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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.

Low Blood Sugar Average Cost

From 427 quotes ranging from $200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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
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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 
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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. 

Urinalysis 

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.

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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.

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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.

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Low Blood Sugar Average Cost

From 427 quotes ranging from $200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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Low Blood Sugar Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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dog-breed-icon

tabby mix

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insulin

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy, loss of appetite. I Had a mobile vet is it my cat because she hadn't eaten or drank any water in 3 days. He drew blood, gave her Aderon, And had me give her neutral and IV fluids. The test results indicated she was diabetic and he ordered insulin. She was doing just fine for 3 months and needed a followup lab test. I couldn't afford the mobile vet so I had a that who only treats cats take urine and blood and do a complete workup. He said everything was normal and she was not diabetic and to stop the insulin. 3 days later shee stopped eating and had the same symptoms as previously I checked her blood sugar and it was 65. I cannot seem to get her to eat or to increase her blood sugar. I have spent almost $4000

Feb. 13, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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0 Recommendations

Cats can go into remission from diabetes, especially if it was originally caused by obesity or pancreatitis. Her stopping eating is a concern, especially as it had resulted in low blood sugar. There are many possibilities here including pancreatitis, hepatitis, fatty liver, an infection dental disease etc. To determine why a cat is not eating she does need to be seen by a vet who may well need to run some tests such as blood tests and an abdominal scan. If you have financial concerns, do let them know so they can work with you. She may well need medicine such as fluids, anti nausea medicine and an appetite stimulant.

Feb. 13, 2021

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Spencer

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Domestic long hair

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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3 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

My cat was just diagnosed w diabetes last week. Ive been giving him injections twice a day after meals. He has not eaten his last 2 meals, so I have not given him last 2 injections. He is now very lethargic & walks w out extending his legs. He peed on the floor & just layed there. The glucose meter is being delivered tomorrow but what should I do for him now

Sept. 16, 2018

Spencer's Owner

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Baby Girl

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Black and white kitten

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7 Weeks

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Cant Walk
Throwing Up
Cant Stand
Wont Drink
Lathargy
No Appitite
Shaking All Over
Shaking All Over When Tries To Walk

My 7-8 week old kitten was fine yesterday she was eating and playing and then today she cant walk she wont eat or drink shes lathargic shes been throwing up shes shaking all over when she tries to move and when she meows no sound comes out she cant even stand up right now i called the vet and she said it sounded like hypoglycemia but that she couldnt tell me treament or nothin over the phone i dont have money for a vet visit someone please help.

Sept. 4, 2018

Baby Girl's Owner

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boo

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Calico

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18 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Tired

my cat is on insulin Im doing a glucose curve.first test 6am 186 the food and 4 units of prozinc 2nd test 142 and now 58 . my cat is asymptomatic, should i be concern . she has never ran this low before .

Aug. 21, 2018

boo's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

58 is too low for Boo's glucose to drop, and 186 and 142 are not actually excessively high glucose readings. I'm not sure how long she has been diabetic or what her other readings are, but from those numbers, she may not be diabetic. It would be a good idea to follow up with your veterinarian to talk about her status. In the meantime, if she is at 58, you can rub a small amount of corn syrup or maple syrup on her gums to help bring that back up.

Aug. 21, 2018

thanks so much I will contact my vet to discuss her curve .Her 2pm reading came up to 116 with corn syrup . I am sure she will decrease her insulin amount form 4 to 3 or 3.5 and we will retest .Thanks so much for you response

Aug. 21, 2018

boo's Owner

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Mandarin

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dsh

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6 Years

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Critical severity

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2 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

My cat has diabetes and last glucose number was 40, he’s hypoglycemic and is having seizures, I have nutrical and it stopped, I’m going to the vet tmm morning, what should I do in the meantime

July 11, 2018

Mandarin's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

2 Recommendations

Keep a close eye on Mandarin and monitor the glucose level at regular intervals to make sure that the levels don’t get too low (or high if you take corrective measures). If they get too low or other symptoms present visit an Emergency Veterinarian immediately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 11, 2018

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Paisley

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Tortoiseshell

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17 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy, Failure To Eat, Twitching

