The wonder of life, your additions to your pack just came into your life. All the little ones start playing and running around, but there is one little strangler who just cannot keep up.
You think that he/she is acting funny but know it could also be because they were just born, then things turn for the worst. Suddenly the pup starts shaking or seems tired all the time, too much of the time, or completely falls unconscious and cannot be awakened.
This can be especially worrying if your puppy is a small breed dog, and you may be wondering, “what’s happening?” or “is he/she going to be okay?” Most likely, yes, if symptoms are caught early on. Here we have a case of hypoglycemia in your newborn pup.
How do I know if my puppy has low blood sugar?
Hypoglycemia (hypo = low + glyc = sugar + emia = in the blood) is when there are low glucose (sugar) levels in the blood, and rather than being a disease, it is more an indicator of an underlying condition.
Small breed puppies especially are more likely to suffer from hypoglycemia because of the higher metabolic rate their bodies need to power their little bodies as opposed to the lower amount needed for larger breed pups.
To recognize hypoglycemia it is important to know the symptoms that typically come with it:
- The puppy is acting weak.
- The puppy is constantly sleeping, and not doing normal growth twitches while doing so..
- His eyes look ‘glassy’ and unfocused when they are a bit older, do not force open the eyes of a newborn to check for this symptom.
- The puppy is starting to consistently abnormally twitch, shake or tremble/shiver.
- The puppy has no sucking or nursing reflex, has trouble nursing, or is unable to nurse
- The puppy falls unconscious and can’t be awakened.
When developed the puppy’s heart rate becomes irregular and so does breathing, they can lose the ability to nurse and digest food and maintain their internal body temperature. With all these things compiled, it should be easy to see that there is a huge issue at hand.
With these symptoms, it can be a sign of hypoglycemia but also a sign that action needs to be taken immediately, whether that be at home or at the vet, this is a crucial time in the puppy’s life.
If hypoglycemia is not properly treated or immediately looked into his/her life could be at risk, such as the puppy falling into a coma, then heart rate and breathing stop completely.
Do puppies outgrow hypoglycemia?
All puppies can develop hypoglycemia, but certain breeds are more prone to developing it. The puppies most susceptible to this are the smaller breed dogs, such as miniatures and toy breed dogs.
They are most prone to contacting hypoglycemia between 6 weeks and 6 months because their small bodies are not able to store glucose and mobilize it as easy as older dogs can. So this ongoing battle for the puppy needs to be routinely checked on, whether or not hypoglycemia has set in or not. This is an invaluable time for growth and learning, and if the puppy does not receive proper treatment now, then later on in life it could struggle due to improper growth, health conditions heading progress in life or severe brain damage.
What causes low sugar levels?
In order to understand why puppies contract hypoglycemia, one needs to know what glucose is , the main factor that can cause the illness. Glucose is the main source of energy in the dog’s body, and it needs to be regulated in order for the dog to perform as normal.
This is done by the liver, but when the puppy is first born, its organs are not fully developed to be able to develop glucose on its own. But why would the puppy need to produce glucose on its own? Whenever a meal is missed, the necessary glucose is not provided naturally in the liver, as it would be for a grown dog. Hence why it is essential to be able to provide proper nutrition and care for the puppy with the symptoms listed above.
Hypoglycemia in adult dogs?
Although, it should be mentioned that hypoglycemia can set in when the fully grown, healthy dog experiences rigorous exercise without food, so this is not something that goes away just because the dog has grown up.
It is possible for the puppy to grow hypoglycemia when it grows into an adult, because the organs, specifically the liver, or the brain, will be able to produce the monosaccharide glucose (sugar) needed for energy without a meal. But if the dog develops diabetes, too much insulin can also result in hypoglycemia in fully grown dogs.
So it is important to speak with your veterinarian, and if possible keep in contact with them as the puppy grows up, so you can have the best care possible when it comes to providing a good long life to your pup.
Can a dog die from low blood sugar? [YES VERY EASILY!]
It is possible for the puppy’s life to be at risk if the hypoglycemia is not treated. This is because following contraction, the body begins to slowly shut down its functions and depends on external help. The puppy will stop being able to nurse because it is too weak, so if they do not pass from hypoglycemia they can die because of starvation.
Seizures, one symptom of hypoglycemia, can set in and that could cause severe harm to the puppy if it’s not attended to, or the puppy could go into a coma, then breathing could stop, so this issue that the little puppy faces can do some big damage.
In smaller breed puppies, hypothermia, or decreased internal body temperature, can set in and cause hypoglycemia because of their higher metabolic rate and energy requirement per body mass unit compared to large breed puppies. How?
