How To Treat Hypoglycemia In Cats And Dogs What to Do About Your Petโ€™s Low Blood Sugar

BY | April 06 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
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Hypoglycemia is a condition where your pet's glucose levels, better known as blood sugar drops dangerously low. Luckily, there are treatment levels out there if diagnosed in a timely manner. Learn more about hypoglycemia here.

When your petโ€™s blood sugar drops below normal, it can spell serious trouble for their health. Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main source of energy for both the body and the brain. Without adequate amounts of glucose, your pet cannot function properly. In severe cases, hypoglycemia can cause loss of consciousness, coma, and even death.

Fortunately, there are treatment options available, and the sooner you seek treatment for your pet, the more likely they are to recover. Read on to learn about the diagnosis and treatment of hypoglycemia in cats and dogs.

Diagnosing Hypoglycemia in Cats and Dogs

Contact your veterinarian if your pet ever exhibits symptoms of hypoglycemia. Your vet will perform a physical examination, take a full health history, and perform certain diagnostic tests.

Most cases of hypoglycemia are easily diagnosed through routine blood work that reveals low glucose levels. The more challenging part of diagnosis is figuring out the source of the condition. Exploratory testing may include:

  • Blood chemistry to assess liver, kidney, and pancreatic health
  • Complete blood count to check for blood conditions
  • Urinalysis to evaluate the kidneys and check for urinary tract infection or other diseases
  • Cortisol test to check for Addisonโ€™s disease
  • Thyroid test to see if there is a problem with thyroid hormone production
  • X-ray or ultrasound to search for tumors, liver shunts, or liver abnormalities

Treatment for Hypoglycemia in Cats and Dogs

Treatment for hypoglycemia is usually a two-pronged attack:

  • blood sugar levels must be raised immediately
  • the underlying cause of the condition must be treated to prevent recurrence

One way of returning blood sugar levels to normal is to give the pet sugar to eat. If your pet is at home and suffering from a seizure or collapse, your veterinarian may recommend giving them sugar, honey, Karo syrup, corn syrup, or fruit juice before transporting them to the veterinarianโ€™s office. If the pet is unconscious, the sugar substance may need to be rubbed directly onto the gums. (NOTE: Candy is never appropriate for pets, as both sugar- and sugar-free candies are unsafe for cats and dogs.)

If for whatever reason sugar cannot be given by mouth, your veterinarian will most likely administer intravenous fluids containing sugars.

Once blood sugar levels return to normal, the underlying cause of the condition will need to be treated.

  • If hypoglycemia was the result of an insulin overdose, the condition may be reversed if the correct dosage of insulin is administered moving forward.

  • Working/hunting dogs, toy/small breed dogs, or pregnant pets who are suffering from hypoglycemia due to an overuse of glucose may recover with a modified diet rich in fats, proteins, and carbohydrates as well as more frequent meals.

  • Pets with underlying health conditions that resulted in hypoglycemia will be treated accordingly. Some conditions that cause low blood sugar cannot be cured (for example, certain types of cancers) and the pet may require lifelong therapies to keep their blood sugar levels normal. Long-term treatment may include oral glucose supplements, steroids, and anti-convulsant drugs to control seizures.

The prognosis for hypoglycemia can vary and will depend on your petโ€™s overall health as well as how quickly treatment is sought. Some health conditions cannot be cured and may make treating hypoglycemia extremely difficult. In addition, brain or eye damage caused by prolonged and untreated hypoglycemia often cannot be reversed. However, many cases are manageable, especially if you seek veterinary care right away. Donโ€™t hesitate to contact your vet if you notice any symptoms.

The Many Causes Of Hypoglycemia In Dogs And Cats 

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a potentially life-threatening situation for a dog or cat. Your petโ€™s blood sugar, or glucose, is their primary source of energy. When glucose levels drop below normal, it results in a loss of energy and decreased ability to function. In severe cases, a pet may lose consciousness or even die.

Hypoglycemia is not a disease. It is instead a symptom that points to an underlying medical condition. Here we will look at the causes of hypoglycemia in dogs and cats, and what symptoms to watch for in your pet.

Causes of Hypoglycemia in Dogs and Cats

There are many causes of hypoglycemia in pets, but the most common is related to diabetes treatment. Diabetes occurs when the body is not able to properly produce or process insulin, the hormone that allows glucose to travel to cells and transform into energy. Without insulin, the glucose remains in the bloodstream, and this is what is referred to as high blood sugar.

Insulin injections are given to diabetic pets in order to even out blood sugar levels. However, if a pet parent accidentally gives their pet too much of the drug, it can cause the body to metabolize too much glucose, resulting in low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.

Glucose can also be over-metabolized as a result of insulin-secreting tumors or conditions that require a great deal of energy from the pet, including certain cancers, infection, sepsis, and pregnancy.

While the most common, over-metabolization of glucose is not the only cause of hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar can also occur due to decreased production of glucose by the liver (often caused by liver disease, liver shunts, or Addisonโ€™s disease) or low levels of glucose in the blood from starvation or malnutrition.

Other conditions -- such as pancreatitiskidney failure, and ingestion of toxins (especially antifreeze) -- can also cause blood sugar levels to drop.

Which Pets Are at Risk for Hypoglycemia?

  • Puppies and kittens under 3 months old, since they have not fully developed their ability to regulate glucose levels. Hypoglycemia can be brought on as a result of stress, cold weather, parasites, over-exercise, or improper feeding (even a short period of not eating enough can do it).
  • Small and toy breed dogs, because they often use more glucose than they are able to store.
  • Pets who use a great deal of energy, such as hunting or working dogs, pregnant animals, and those with certain medical conditions.

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia in Dogs and Cats

Symptoms of hypoglycemia may come and go or remain persistent. Common symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Low energy
  • Weakness
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Loss of coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Unusual behavior
  • Vision impairment
  • Lack of appetite or increased hunger
  • Increased thirst
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Tremors (shivering)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Coma

The sooner your veterinarian can diagnose and treat hypoglycemia, the better your petโ€™s chance of recovery. Contact your veterinarian at the first sign that something is wrong.

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