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 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 low amount of muscle mass that these breeds have, retaining proper glucose levels is tougher. 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 (new brand of dog food)
4. Poor Nutrition (feeding a food that is full of filler or low nutrients – usually your cheaper end kibble or soft food)
5. Low body temperature (the puppy is "cold" - again, toy dogs are fragile and need low to mid 70 degree temperatures for best results)
The signs to look out for if you suspect your dog is becoming hypoglycemic are:
laziness, lethargic, seeming to “sleep” a lot, shivering, non-responsive, stumbling, and worst of all, comatose.
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 returned to sleep or acts “funny”, give them glucose immediately! I recommend Nutrical or if none is on-hand, karo syrup.
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, 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 - slowly get a quarter size dollop in them. (There are some products that you can buy that are made for this purpose, such as Nutri-Stat or Nutra-Cal.) I’ve also used Karo Syrup which you can find in your local grocery store. Simply place a dab on your finger tip, and scrape the syrup on the back of the top row of teeth. I would repeat this a couple times. Keep them warm! This will help to avoid shock.
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, 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, vaccinations, temperatures, and socialization.
3. Proper rest.
If you plan to take your puppy out to play, give a small amount of glucose, or if he has had lots of romping and play time, a small dollop of glucose on your finger for him to lick off, won’t hurt and may keep him from having low glucose episodes. 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.