Unbeknownst to us, our sweet, frail 17 year old Paisley’s blood sugar dropped to 24. We had been out of town and our loving neighbor and dear friend visited and fed Paisley in our absence. She confirmed that Paisley ate and drank every day and even enjoyed sunning herself in front of the glass storm door. Paisley happily greeted us at the door the evening we arrived home and gave us a hearty meow the next morning. However, she was not interested in eating that morning and her dish was still full from the previous night when we returned home. In the early evening of our first full day home, I thankfully woke Paisley up from hours of sleeping to encourage her to eat. This is when I noticed what presented as small twitches of her head and severe limpness. I immediately rushed her to the emergency after hours veterinary hospital where she experienced severe seizures. The vet infused her with glucose and provided other care (steroids, etc). She has been slowly failing these past 10 months, but nothing as sudden and devastating as this. I had no previous experience with her blood sugar plummeting, We decided to bring her home from the emergency hospital in hopes she might be able to rally back. The vet prepared us for the worst. Honestly, we were not ready for her dire condition, the seizures that continued for the first couple of hours, and the heart wrenching moaning in lieu of a meow. Her body temperature had also fallen, so we placed her on an electric blanket set to low as instructed by the vet. We set a timer for every 60 to 90 minutes throughout the night and into the dawn to administer her Karo syrup. We lay in contorted positions around her on the couch and in nearby chairs, At one point she licked up the juices from tuna we provided her. By morning, she was well enough to raise her head, lick a little tuna, and drink some water. In the morning we brought her to her primary vet who examined her and checked her blood sugar - which had risen to 143. Now, two days later, she is eating tuna and drinking in between her continued syrup doses. She has not had any seizures since the evening and night of the acute incident. The doctor suspects an underlying cancer for our once young 14 pound cat who is now all of 6 pounds at the age of 17. We understand the direness of her situation, but we do not regret brining her home and giving her the chance to rally, even as scary and traumatic as those middle of the night hours were. She is not in pain and is enjoying her specially prepared “petite tuna balls.” We are grateful to have the chance to love her in our home for as long as she is pain free and also provide her beloved 12 year old ‘sister dog’ the chance to be with her as well.

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Avena

dog-breed-icon

No

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4 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Depression
Seizures
Tired

we got a very sick kitten and got him better, he was ok but started pooping big worms. got him to the vet, no big deal, two weeks after that he slept all the time I notice he was really hot and then he had a seizure, rush him to the hospital and they told me it was just am infection.. after two days in the hospital he is not the same he sleeps all day, he has a seizure a day, i give him syrup (he loves it) the vets dont say much I took him to at least 4. It hurts to seem him barely walking.

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Milo

dog-breed-icon

Cat

dog-age-icon

18 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

I have a 18 year old orange tabby. He is diabetic and gets 3 units twice a day. He has been acting unusual this weekend. He skipped 3 meals (I include a stool softener in his food plus his thyroid medicine) I tried his favorite tuna this morning. He ate very little. I was late with his insulin (ProZinc)10:05am. His prior dose was 8:35pm. Today around 11am he was acting abnormal and his balance was off. He managed to hobble downstairs to the litter box to urinate and fell on litter, I held him up and he had a BM. Had to carry him upstairs. Gave him 1/2 ml corn starch at 11:40am. He moved a few times during the day no improvement. 6 pm I carried him to litter box and back upstairs. 6:10pm I gave him 1 ml corn starch. 7pm he had small amount of yellow vomit. I moved his litter box upstairs and showed him where it is. 8:30 pm he hobbled to his water dish and had some water. Still not eating. Should I have skipped his insulin? Going to call his vet tomorrow. But what can I do in the mean time?? Thank you for your time. Heidi

dog-name-icon

Nala

dog-breed-icon

dsh

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Low Glucose

My 4.5 year old cat has a low appetite since 2 years, we did an X-ray as well as liver & kidney functions test, all were good. She is very skinny now so i took her to the vet again, thought it might be her gums hurting causing her not eat well, did scaling and went on antibiotics for a week, bad breath completely gone but appetite did not improve much. Also liver and kidney functions tests turned out good again. We suspected diabetes, i measured her fasting blood sugar twice (3 days apart) and result came out 55 and 58mg/dL. Vet didn't know what to think of it because the cat is not showing any other major symptoms. Cat doesn't have the best coordination (sometimes looses balance while walking on thin bar), also shivers sometimes in the winter. Do we need to investigate this further or could it just be her appetite is just like that?

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Pandora

dog-breed-icon

Shes a Tabby

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Seizures,

My cat is having seizures, we had blood work it was good. We did find out she has a tooth rezdy to fall out, and one bad. Teeth need clean, i have an appointment to have an appointment to have this done. What i would like to know if it is possible that if her not wanting to eat alot due to pain of her teeth if her blood sugar could be dropping causeing her seizures. Because when she come out of the seizure if eats, fast and all of it , this is not how she normally eats.

Low Blood Sugar Average Cost

From 427 quotes ranging from $200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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