By Dr. Karen Burgess

What is hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a relatively common problem in young puppies. Other potential causes include liver disease, Addison’s disease, and severe bacterial infections. Small breed and very young puppies are more prone to this condition as the liver is a reservoir of sugar and its functioning ability is often not fully developed.

What are signs of hypoglycemia?
Common signs of low blood sugar include weakness, vomiting, collapse, or seizures.

How is hypoglycemia diagnosed?
Low blood sugar is diagnosed based on history (young puppy) with consistent symptoms. A blood test that evaluates glucose levels is confirmatory. Additional testing may be necessary to rule out other potential causes for a low blood sugar.

What is the treatment for hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia can be life threatening in a very short time period. If your puppy is showing signs of hypoglycemia, first offer them food. If they are unwilling to eat, rub Karo syrup, maple syrup, or honey on their gums. Life-saving sugar can be absorbed directly through mucous membranes. Take your puppy immediately to a veterinarian even if this means an emergency visit in the middle of the night. Many conditions can make a puppy more prone to hypoglycemia and the issue may recur if not addressed. Make sure to keep your puppy warm (wrapped in blanket) while on the way as low blood sugar can predispose to low body temperature.

A puppy with signs of hypoglycemia requires immediate potentially life-saving treatment. Notify hospital staff as to the severity of the situation and allow them to take your pet directly to a veterinarian even if this means being separated for a period of time. Intravenous injections of glucose are typically administered. Hospitalization until the puppy is able to maintain a safe blood sugar level is common.

What can be done to prevent hypoglycemia?
Preventing hypoglycemia involves providing a source of energy (sugar) on a regular and frequent basis. For predisposed, small, or young puppies offering and ensuring eating of some amount of food every four to six hours minimum is recommended. Nutrical, a commercial high caloric vitamin paste, is an often used product by breeders and veterinarians to further ensure safe levels are maintained. If a puppy is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea or has lost their appetite for even eight to twelve hours this can be an urgent medical concern and should be addressed by a veterinarian. Fortunately most puppies grow out of juvenile hypoglycemia by six months of age.