Canine Hypoglycemia

Table of Contents

Overview | Symptoms | Treatment


"In younger dogs hypoglycemia is usually due to an illness. The exception is toy breeds that are not eating properly and therefore are not getting the sugar they need. Older dogs may be suffering from a problem in the pancreas."


Canine hypoglycemia is a dog blood glucose disorder, also known as exertional hypoglycemia, or sugar fits. The condition is due to having abnormally low levels of blood sugar.

It is diagnosed after a blood test reading that shows blood glucose levels lower than 50 mg/dL vs. a normal level between 70 - 150 mg/dL.

Smaller dogs who are hypoglycemic likely got the condition from some type of illness. The condition is rare in older dogs and larger breeds. Hypoglycemia in this case could be due to higher than usual levels of insulin production due to a pancreatic tumor.

Dogs that are active such as working dogs, but have poor conditioning can begin to suffer from hypoglycemia.

Puppies, Toy Breeds and Hypoglycemia in Dogs

If you see the symptoms listed below such as weakness or listlessness then your puppy may be suffering from hypoglycemia.

If your puppy or toy breed isn't eating then you can try feeding some Nutri-cal off your fingers. It is a malt paste filled with vitamins and sugar designed to be highly palatable to your dog.

If the hypoglycemia persists, it could result in a medical emergency, particularly if you see severe symptoms such as seizure and collapse.

Complicating Factors

Sometimes there is more to hypoglycemia than just low blood sugar. While being extra small and extra young is enough to drop one's blood sugar, sometimes there is more to the story.

  • Bacterial infection: Bacteria can be tremendous consumers of glucose (blood sugar). For this reason, hypoglycemic puppies frequently are given antibiotics.
    * Portosystemic (Liver) shunt - This is a problem for the Yorkshire terrier in particular. In this congenital malformation of the liver circulation, blood travels from the GI tract to the general circulation by-passing the liver. The liver does not develop properly and has abnormal function. One of the liver's functions is to maintain the body's blood sugar level. An abnormal liver leads to low blood sugar. This condition can frequently be cured with surgery. A liver function blood test is an easy way to rule this condition out as a complicating factor.

  • Parasitism/Diarrhea/Stress: Stress from any cause increases the body's demand for sugar. This is why it is especially important to insure the general health of the toy breed puppy. When stressors are present, maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is all the more difficult.

When your puppy comes home again after a hypoglycemic episode, it is important to watch food intake and be aware of any changes in energy level. As the puppy gets bigger, risk factors diminish. Teeth get stronger, body fat stores develop, and the immune system matures. Eventually, hypoglycemia risks become minimal and the puppy can continue life as any other puppy, playing, chewing things up, and learning the behavior control necessary to be a good house pet.

Symptoms of Canine Hypoglycemia

Symptoms of hypoglycemia in dogs include:

  • Stupor, disorientation, reduced level of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Seizures - particularly in dogs 4 years of age or older
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Severe depression

Treatment of Hypoglycemia in Canines

Treatment of hypoglycemia involves getting your dog the glucose to reverse the low blood sugar levels.

One approach to try is to feed your dog small meals throughout the day vs. fewer large meals. A blood test to monitor glucose levels will be helpful in arriving at a diagnosis of the condition and if a change in feeding habits corrected the condition.

If your dog is suffering from a pancreatic tumor it can be surgically removed (called a insulinoma).

If you need to take your dog to the veterinary hospital the attending veterinarian will warm your puppy and immediately check blood sugar levels. Intravenous glucose (dextrose) will be provided and inserted directly into the blood stream.

Your veterinarian will not release your dog until your dog is behaving and eating normally for a 24 hour period. Glucose comes in many forms:

  • Oral monosaccharides (glucose): absorbed through the mucous membranes.
  • Dextrose: can be given through intravenous feeding (tube into the body) or orally.

In the case of emergency you can use:

  • Karosyrup
  • Honey
  • Fruit Juices
  • Colas (Pepsi, Coke)
  • Gatorade

For toy breeds or small dogs place a small amount of Karo syrub on the gums. The gums will absorb the sugar. If your puppy or dog does not quickly respond then rush him or her to the veterinarian.

Natural Treatment of Canine Hypoglycemia

In addition to switching to small meals throughout the day vs. larger meals, another approach is to add a dietary supplement known to aide pancreatic and liver functioning.

A remedy made specifically for this purpose is PetAlive GlucoEnsure. Be sure to discuss natural therapies with your veterinarian so that they can track progress.


Diagnosing and Managing Medical Issues Affecting Working Dogs
R.L. Gillette
College of Veterinary Medicine
Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA.