Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can occur in dogs for a number of reasons, and the effects can be frightening to the pet owner who has never before witnessed a hypoglycemic episode. Repeated or prolonged attacks can ultimately result in devastating consequences. It's good to understand some of the most common triggers for hypoglycemia and how to prevent episodes.
Be Vigilant With Toy Breed Puppies
Toy breeds, such as Yorkshire terriers, Maltese and papillons, are especially prone to hypoglycemic attacks. This is due in part to the fact that they are full of energy and have higher metabolism than than will as adults as their little bodies are growing. Their diminutive size can compromise their ability to maintain their body temperature. Maintain normal blood sugar levels in your little one by offering foods that he can easily chew and swallow -- toy breeds' tiny teeth can make chewing larger kibble a difficult chore -- and providing several small meals throughout the day, as well as offering small amounts of a sugar-based vitamin gel supplement as a training reward. Most toy breed puppies outgrow the tendencies for hypoglycemia after 5 months of age as their bodies grow.
Watch for Hypoglycemia in Hunting Dogs
Hypoglycemia can strike hunting dogs in the field after extended periods of exertion and lack of food. Activity under such conditions forces your dog’s stressed body to deplete glycogen from the liver to use as an alternate energy source, which can lead to a drop in blood sugar. Before taking your retriever or spaniel on a hunting expedition, feed him a high-protein meal before leaving the house. Include a vitamin gel supplement or a small bottle of corn syrup in your hunter’s pack so you are prepared if your hunting buddy starts to exhibit signs of low blood sugar.
Recognize the Signs of Hypoglycemia
A hypoglycemic attack is characterized by listlessness, a wobbly or staggering gait, trembling, weakness and pale gums. In severe cases, mental awareness is compromised, body temperature drops, seizure activity may occur and a coma can result. Hypoglycemic episodes usually occur without warning and can progress to coma rapidly in puppies. It is up to you to minimize the triggers for these attacks by keeping your puppy or adult dog fed at regular intervals, keeping toy breeds warm and limiting physical and mental stress. If your dog exhibits signs, offer him gel supplement, corn syrup, honey or another high-sugar substance immediately, then bring him to a veterinarian right away. If your dog is not conscious, rub a small amount of the substance on his gums since he will be unable to swallow.
Be Aware of Other Causes
If your dog experiences severe or repeated episodes of hypoglycemia, have him evaluated by a veterinarian without delay. Other potential causes of hypoglycemia exist, and you should know them. Some causes include bacterial infection, portosystemic liver shunt, Addison’s disease and insulinoma. If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes and is on insulin therapy, be diligent in following insulin dosages, and follow up on blood screenings and examinations exactly as instructed by your veterinarian. Never take it upon yourself to tweak the insulin dose or deviate from prescribed treatments without consulting with the veterinarian first. All hypoglycemic episodes should be considered emergencies. Bring your dog to a veterinarian immediately.
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