What is Hypoglycemia in Dogs?
Hypoglycemia in dogs is the medical term for dangerously low blood sugar levels, and we often associate it with diabetes and an overdose of insulin.
Sugar, or glucose, is an important source of energy in the body of an animal, so a low level will cause a severe drop in energy levels, possibly resulting in unconsciousness.
Other conditions can also cause blood sugar levels in dogs to drop dangerously low.
Animals with hypoglycemia rarely have the disease, but hypoglycemia is often an indicator of another serious underlying health problem.
A steady supply of glucose is necessary for the brain's functioning, as it does not store or produce glucose.
Hypoglycemia occurs when glucose levels drop dangerously low. The condition is dangerous and should be treated immediately and appropriately.
Hypoglycemia, especially if your dog is prone to it, needs to be treated quickly before it becomes fatal.
Causes of Hypoglycemia in Dogs
Besides underlying endocrine disorders or hepatic conditions, hypoglycemia can arise from inadequate amounts of glucose or from toxicity.
Several factors can cause hypoglycemia, but the most common is side effects associated with drugs used to treat diabetes.
Diabetes is treated with insulin to decrease blood glucose levels, which causes the body to process too much glucose and causes the blood glucose level to drop too low.
An overdose of insulin or higher doses of insulin will cause blood glucose levels to drop too low, making the body unable to handle the condition.
Hypoglycemia can occur, and if the brain is not treated quickly, irreparable damage will occur.
Other causes of hypoglycemia include:
- Abnormal growth of pancreatic cells
- Cancer in the liver or gastrointestinal system
- Inflammation of the liver
- Portosystemic shunt
- Glycogen-storage disease
- Excessive strenuous exercise
- Overuse of glucose in the body during pregnancy
- Reduced intake of glucose because of starvation or malnutrition
- Delayed time between meals of kittens and puppies (especially toy breeds)
- Overdosing of insulin
- Toxicity from ingestion of artificial sweeteners
Hypoglycemia in Dogs? A Diagnostic Dilemma?
Hypoglycemia is an extremely common problem and may be quite a discouraging experience for clinicians.
In part, this may be because of the multitude of physiological and pathological causes of hypoglycemia.
Hyperglycemia can also result from artifactual causes, which can mislead clinicians.
It is important to begin with a review of normal glucose homeostasis in order to better understand the potential causes of hypoglycemia.
Diagnosis of Hypoglycemia in Dogs
You should consult a veterinarian as soon as you notice any symptoms of hypoglycemia in your dog.
Your veterinarian will recommend immediate at-home treatment, followed by a doctor's appointment if your dog has already lost consciousness, or appears to be collapsing.
Veterinary doctors will conduct a complete physical exam if hypoglycemia is suspected based on the clinical signs and historical information above.
The next step is a measurement of the current blood glucose level and ancillary tests to determine the underlying causes.
The initial blood glucose measurement is taken using a glucometer (also called a glucose meter) and it's a quick, simple test that only requires a small drop of blood from the patient.
As a result, hypoglycemic puppies and kittens do not need a large sample. It takes a few seconds for the result to be displayed. Any reading that is lower than 3.3-6.1 mmol/L shows hypoglycemia.
Further blood tests may be ordered to evaluate organ function (specifically kidney, liver, and pancreas), electrolyte imbalances, thyroid function, cortisol function, and other blood-related conditions.
During a urinalysis (urine test) they can rule urinary infections and diseases out and the condition of the kidneys assessed.
If there is a suspicion that hypoglycaemia is related to cancer or tumour growth, an ultrasound may be performed.
Despite the fact that you can treat your dog at home during an episode of hypoglycemia, your veterinarian should still do blood tests.
Besides a complete blood count, a chemical blood profile, and a urinalysis, your veterinarian will need to perform a complete blood profile.
Your veterinarian will need A thorough history of your dog's health, onset of symptoms, recent diet, and any medications you have given your dog.
