sugar level back up by feeding him something sugary. Jam, syrup or honey are good choices. Feed one teaspoon to a small dog, and one tablespoon to a large dog. 

If your dog has lost consciousness, rub the syrup onto his gums. Wrap your dog up to keep him warm, since low blood sugar can lead to dangerous decreases in body temperature. Remember that administering jam, honey or syrup will raise your dog's blood sugar for only ten or twenty minutes. You'll need to seek veterinary care within this time to prevent serious complications and even save your dog's life. 

Treatment for canine hypoglycemia often involves changes in diet and exercise habits. Dogs who have experienced hypoglycemia should eat a high-quality food, rich in proteins, fats and fibers. They need to be fed smaller meals, more often through the day, to keep blood sugar levels stable. They should be kept warm and exercised regularly.