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Hypoglycemia In Small Breed Puppies
Bringing Home a Small Breed or Toy Puppy
Fighting Hypoglycemia In Puppies

By Dr. Craig Kuchera
Low blood sugar can be quite dangerous to puppies. It's essential that a new puppy owner be able to recognize, prevent and treat this hazardous condition.

Two girls playing with a puppy in the grass.
Fighting Hypoglycemia In Puppies

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a serious condition that can occur in young pup­pies, especially toy breeds. Early recognition and proper treatment is the key to preventing potentially serious health consequences. If a puppy is bright, alert and bouncing one minute, but is down, depressed and disoriented the next, it could be a sign of hypoglycemia. The maintenance of proper bloodsugar levels is vital, as the puppy's brain is entirely dependent on blood sugar as a source of energy. Thus, signs of low blood sugar are usually related to nerv­ous system dysfunction.

Clinical signs of hypoglycemia can vary according to how rapidly the blood glucose falls below normal. A rapid fall results in dilated (enlarged) pupils, increased heart rate, nervous­ness, tremors, vocalizing and irritability. A gradual fall in blood glucose can result in visual disturbances (apparent blindness), mental dullness, confusion, seizures, decreased heart rate and coma. Both scenarios can also result in dehydration and hypothermia (decreased body temperature).

THE CAUSE. This condition is typically caused by a puppy being unable to adapt to less frequent feeding during the post-weaning period. Young puppies must receive nutrition every few hours. Puppies typically have very few fat reserves to provide energy in a crisis. If nutrition is not provided on a fre­quent schedule, body glucose stores may become depleted. If this occurs, a puppy's immature liver may be unable to produce/process glucose quickly enough to meet body needs.

A whelping box with nine puppies.
PREVENTION: In order to prevent or limit hypoglycemia, be sure that the puppies have food available at all times and you monitore for adequate consumption. Also be aware that many factors can contribute to a puppy not eating as it should. These include any type of stress, such as infections, vaccinations, excess physical exertion (playing too hard), weaning, poor nutrition, hypothermia, gastric upset, etc.

TREATMENT: Since hypoglycemia, dehydration, and hypothermia often all occur together, all three conditions must be correct­ed. Treatment should begin by contact­ing the your veterinarian. Maintaining a warm, humid environment (85 degrees, 85 percent humidity) is very important. The body temperature should be raised and maintained above 95 degrees (hot water bottles, heating pad wrapped in a towel, hair dryer, etc.). A veterinarian may advise oral sugar supplementation (dextrose, syrup, honey, sugar water), if the puppy can swallow typically one cc or ml per pound of body weight every hour. As the condition improves, moist food and water should then be offered (forced, if necessary) while slowly wean­ing the pup off of the sugar supplemen­tation. The veterinarian may start an intravenous line or subcutaneous fluids if the condition warrants it. Frequent high-protein, high-carbohydrate feedings are necessary to prevent reoccurrence. The condition usually resolves in a short period of time with steady food intake, stress reduction and maturity. If you think your puppy may be suffering from hypo­glycemia, be sure to reach out to a vet­erinarian immediately. Follow his or her advice and, in most cases, treat­ment of this condition will be 100 per­cent successful.

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