Hypoglycemia in dogs occurs when the levels of sugar in the dog's blood drop to low levels. Glucose in the blood is one of the major sources of energy, and when symptoms begin to show, they manifest themselves with signs such as shivering, loss of coordination, weakness, and stupor. Commonly occurring in toy breeds and puppies, hypoglycemia can typically be overcome by the administration of glucose and home care through the course of the symptoms.
Levels of glucose are considered low when reaching 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), but symptoms usually do not manifest until the concentration of glucose reaches 50 mg/dl. Since a dog relies on glucose levels for energy, some of the first symptoms can be drowsiness, a weakness of limbs, agitation, and loss of coordination. The dog may become confused, show signs of forgetfulness, and appear disoriented even in familiar surroundings.
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Hypoglycemia in dogs may make the pet become nervous or restless, and in more severe cases, where the blood sugar drops quickly and severely, the dog can be overcome by seizures. Sometimes, severe cases of hypoglycemia in dogs can cause unconsciousness along with the seizures. If this happens regularly, the dog can become vulnerable to permanent brain damage.
Some dogs are more susceptible than others, and people with a dog that falls into one of the main categories should be on the lookout for signs of hypoglycemia. Purebred toy breeds can be prone to the condition, due to an inherited disorder that interferes with the body's ability to process glucose. Puppies, especially toy breed puppies, can also be susceptible to the condition. Hypoglycemia in dogs can occur in a puppy younger than five months old because its body has not yet matured to a point where it can store an adequate amount of glucose. The small size and hyperactivity of toy breed puppies makes them particularly vulnerable.
If the dog has not eaten anything in eight hours or more, this increases the chance that the symptoms are signs of hypoglycemia. Many cases of hypoglycemia in dogs can be prevented by feeding small, frequent meals instead of one large meal. If it does occur, giving the dog an easily digestible source of sugar can help raise its levels enough to get it back on its feet and comfortable, although a blood test from a veterinarian can result in more information about the dog's condition and whether or not it has the potential to become an ongoing problem.