Hypoglycemia for small dogs is one of the most dangerous and deadly conditions that a toy breed puppy can encounter. I’ve seen too many cases where a new owner is not properly educated about hypoglycemia in small dogs, and the puppy dies because the owner did not know what to do.
This information does not only apply to puppies, but also to adult toy dog breeds. Hypoglycemia can occur in adult dogs if you are not careful. I had my smallest dog, Pixie, undergo a teeth cleaning. She wasn't the first to have surgery that day, and she had two seizures after the surgery because she had been too long without food. I got Nutrical in her quickly, and she ended up okay, but it was scary for about an hour. NOTE: if you have a very small adult, make sure they are first on the schedule for surgery to avoid this situation or RESCHEDULE.
If you've never owned a toy dog, this is THE most important piece of information that any new owner should have when it comes to a puppy’s (or adult's) health. It should be MANDATORY that anybody thinking of buying a toy breed dog read this article (or one similar) before they bring their puppy home. It could save your dog’s life.
Hypoglycemia is basically a term that describes a condition in a dog where the concentration of glucose (sugar) suddenly drops. Glucose is used as a primary source of energy in all dogs. Small breed dogs, especially puppies, are extremely prone to this condition. The younger and smaller the puppy, the more chances they have of becoming hypoglycemic.
The danger of hypoglycemia is why we have the policy, "Two pounds or twelve weeks - which ever comes first." We don't release our puppies under two pounds unless they are at least twelve weeks and eating well. However, if the puppy is two pounds or more before that twelve week marker (and eating kibble well), then they can go to their new home before then.
Small breed puppies have less muscle mass than their large breed relatives. (Small breeds would include most dogs under twenty pounds - toy dogs under ten.) With the lower amount of muscle mass in small and toy dog breeds, the more difficult it becomes to retain proper glucose levels. This is why smaller dogs are more susceptible to hypoglycemia.
As long as your puppy or dog eats on a regular basis they should not have any troubles with this deadly condition. However, if your puppy even misses one meal, they could fall victim to hypoglycemia. To avoid this, I free feed my toy dogs. (I have food in front of them at all times while in my home or kennel.) Furthermore, the following could speed up the onset of hypoglycemia even further:
1. Stress (which includes going to a new home or traveling)
2. Change in diet (switching brands of dog food)
3. Playing hard and then not eating fairly soon afterwards
5. Poor Nutrition (feeding a food that is full of filler or low nutrients – usually your cheaper end kibble or soft food)
6. Low body temperature (the puppy is "cold" - again, toy dogs are fragile and need low to mid 70 degree temperatures for best results)
7. Surgeries where the dog has undergone anesthesia. They cannot eat immediately - even hours after surgery - so please watch your puppy/dog and have plenty of food/water/warmth available to your pet.
The signs to look out for if you suspect your dog is becoming hypoglycemic are:
*seeming to “sleep” a lot
In more advanced stages, your dog will be:
*non-responsive (lying still - in more advanced stages, the teeth are clamped shut, eyes staring)
*comatose (non-responsive, body stiff, lowering body temperature)
Early stages may include disorientation or lack of muscle coordination (similar to a slightly intoxicated person). For example, a puppy that might have known how to go up a step suddenly cannot remember how or seems too uncoordinated to manage. Sleeping a lot is normal in any baby, but if your puppy seems to be sleeping more than normal, wake them up. A normal puppy will be ready to play. If your puppy returns to sleep or acts “funny”, give them glucose immediately. I recommend Nutrical or Dyne. If none is on-hand, karo syrup will help until you can get them to a vet, especially if the puppy is in an advanced stage.
Checking your dog’s gums is also an excellent method in detecting hypoglycemia. A healthy dog should have warm and pink gums. If your dog’s gums are cold and white-ish, they are most likely in a hypoglycemic state.
If you notice your dog experience any of these symptoms, IMMEDIATELY feed them a couple finger full doses of glucose - or if you have a 3 mL syringe, fill it and slowly administer it to the puppy. I insert the syringe in the space between the teeth - and administer Nutrical or Dyne about a half to one mL at a time. Allow puppy to swallow in-between. Massage his/her throat and hold the head up to encourage swallowing. It depends on how advanced the hypoglycemia is on how much I administer. I usually do 2 - 3 syringe fulls and some water syringes for moderate cases - but slowly - water in-between each syringe dose. *Water should be administered VERY slow as you do not want the puppy to breathe in the liquid because this could cause a lung condition to develop or asphyxiation.
There are some products that you can buy that are made for this purpose - treating hypoglycemia (such as Nutri-Stat, Nutra-Cal, Dyne). In early stages, Nutrical/Nutri-Stat is best. In advanced stages, Dyne is a liquid and is best/easiest to get them to swallow. I’ve also used Karo Syrup in a pinch which you can find in your local grocery store, (but I MUCH prefer the products made for hypoglycemia). If you don't have a syringe, simply place a dab on your finger tip, and scrape the Nutrical/syrup on the back of the top row of teeth. I would repeat this quite a few times. Keep them warm. This will help to avoid shock. Always provide water to your puppy in stress. Sugar shock dehydrates, and they will be thirsty.
Some dogs may recover within 10 -20 minutes, while others may take hours.
If you do not see any improvement in their condition within the first 30 minutes or are very worried, immediately take your dog to the animal hospital.
Raising a smaller dog should be a very fun and rewarding experience. With some proper education beforehand, the process will go a lot smoother and ensure that your puppy grows up healthy. Just remember that hypoglycemia can be prevented by:
1. Keeping a close eye on your puppy’s condition at all times.
2. Proper feeding (I recommend keeping a premium food in front of them at all times)
3. Keeping up with vaccinations
4. Keeping temperatures (70 degree range is best year round)
5. Proper rest
6. Lots of socialization.
If you plan to take your puppy out to play, give a small amount of glucose, or if (s)he has had lots of romping and play time, a quarter-sized dollop of glucose product on your finger for him/her to lick off won’t hurt and may keep him/her from having low glucose episodes. After a hard play session, feed your pet or at minimum, give Nutrical.
Just remember, regular feeding is the best prevention. Nautical is like candy. You may accidentally train your dog/puppy to only want Nautical. Encourage regular feedings and watch to make sure they have a full tummy (I like to feel how tight their stomachs are). If you question whether your puppy is eating or not, you can weigh them morning and night to monitor fluctuations in weight. I use a digital kitchen scale for puppies. If you have a finicky eater, I recommend trying my puppy recipe at the end of my contract page. Although not quite as healthy, you can also buy (I recommend premium brands) processed soft food to encourage eating, but I would stay away from feeding a regular diet consisting of store-purchased soft food as the nutrition is not as good as hard kibble.
With this information, you should be properly guarded against your dog falling victim to hypoglycemia. However, always consult a vet for any advice you need for your dog.