Hypothermia can lead to decreased appetite/food intake, decreased gastrointestinal utilization of food, and thus the glucose is not there to be utilized for proper bodily function. So on top of hypothermia, the dogs are experiencing hypoglycemia, which again, if not immediately treated, it can turn harmful or even worse, fatal.
Dog blood sugar levels
So how do dogs get abnormal blood sugar levels? It is crucial to know what the normal levels are for starters.
Veterinarians are able to test your pup for its sugar levels, but so you know what they know already, a “normal”* dog’s blood sugar level is 70 – 150 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter, which is typically used to display levels of glucose in numbers). In order to be diagnosed with hypoglycemia it needs to be under 50 mg/dL, but 30 mg/dL is when symptoms begin. Since the puppy’s levels are already dangerously low when showing symptoms, this is why it is important to receive immediate treatment.
*Normal is in quotes because no dog’s blood sugar level can be set universally because every dog is different, this is just considered the standard.
What will the vet do for my hypoglycemic pet?
When you take your puppy to the vet, they will run a variety of tests on him/her. Some of them include a complete blood count, a serum biochemistry profile and/or a urinalysis. When hearing those terms it might be difficult to understand what vets are doing and seeing from them but here we provide a synopsis of each of the tests:
- Complete blood count (CBC): a simple blood test that provides information on the different cell types within the blood. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues, white blood cells fight infection and other harmful issues, and platelets help the blood to clot. Each of these cells are necessary for function in their own way and there should be a certain number of them in the bloodstream to help the puppy stay healthy. The CBC helps identify the cells within the blood and find the number, size and shape of them while also identifying any abnormal cells.
- Serum biochemistry profile: a chemical analysis of the liquid part of the blood (serum). There are many substances within the serum including proteins, fats, sugars, enzymes etc. It is important to be able to measure the levels of the various substances because it can give a complete analysis of the health of the body’s organs and tissues including the liver, kidney and pancreas. This is where diabetes will show up in the results, as well as hypoglycemia
- Urinalysis: you guessed it: testing urine, or more specifically the chemical and physical makeup of the puppy’s urine. In order to fully understand the serum biochemistry profile, a urinalysis is necessary, especially in pets that show signs of kidney disease or diabetes.
Each of these tests yield a different area for analyzing, hence why they are complicated and vets are able to perform them, but sometimes at home treatments are necessary because access to a vet is not possible in those crucial minutes or other factors. Do not fret, though, at home treatment is possible, but it is essential to make sure you’re giving the right treatment while doing so.
Also it is important to note that on occasion some blood tests might be handled improperly, misconstruing the data, so if you are concerned about this factor, another sample must be taken to double check, but only do this if there is reasonable suspicion of manipulation/mishandling of the data.
How to test dog blood sugar at home
Testing at home requires a glucometer, test strips, lancing point or needle, a cotton ball and diabetic friendly treats. Typically the testing is done only at home after the puppy’s vet has been consulted with because of how much practice and precision is needed, but if you know your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms, decide if you know your dog diabetic shots well enough to perform them safely on the puppy before going in or if you need to see a vet.
If you do decide to use the glucometer at home, areas meant for samples can include the inner lip, ear vein or paw pad, but find what works best for your dog. This means make them comfortable during the process as to associate positivity and love with testing time to make future endeavors run fast and smooth.
If you choose the ear, warm it up by rubbing it with your hands or using a warm compress like a cloth or sock filled with rice, this increases blood flow to the area to ensure a clean, quick test.
If you choose the inner lip, you should know if your dog is able to handle that amount of pain, even though small, it is a sensitive area that holds lots of blood. Useful to get a sample from, but hard on the dog if they are not comfortable with it.
If you choose the paw pad, be gentle and sure that the dog is as comfortable as it can be in the awkward position. The easiest way to do all of these aforementioned procedures is to lie the dog down on its side as to assure they do not collapse while testing and cause further harm.
When a hole has been made either by the lancing needle, used with a click of a button and a force to back it up, or a needle, carefully slid in only to prick a small drop of blood out, use a test strip by placing it to the area and read and record the data somewhere safe. This will be needed to show your veterinarian why you thought there were low blood sugar levels and why you decided to prick the dog. The dog can also be further analyzed with any of the three tests mentioned to help scientifically solve and diagnose hypoglycemia and its underlying issues.
How to treat low blood sugar levels at home
So, if you know your puppy has low blood sugar and it’s showing signs here are somethings you can do at home in a jiffy to help your poor pup feel better.