Symptoms of Hypoglycemia in Dogs
As hypoglycemia worsens, it will manifest more serious clinical signs, including seizure and collapse.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia usually begin with low energy and a delayed response time.
- Potential symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy (low energy)
- Slow response time
- Unusual behaviour
- Polyuria (increased urination)
- Polydipsia (increased thirst)
- Lack of coordination
- Partial paralysis of hindquarters
- Weakness, low energy, loss of consciousness
- Exercise intolerance
- Involuntary twitching
- Increased hunger
- Visual instability, such as blurred vision
- Anxiety, restlessness
- Heart palpitations
- Disorientation and confusion – may show an apparent inability to complete basic routine tasks
Hypoglycemia may not be the sole cause of these symptoms. Other medical conditions may also be involved.
The best way to diagnose hypoglycemia is by measuring the blood sugar level while the symptoms are present.
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Treatment of Hypoglycemia in Dogs
In order to prevent hypoglycemia from recurring, doctors usually treat the underlying condition and the present episode, in order to raise the blood sugar levels immediately.
For hypoglycemia, the initial treatment depends on the symptoms.
Glucose and sugar can treat some of the early symptoms of diabetes.
With serious symptoms that impair the ability to take sugar orally, you will need to inject glucagons or administer intravenous glucose.
In order to prevent recurrent hypoglycemia, your veterinarian must identify the underlying cause and treat it.
You will need to treat your dog's blood sugar levels based on the underlying conditions that cause it to drop.
Medications or tumors could cause these conditions. As soon as the laboratory tests have returned and been analyzed, your doctor will know what treatment plan to follow.
Initially, the goal of treatment is to correct the hypoglycemic crisis by raising blood sugar levels.
Sometimes, glucose or corn syrup may apply to the gums to ease the symptoms (as a dog owner you can do at home this).
An intravenous infusion of concentrated dextrose will be administered if aggressive therapy is required.
After the initial treatment, blood glucose levels will again be assessed.
Following the initial treatment, the underlying cause of the disease will be managed.
A period of rest will resolve hypoglycemia caused by fasting or excessive exercise.
Veterinary hospitals usually monitor dogs for several hours before sending them home with preventative discharge instructions.
Hypoglycemia caused by cancer, tumours, or portosystemic shunts may require surgery.
Medical management can treat inflammation or endocrine disorders. Supportive treatment is usually used to treat toxicities.
Hypoglycemia can reoccur if the underlying cause is not identified and treated.
Recovery of Hypoglycemia in Dogs
Following an episode of hypoglycemia, patients must continue to be monitored at home to detect recurrences.
If the underlying condition is only treated with medication or more surgery is performed in the clinic, then specific discharge instructions will be given to the dog.
Small breed puppies or kittens, as well as highly active dogs with strict hypoglycemia, should receive special attention to prevent relapse.
Rather than feeding pups and kittens one big meal a day, smaller meals should be provided several times a day.
A moderate meal and snacks should be readily available for active dogs several hours before activity.
Dogs should also be monitored closely when fasting is necessary, for example, prior to surgery.
A full recovery is ultimately determined by the underlying conditions that contributed to hypoglycemia.
Cost of Hypoglycemia in Dogs
The cost of treatment varies greatly, depending on the underlying cause of the hypoglycemic episode.
There is an initial consultation fee of about $80 - $200, along with a blood glucose test and glucose syrup treatment.
Infusions of intravenous glucose may add another $100 - $300 to the cost.
If surgical intervention or medical therapy are necessary, the cost of treatment for underlying causes will start at $800.
Treatment may need to be continued, and the total cost can range from $1000 to $8000.
Living and Management of Hypoglycemia in Dogs
Hypoglycemia can only be controlled and prevented through diet and management.
Preventing the condition from occurring, and being prepared for it if it does, are the most effective ways to ensure your dog's health.
Other Related Health Issues in Dogs
- How To Improve A Dogs Digestive System
- How to Help A Dogs Outer Ear Infections
- How to Help A Dog Lose Weight