Low Blood Sugar in Cats

Low Blood Sugar in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Disorientation / Head Tilt / Lethargy / Seizures / Shaking

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Rated as moderate conditon

9 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Disorientation / Head Tilt / Lethargy / Seizures / Shaking

Low Blood Sugar in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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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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Kage

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Cat

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13 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Throwing Up

Just a week ago my 13 year car was diagnosed diabetic, totally healthy every other way. So we’ve been doing feeding and insulin twice a day, 8 am and 8 pm. She’s 7 pounds and getting 1 unit 30 mins after eating. She’s a picky eater to begin with! She eats 8-10 kernels of food and about a teaspoon of boiled chicken at this point. But she has started throwing up around 2 am each morning, 3 times so far. What is going on?

June 22, 2018

Kage's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Vomiting is a vague symptom and may be caused by a variety of different conditions and may or may not be related to the insulin administration; however we would normally expect vomiting to be seen twice per day if it was directly related to the insulin since she receives insulin twice per day 12 hours apart. There may be some other factor involved here and you didn’t mention if it was three concurrent days or three random days; monitor Kage for the time being but if the vomiting continues you should visit your Veterinarian and possibly have a 24 hour glucose curve done too. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 23, 2018

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Kenji (reading 2.73); Nero (reading 3.07)

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Semi-persians

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6 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Have just taken my two 6 year old cats for blood tests - they are brothers and both have been diagnosed with congenital heart murmur. They take medication for the condition hence the blood tests. My vet tells me not to worry even though one of them has glucose reading 2.73 and the other has glucose reading of 3.07 when the normal range is 4.11 - 8.84 mmol/L. The blood glucose level is the only "abnormal" reading. They were not fasting when the blood tests were carried out....so what could be the cause of low blood glucose levels? Can you please help me understand? Their father (pure persian) suffered from pancreatitis for years, though he died last year from a heart attack - could their father's condition be hereditary?

June 9, 2018

Kenji (reading 2.73); Nero (reading 3.07)'s Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are some thoughts on the relationship between genetics (hereditary conditions) and pancreatitis; however there are studies in human medicine but no solid research in veterinary medicine. Low glucose levels are a symptom and may be attributable to many different conditions including pancreatitis, dietary deficiency, liver disease, insulinoma (insulin secreting tumour), physical exhaustion, use of some medicines among other causes. Reference ranges for glucose can vary depending on textbook and equipment calibration; generally the Merck Veterinary Manual puts glucose levels in cats at being 3.3–6.7mmol/L or 60–120mg/dL. You should discuss further with your Veterinarian and have another blood test done to monitor the glucose levels to see if there is any improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.merckvetmanual.com/special-subjects/reference-guides/serum-biochemical-reference-ranges

June 10, 2018

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Apollo

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domestic short hair

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6 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

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!

May 10, 2018

Apollo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 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.

May 10, 2018

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Ming

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Burmese

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14 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

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

Feb. 8, 2018

Ming's Owner

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3320 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

Feb. 8, 2018

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Charlie

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tabby

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10 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Grouchy

My cat was getting a curve done today and his readings were 151 at 10:00 am (before eating) then, 161 at noon (pre-insulin), 135 at 2:18 pm, and then was an astonishingly low 58 at 5:28 pm. I immediately fed my cat and rubbed a teaspoon of corn syrup on his gums. We administered a little under 2 units at noon. Does he need insulin if his numbers are getting this low?

Low Blood Sugar Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,500

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