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What is Low Blood Sugar?

The body needs glucose to maintain its energy levels, which are necessary for the body’s organs, cells and various symptoms to carry out their daily functions. If a cat’s blood sugar levels drop, most cells can absorb fatty acids from the reserve located in the liver. However, the brain is a unique organ that cannot take glucose from anywhere else in the body, other than what is carried in by the blood. Therefore, when blood sugar levels drop, the brain quickly loses vital fuel and can no longer function at full capacity, resulting in weakness, sleepiness, disorientation as well as coma. Low blood sugar in cats is a life-threatening condition, especially to juvenile kittens, so immediate professional care by a licensed veterinarian is vital. 

Low blood sugar in cats is a symptom of an underlying disease that is causing the feline’s blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low levels. Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, is commonly caused by diabetes, but can also be the result of other health conditions affecting the body’s blood glucose (blood sugar) regulators.

Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar in Cats

The symptoms of low blood sugar in cats, even in the warning stage, are easy to detect and often unsettling to cat owners. A cat with hypoglycemia is quickly losing brain power, resulting in neurologic disorders and an increased appetite as the body relies on food consumption for an energy supply. Depending on how low the feline’s blood sugar levels have dropped, symptoms could be mild to severe. 

Mild Low Blood Sugar

  • Lethargy
  • Drowsiness
  • Pupil dilation 
  • Tachypnea (breathing rapidly) 
  • Palpitations of the heart
  • Nervousness
  • Nausea
  • Appetite increase 

Moderate Low Blood Sugar

  • Poor coordination 
  • Tremors
  • Shaking 
  • Tilting of the head
  • Weakness
  • Disorientation 

Severe Low Blood Sugar

  • Coma 
  • Seizures
  • Death

Causes of Low Blood Sugar in Cats

Low blood sugar in cats is caused by an underlying condition affecting the body’s ability to produce, release, or store insulin. The hormone, insulin, is a chemical messenger that is responsible for regulating the body’s blood glucose levels. The pancreas manufactures these metabolizing hormones and releases them when a cat eats a meal. As the meal is digested, the food glucose is absorbed by the blood. The rise in plasma glucose triggers the beta cells in the pancreas and insulin is secreted to keep a balanced blood sugar level. An interference of the production, balance, or distribution of this process can result in hypoglycemia including: 

  • Diabetes: Diabetic cats can also develop hypoglycemia upon overdose of insulin injection or if two doses overlap one another. 
  • Blood Infections
  • Pancreatic tumors
  • Anorexia 
  • Copious vomiting 
  • Excessive exercise
  • Addison’s Disease: A condition of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands produce the cortisol hormone that balances the effects of insulin. 
  • Glycogen storage disease: A condition that prevents the muscles and liver from properly synthesizing stored glycogen. A rare disease seen primarily in Norwegian Forest Cats. 

The following can cause blood sugar levels to drop due to a dysfunctional storage of glycogen: 

  • Hepatic lipidosis
  • Hepatic neoplasia 
  • Portosystemic shunt                       
  • Hepatic disease 
  • Toxicity 

Diagnosis of Low Blood Sugar in Cats

Your veterinarian will begin the diagnosis of low blood sugar in your cat by obtaining a full medical history. You will be asked to relay your cat’s current symptoms, diet, medications and past illnesses. As mentioned previously, diabetes is the common cause for low blood sugar in cats, but if your cat is not diabetic or has not been properly diagnosed, the veterinarian will continue with the following diagnostic tests: 

Physical Examination 

Jaundice or yellowing of the eyes can be an indication of liver failure that can lead to hypoglycemia. 


The current status of the cat’s kidney and liver function will be presented in the findings of a urine examination. 

Biochemical Profile

A test to evaluate the level of organ secretions and hypothesize their function status. 

Complete Blood Count

The number of white and red blood cells will help the vet determine if the presence of a possible blood infection. 

ACTH Stimulation Test

Cortisol hormone, produced by the adrenal glands, is measured to determine the level of gland function. 

Insulin Test

Cats that are diabetic but have not been properly diagnosed will benefit from an insulin test. 

Radiograph or Ultrasound

Imaging may be used to detect tumors.

Treatment of Low Blood Sugar in Cats

Treatment of low blood sugar in cats ultimately begins with identifying the underlying cause, as hypoglycemia is a symptom and not a disease. Low blood sugar can be the result of diabetes, a pancreatic tumor, a disease of the adrenal gland, a blood infection, or a result of toxicity. Talk to your veterinarian about the appropriate treatment plan for your cat and his/her low blood sugar.

Recovery of Low Blood Sugar in Cats

Low blood sugar is a life-threatening condition, but if treatment is sought out immediately, your cat has a good chance of survival. There are a wide variety of treatment options for cats with hypoglycemia that should be discussed with a licensed veterinary professional.  Maintaining your cat’s diet is the best way you can keep your cat’s blood sugar in check. Ask your veterinarian about an appropriate diet for cats prone to hypoglycemia and preventative care for the future.

Low Blood Sugar Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

domestic short hair
6 Weeks
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


I have taken my new kitten Apollo to a vca clinic because of the severity. they have had him on a glucose drop and have tried weaning him off but it his blood sugar drops again after a long period. They are trying to treat him for parasites and possible pneumonia, they also said that with an x-ray they noticed he had some fractures running along the spine. My main question is with the information I have provided what would your diagnosis of Apollo possibly be, and mainly what should I ask the vca to do to help my little buddy!

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1100 Recommendations
Apollo seems to be having a rough start, I'm sorry that those things are happening with him. Without examining him, seeing his x-rays and knowing more about his health status, it is very difficult for me to comment on what might be going on with him, unfortunately. Your veterinarians seem to be on top of his condition and treatments, however, and I think you need to trust that they are doing everything they can for him. I hope that he is okay.

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14 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Hungry in the morning sleeps a lot

Cat was firstly diagnosed with diabetes went on insulin but after 3 weeks had low sugar so taken of insulin he is doing well but find him very hungry first thing in the morning the rest of the day is happ until 4.30 when he needs food

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2514 Recommendations
Controlling blood glucose and hunger in cats can be a balancing act, you should consider discuss with your Veterinarian about glucose curves and think about feeding Ming smaller meals more often as part of blood glucose management as I think it may help to keep him balanced. Each cat is different, so needs to be approached individually. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.vetsulin.com/vet/Cats_Monitoring_About.aspx

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