- Be sure to wrap the puppy up in a blanket to help it regulate its body temperature, or put him/her in a warm bath. The internal temperature of the puppy cannot be regulated normally because of how weak the inner system due to lack of glucose is so it will need some help. Puppies are like newborn babies, so some skin time can help their temperature but also reduce the risk of going into shock.
- Getting sugar into the puppy can be a real-life saver. You have a few options here. One is giving them a drop of sugar water every 15 to 20 minutes until the puppy is acting normal or nursing on its own (you can make your own sugar water by boiling 3 tablespoons of water to 1 tablespoon of sugar).
- But some puppies will need something stronger or more direct. Honey can do the trick. If you rub a bit of honey on the lips and gums of the pup every 5 to 15 minutes it gives you time to contact the vet and get immediate care, but that is in extreme cases. This works better for dogs in extreme cases because the honey will get absorbed by the bloodstream immediately through the mucous membranes within the mouth.
If symptoms get worse at home
If things do not get better with these treatments or symptoms worsen, it is time to start injecting subcutaneous fluids(or fluids that need to be placed between the fat layer and muscle) at home with proper technique and care. You will need an injectable fluid and a needle. Needles for newborn puppies can be found at most pet stores or purchased from a veterinarian.
- The most commonly found helpful fluid is 0.9% saline, over the counter eye drops. The injection site should be between the shoulder blades on the back of the puppy. How much fluid you will need depends on how big the dog is, you’ll want to inject ⅓ to ½ the size of the head of the puppy in fluids. Once you have that area stabilized and your supplies ready to go, clean the area with alcohol, pinch the skin and insert the needle into the skin fold.
- Once the fluid is inside, take the needle out and apply pressure. Do not worry if some leaks this is normal. With the continuous pressure, the fluid should disperse throughout the body slowly but surely.
Aftercare of at home hypoglycemic attack
Here the puppy should start getting better, showing signs of hunger. Offer its mother’s nipple and if he/she is no latching on, offer puppy formula. Make sure the puppy is swallowing by giving it little drops before letting it suck some more, because by that point, it should have enough strength to feed itself, but if not, keep using the sugar treatments to get the blood sugar levels back to normal.
If they are still taking the sugar water or formula, rub the genitals with a warm rag to stimulate pee and poop every hour, cleaning the system and freeing the puppy from the illness.
But, again, if symptoms do not get better or worsen, contact your vet immediately as your puppy’s life could be in danger.
Hypoglycemia extra factors to be aware of:
Low blood sugar in Yorkies and other small breeds
Yorkies, along with other small dog breeds are more susceptible for contracting hypoglycemia. Studies have been performed and the results were the generally accepted time frame of contracting hypoglycemia is 8 hours. So if your Yorkie or small dog is under the age of six months it is almost certain low blood sugar levels will be seen.
Fasting is not typically intentional on the part of the puppy or the owner, here are some causes that are possible for fasting:
- Too much activity
- Prolonged exposure to low temperatures
Further treatment and prevention is the same as other dogs after the hypoglycemia has passed.
Diabetic dogs: symptoms of too much insulin
If your dog has diabetes, you’ll want to be extra careful because hypoglycemia can be worsened or caused by too much insulin being injected. It can cause seizures, irreversible brain damage or death. Symptoms of too much insulin include:
- Hyperexcitability (being very excited)
- Muscle tremors
- Lack of coordination
- Pupil dilation
If any of these signs are seen and they are not typical in the puppy’s behavior, the dog should promptly be fed.
Cortisol could kick in in older dogs to prevent death in adult dogs, but that is not always the case in newborn puppies so be aware of signs and how much you are giving your puppy. The best way to do this is to talk to your vet and set levels of injection and how often they need to be administered instead of doing a home treatment guess.
Other types of causes for hypoglycemia
Going forward, you want make sure the puppy never has to experience that painful process again, so be aware of the possible causes of hypoglycemia, and know that small breed puppies are more prone to contracting it than larger breed puppies:
- Too much insulin (injections for diabetic dogs)
- Prolonged periods of exercise without food
- Intestinal parasites
- Cold temperatures
Care after hypoglycemia attack
Be sure your dog gets as much rest as possible, is fed on a schedule and is taken to the vet to prevent further issues and give your puppy proper medication. It is not recommended that you perform tests and procedures at home without informing your vet because hypoglycemia can come back, or maybe it was not expelled completely from the puppy’s body so further damage can be done.
Either way, be sure to contact the vet, bring the at home blood test if it was performed and ask for further lab testing to be done, if it is not offered. The lab tests show the inner workings of the puppy and displays what is wrong, with professionals to decode the data, proper medicine should fix your puppy. From then on it’s up to you to protect your puppy from further hypoglycemia attacks.