Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in dogs and cats can be a frightening experience if it happens to your pet. It’s easy to panic when you have no idea how to help your dog or cat, especially if it’s after hours and your vet is gone for the day or weekend. If your pet has low blood sugar, he needs you to stay calm so you can quickly raise his glucose level. Dogs and cats going into hypoglycemic shock isn’t as uncommon as you may think.
The first time I witnessed one of my pets having what I thought was a seizure, I did what most pet owners would do and panicked. I had no idea what to do and I held my pet as close to me as I could until she stopped shaking and returned to normal. I discovered she’d had a bout with low blood sugar.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is a sudden drop in the level of glucose in the pet’s blood which is their main source of energy. It’s manufactured and stored in the liver where it’s released into the blood stream when it’s needed. Low blood sugar can affect how the brain works because it needs glucose to function properly.
Symptoms of low blood sugar: One sure sign your pet’s level of glucose has dropped is wobbling either while standing or laying down. They may have a blank stare with glassy looking eyes with the head tilted to one side that can turn into tilting their head back and forth. Some pets begin to shake, drool or froth at the mouth. It is scary when you see your pet displaying the above symptoms, but it’s important to remain calm so you can quickly act to restore their blood sugar to normal levels. Other symptoms can include: depression, muscle weakness, shivering, drowsiness, seizures, tremors, sudden collapse and obvious signs of being disoriented. Puppies, kittens and smaller breed dogs are more likely to have periods of low blood sugar, but it can occur in larger breeds, older dogs and cats as well. Low blood sugar for teacup dogs can have deadly consequences because they’re so small and more fragile than a normal size dog.
Causes for low blood sugar can be from not eating enough during the day, diabetes, pancreatic tumors, a bacterial infection, too much exercise, liver shunts (which is an irregular vessel that doesn’t flow through the liver), liver disease or it could be hereditary. If your pet has had several attacks, it’s always a good idea to have them checked out by a vet to make sure there’s not any medical reasons for their glucose levels to drop suddenly. If it’s a simple matter of not eating enough food or getting enough protein, make sure to feed your pet 4 or 5 small meals throughout the day instead of one or two bigger meals. Check the food you’re feeding them and make sure it’s high in protein, fats and carbohydrates. If it’s not, you may need to buy a better quality food that will meet their daily requirements.
Emergency Home treatment for low blood sugar is simple. To quickly raise your pet’s glucose, give them honey. Hypoglycemia if left untreated can be life threatening, so you need to act fast. Honey, Karo syrup or maple syrup will raise your pets glucose back to a safe level quickly. They don’t have to eat the honey or syrups, just rubbing some on their gums will work. Be careful when sticking your finger in your pet’s mouth. If they’re confused or scared, they can bite. For a pet who’s in the most severe stage and fallen into a coma, rub honey or syrup on their gums or place some under their tongue. The simple sugars from these products are quickly absorbed into the blood stream and can raise their blood sugar to a safer level. If your pet was unconscious, after reviving him with honey or syrup, you should take him to your vet for a check up. If your pet is in a coma, take him immediately to the vet and continue rubbing honey or syrup on his gums. That may be the one thing that saves his life.
Mild to moderate attacks should be monitored and a vet check up is up to you. Do not pour the honey or syrup into their mouth to avoid choking them. If they won’t lick it off a spoon or eat in on their food, rub some on their gums with your finger or use a cotton ball. You can put some under their tongue using a syringe without the needle, but not too much at one time to avoid the possibility of choking. Cats need a tablespoon of honey or syrup per 10 pounds of body weight. Small dogs one teaspoon and larger dogs one tablespoon. After giving them the honey or syrup, they need to eat to stabilize their glucose. Give them their regular food or treats. You can drizzle honey or syrup directly on their food to entice them to eat. A peanut butter and honey sandwich is hard for most dogs to turn down. Watch your dog or cat carefully to make sure they don’t have another episode later on in the day.
Working or hunting dogs and those who expend a lot of energy during exercise or playing can have bouts of low blood sugar, so it’s a good idea to carry honey or syrup with you at all times, just in case. Even short walks can cause their glucose levels to drop. Having honey available for a quick fix will help keep you calm if your dog has an episode away from home.
A dog or cat doesn’t have to be diabetic to have low blood sugar. Knowing what to do could actually save your pet’s life and being educated always helps you stay calm during an emergency.
Hypoglycemia-Low Blood Sugar, guardian-angels.com
Mike Richards, DVM, Hypoglycemia-low blood sugar in dogs, Vetinfo
Low Blood Sugar in Cats (Hypoglycemia), BD Diabetes