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Hypoglycemia In Small Breed Puppies
Transitional Juvenile Hypoglycemia
Transitional Juvenile Hypoglycemia:
As Chihuahuas, Italian greyhounds, Yorkshire terriers and other breeds small enough to fit into a purse or a teacup become more popular, it's vital that pet store owners who sell them know the symptoms and treatments for juvenile hypoglycemia. With a little planning and vigilance, you can avoid the worry and expense of hypoglycemia related emergencies, and prevent long term damage to puppies' health.
How Hypoglycemia Happens:
When puppies are born, they have no sugar reserves stored in their bodies. However, they need sugar to provide energy for everything they do. Their bodies, and especially their brains, depend on it. The puppies need to eat frequent meals to provide that sugar. At first, that comes from nursing. After weaning, they still need to eat often.
When puppies are transferred to a new place such as a pet store they may experience the stress of travel and new surroundings, combined with a new feeding schedule and possibly less frequent meals. If a puppy isn't eating enough, its blood sugar levels can plummet to dangerous levels, leaving the puppy weak, wobbly and disoriented. If the puppy doesn't get a dose of sugar or a snack right away, it may begin having seizures.
Known as transitional juvenile hypoglycemia, because the problem is temporary and disappears by adulthood, the condition occurs most often in toy breed puppies less than 5 months old.
Veterinarians aren't completely sure why toy breed puppies are more susceptible, but there are a few likely reasons.
First, they're tiny and tend to have trouble staying warm, which requires energy they might not have. The itty bitty babies just don't have much in the way of glucose storage.
Second, toy breeds tend to cut their teeth later than larger dogs, and the small size of their mouths can make chewing difficult if they have a sore tooth. If a larger dog has a toothache, he can just chew on the other side of his mouth. But these small breed puppies sometimes have very tiny mouths, so there's nowhere else to chew.
If a puppy does experience hypoglycemia, a veterinarian can take care of the problem, and frequent feedings from then on should keep the puppy healthy through adulthood.
In adult dogs, the body has enough glucose to keep them going for a long time between meals. So, if you see hypoglycemia in an adult dog, it's usually the result of some other problem.
Most veterinarians say a puppy that has a bout of hypoglycemia is probably not more likely to experience related health problems, such as diabetes, as an adult. They really just grow out of it.
Preventing Blood Sugar Problems:
The best way to prevent hypoglycemia when you get a toy breed puppy is to monitor mealtimes. If a puppy is eating well, you're not likely to have a problem.
The best way to track eating habits and general health is to have you keep a chart for your puppy.
At mealtimes, you always should be watching to make sure that the puppy is actually eating his food, and marking that off on the chart.
After they're weaned, toy breed puppies probably should eat canned food for the first months of life, many veterinarians say. For one thing, puppies especially picky eaters are more likely to eat canned food. Also, it's easier for them to eat while they're cutting teeth.
With toy breed dogs, until they reach the age where their baby teeth change to permanent teeth about 5 months and they have the strength to really chomp down on dry food, I tell people to stick with canned.
But adding a little water to dry food also works.
Veterinarians say small breed puppies must eat four or five small meals per day.
When a puppy isn't eating enough, a supplement such as Nutrical can help. It's something most breeders and pet stores have on hand, and it has some calories and some sugars. You can use it to prevent problems.
Watching your puppy for signs of a problem is crucial.
Handling an Emergency:
At first, a puppy may not show symptoms. By the time a puppy begins to show signs of muscle weakness and disorientation, its blood sugar could be dropping quickly. When that happens, it's crucial to act right away.
Usually if you just give them a little bit of food, they'll respond immediately. But sometimes getting the food into them is a problem. That's why many veterinarians recommend keeping a bottle of Karo syrup on hand for emergencies whenever you have small breed puppies in your care. Even if a puppy is unable or unwilling to eat, you can rub a small amount of syrup around on its gums. They don't even have to swallow it; the sugar just absorbs right into the gums. That will buy you time to get the animal to the vet.
Often seizures will accompany hypoglycemia, and that makes the situation urgent. The seizures must be stopped within five minutes to preserve the puppy's health. If you get them treated right away, there's no danger. But if the seizures are allowed to go on, that can cause brain damage, loss of vision and even death.
A veterinarian will run tests and use an intravenous glucose drip to boost blood sugar levels quickly. That's the best treatment. Usually we get a really rapid response, and by the next day the puppy usually shoots right back to normal. Even if a puppy hasn't had problems at the store, the stress of moving to a new home can pose a risk. That's why it's important to educate customers. Putting together a primer on the signs of hypoglycemia and a fact sheet to remind buyers to feed four to five small meals a day of canned food up to age 6 months is a good idea.
You can't emphasize that enough. A person will go into a pet shop and buy a little Yorkshire terrier, or whatever breed, and then after a few weeks they'll come into the clinic and the dog will be having seizure after seizure. Customer education can prevent that.
SIGNS OF DEEPER PROBLEMS:
Juvenile hypoglycemia, which occurs most often in toy breed puppies, usually is a temporary problem that resolves itself with treatment and disappears as the puppy gets older. But in some cases, hypoglycemia is a sign of a bigger problem.
If hypoglycemia persists, a veterinarian may check for several conditions:
Parasites. Intestinal parasites could contribute to hypoglycemia problems, some veterinarians say. Parasites are not usually an immediate concern with the really small dogs, but it's a good idea to have your veterinarian do an overall evaluation.
Bacterial infection. Sometimes, hypoglycemia can be linked to
sepsis. But if that's the case, veterinarians say, the dog will show signs of illness apart from the hypoglycemia, such as diarrhea and vomiting. With sepsis, the animal would be very obviously sick.
Birth defects. A congenital abnormality known as a portosystemic shunt is more common in small breed dogs. Some blood vessels bypass the liver, making the liver smaller and less able to help regulate blood sugar properly. It's not the first thing I'd think of, but it's something to look at if there's a recurring problem. Sometimes a veterinarian can correct the condition with surgery, and the liver may return to normal.