Hypoglycemia in dogs happens when their bodies are deprived of its main source of energy; sugar. The ability to function declines and can result in loss of consciousness or even death. Hypoglycemia is often found in dogs that fall under the Toy Breed category. Toy breeds are a product of selective breeding that has been going on for centuries. Some examples of breeds that can be in the “toy” category include Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Toy Poodle, Pomeranian, and Chihuahua. There are many other breeds that can fit into this category as well. When these toy breeds are fully grown they are even smaller than normal; making them extremely tiny as puppies. Their unusually small size can lead to many complications as they begin to grow. Two major complications that can lead to hypoglycemia in these toy breeds are cutting their baby teeth late resulting in difficulty to chew kibbled foods and difficulty maintaining their body temperature. These factors combined result in increased difficulty maintaining normal blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels drop this low, it creates extreme lethargy, incoordination, and even seizures.
Shiloh is a good example of a toy breed with hypoglycemia. She is a 4lb Shih Tzu Poodle mix and was brought into see us just 5 days after being picked up from the breeder. She was brought into our clinic with symptoms of vomiting, not eating, weakness, dehydration, and extreme lethargy. She was tested for the parvo virus upon arrival and when those test results came back negative, she was put on IV fluids and hospitalized for further observation and treatment. Shiloh stayed with us through the night and most of the following day. When our staff came in the next morning at 7:00am they found her bright and alert and whining at the door of her kennel. Even though Shiloh was alert and more active, she still would not eat on her own. Our staff managed to syringe feed her to get something in her stomach and then she was able to go home for the evening.
This pattern continued over the next couple of days. Shiloh was reaching extreme highs and extreme lows. She would go from running around the house and being playful, to crashing and having to be rushed back into the clinic. It was determined that Shiloh was hypoglycemic and, once she was feeling better, was able to be sent home with strict instructions that would keep her from crashing again. These instructions included having to be fed every 2 hours along with taking a high calorie supplement. Her family was diligent and worked hard to keep Shiloh going, and thanks to their dedication, Shiloh is now doing well and able to eat kibbled dog food on her own. She is still being monitored to make sure that as she grows there are no more complications. The extreme lows that Shiloh was experiencing when her blood sugar drops are life threatening and not something to take lightly. With the proper care, dogs that experience hypoglycemia can live long and happy lives; just like Shiloh.