Can Dogs Have Low Blood Sugar?

Tiny puppies, especially toy puppies under the age of three months are susceptible to this health concern.

By | Posted: December 4, 2014, 8 a.m. PST

You may feel like you’re suffering from low blood sugar if you’ve gone more than an hour without a cola, but chances are, you’ll get over it. But if you’re a dog, particularly a small puppy of a tiny breed, low blood sugar (more technically known as hypoglycemia) can be deadly. And more common than you might think.


Tiny puppies, especially toy puppies under the age of three months, as well as some adults of toy breeds, are especially susceptible. Hypoglycemia can also be brought on by fasting combined with rigorous exercise, and is seen in some hunting dogs that have spent a long day in the field. Dogs with Addison's disease, sever liver disease, pancreatic tumors or portosystemic (liver) shunts, or dogs being treated for diabetes mellitus, are also at risk. 

But toy puppies are the ones most noted for it. These babies can’t store enough readily available glycogen (which is the form in which the body stores glucose), and when the glycogen runs out, the body breaks down fat for energy. But because puppies have very little fat on their bodies, this energy store is also quickly depleted. When that happens, the brain, which depends on glucose to function, starts having problems. The puppy may start to get weak and sleepy, perhaps wobbling and stumbling about if forced to move. If he still gets no glucose, he can have seizures, lose consciousness, and die.

That’s why it’s so important that you not let your tiny puppy go more than four hours without eating. If that’s not possible, such as in the middle of the night, make sure he’s warm, confined, and quiet so that he doesn’t use much energy.

Next, make sure you’re feeding him foods that are fairly high in protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs slow the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugars. This steady breakdown leads to more efficient use, rather than a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. Avoid simple sugars, such as sweets and semi-moist foods. However, keep some on hand because they can be useful if your pup starts showing signs of hypoglycemia.

If you suspect your dog is becoming hypoglycemic, you need to get some simple sugars into him. Corn syrup is a good choice, but he probably won’t swallow it. Rub it on his gums and the roof of his mouth. He may eat semi-moist foods, so try that. Don’t put anything in his mouth that could choke him! Keep him warm and call your veterinarian. If you’ve gotten enough sugar into him, he should start showing signs of improvement while you’re still on the phone—within a couple of minutes. He may still need to go to the clinic for intravenous glucose. Once he’s better and can eat, give him a small, high-protein meal, such as meat baby food. And don't let it happen again!

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Eileen - 249708   Port Perry, ON

12/5/2014 6:17:57 AM

Interesting article!

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