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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Hypoglycemia is a syndrome that occurs primarily in toy breeds between 6 - 12 weeks of age. Prolonged or repeated hypoglycemic attacks in toy breed puppies can cause brain damage.


The typical signs are listlessness, depression, staggering gait, muscular weakness, and tremors - especially in the face. Puppies with a severe drop in blood sugar develop seizures or become stuporous and go into a coma. Death can follow. This particular sequence of symptoms is not always seen. For example, some puppies exhibit only weakness or wobbly gait and occasionally a puppy who seemed fine is found in a coma.


A hypoglycemic attack is often precipitated by stress. Episodes of hypoglycemia often occur without warning - for example, when a puppy is stressed by shipping. Other common causes of acute hypoglycemia are missing a meal, chilling, becoming exhausted from too much play, or having an upset stomach. These events place an added strain on the energy reserves of the liver.

Hypoglycemia can occur in adult hunting dogs as a consequence of sustained exercise and depletion of liver glycogen. It is important to feed these dogs before hunting and to increase the protein content of their diets.

Hypoglycemia in diabetic dogs is caused by insulin overdose. Unexplained hypoglycemia that occurs in older dogs is likely to be caused by an insulin-secreting tumor of the pancreas. The pancreas makes insulin, which moves sugar in the body's cells for energy. When there is too much insulin, the pet develops hypoglycemia.

Young toy breed dogs like Affenpinschers or Chihuahua, often develop hypoglycemia even though they are perfectly healthy. These breeds don't have a lot of fat stores to begin with, which the body needs for energy, and their immature livers can't manufacture the sugar they need.


Puppies with frequent attacks should undergo veterinary testing to rule out an underlying problem, such as liver shunt, infection, or an enzyme or hormone deficiency.


The treatment of an acute attack is aimed at restoring the blood sugar. Begin treatment immediately. If the puppy (or dog) is awake and able to swallow, give corn syrup or sugar water by syringe, or rub corn syrup, honey, or glucose paste on the gums. You should see an improvement in 30 minutes. If not, call your veterinarian.

If the dog is unconscious, do not give an oral solution because it will be inhaled. Rub corn syrup, honey, or glucose paste on the gums and proceed at once to your veterinarian. This puppy will require an intravenous dextrose solution and may need to be treated for brain swelling.

Oral glucose paste is sold at pharmacies. If you know your dog is subject to hypoglycemic attacks, keep this product on hand.


Placing overweight pets on reduced diets can cut the risk of low blood sugar by regulating diabetes. It helps by keeping foods in the digestive tract for a longer time, and slower digestion evens out sugar levels and helps prevent hypoglycemia.

Susceptible puppies should be fed at least 4 times a day. It is important to feed a high-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet. It is essential that the diet be of high quality. Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate premium food.

Food supplements should be limited. Table scraps should not be fed. Owners of toy puppies should take precautions to see that they do not become excessively tired or chilled. Many (but not all) puppies will outgrow this problem.


If your pet is at risk for hypoglycemia, put a couple of tablespoons of Karo syrup in her drinking water to allow her to sip it throughout the day. Remember to change the water every day, or the sugar will grow bacteria.

Toy dogs prone to hypoglycemia should be fed 2 - 3 meals a day or have food available at all times. This will keep their blood sugar levels even.

For a pet with diabetes, schedule meals and exercise periods so that you can regulate insulin doses. This is important to prevent low blood sugar.

Most diabetic pets need insulin replacement therapy, and the specific dose is very important. Your veterinarian will perform tests to get the correct dosage, and will show you how to administer the injections.

To give an injection, draw the prescribed amount of liquid into the syringe. next, hold the syringe with the needle pointed upward, tap the barrel, and gently depress the plunger to release any air bubbles. Lift the loose skin at the scruff of your pet's neck or on the shoulders, insert the needle beneath the skin, and push the plunger. After withdrawing the needle, rub the site of injection lightly for a minute to soothe any sting and help close the tiny entrance wound.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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