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What is Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia refers to an abnormal decrease of glucose concentration in the blood, or more simply - low blood sugar levels.  A normal blood glucose value for healthy, non-diabetic dogs is 3.3-6.1 mmol/L.  Hypoglycemia occurs when excessive glucose consumption depletes the reserves of glucose in the body.  Hypoglycemia can be a result of endocrine or hepatic disorders, a higher energy requirement for glucose, lack of glucose due to fasting, or toxicity.  Hypoglycemia will leave dogs feeling weak and groggy.  If left untreated, unconsciousness followed by death will result.

Hypoglycemia is defined as a low blood sugar concentration.  As sugar (in the form of glucose) is the primary energy source in the body, low blood sugar levels will ultimately affect organ and brain function.

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Hypoglycemia Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia in Dogs

Symptoms of hypoglycemia will usually begin with low energy and a delayed response time, if left to progress further these symptoms will develop into more serious signs such as seizures and collapse.  Potential symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy (low energy)
  • Slow response time
  • Unusual behaviour
  • Polyuria (increased urination)
  • Polydipsia (increased thirst)
  • Lack of coordination
  • Partial paralysis of hindquarters
  • Weakness
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Trembling
  • Involuntary twitching
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
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Causes of Hypoglycemia in Dogs

Hypoglycemia can be the result of underlying endocrine or hepatic disorders, sudden increase in the use of glucose by the body, inadequate amounts of glucose, or toxicity.  Causes include:

  •  Abnormal growth of pancreatic cells
  • Cancer in the liver or gastrointestinal system
  • Inflammation of the liver
  • Portosystemic shunt
  • Glycogen-storage disease
  • Excessive strenuous exercise
  • Overuse of glucose in the body during pregnancy
  • Reduced intake of glucose due to starvation or malnutrition
  • Delayed time between meals in kittens and puppies (especially toy breeds)
  • Overdosing of insulin
  • Toxicity from ingestion of artificial sweeteners
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Diagnosis of Hypoglycemia in Dogs

When hypoglycemia is suspected on the basis of the above clinical signs and history, the veterinarian will first perform a complete physical exam.  This will be followed by a measurement of the current blood glucose value and potential ancillary tests to define the underlying causes of the condition. 

The initial blood glucose measurement is assessed using a glucometer (also called a glucose meter) and it is a quick easy test that only requires a small drop of blood from the patient.  This is beneficial for hypoglycaemic puppies and kittens as a large sample is not required. The result appears within a few seconds.  An ideal blood glucose value is 3.3-6.1 mmol/L, any reading that is lower than this indicates hypoglycaemia. 

Additional blood tests may be performed to evaluate organ function (specifically the kidney, liver, and pancreas), electrolyte imbalances, thyroid function, cortisol function, and other blood related conditions.  A urinalysis (urine test) may be performed to eliminate urinary infections or disease, as well as evaluate kidney function.

If the cause of hypoglycaemia is suspected to be related to cancer or tumour growth, then an ultrasound may be performed.

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Treatment of Hypoglycemia in Dogs

Initial treatment is aimed at correcting the hypoglycemic crisis by way of raising the blood sugar levels.  Depending on the severity and symptoms, this may be initially managed by rubbing glucose or corn syrup on the gums (a treatment which can be started by the owner at home).  If more aggressive therapy is required, the dog will be placed on a intravenous fluid infusion containing concentrated dextrose. Blood glucose levels will be reassessed after the initial treatment.

Ongoing treatment will focus on management of the underlying cause of disease.  If the hypoglycaemia has occurred due to fasting or over exercise, the condition will be resolved after a period of rest.  Dogs will usually be monitored for several hours at the veterinary hospital and then sent home with preventative discharge instructions.

If hypoglycaemia occurred due to a cancer, tumour, or portosystemic shunt then surgery could be necessary.  Inflammatory or endocrine disorders may be treated with medical management.  Toxicity is usually managed with supportive treatment.  Defining and treating the underlying cause is essential or hypoglycaemia will reoccur.

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Recovery of Hypoglycemia in Dogs

Once a patient is discharged after a hypoglycemic episode, it is important to continue home monitoring for signs of reoccurrence.  Dogs may be sent home with specific surgical discharge instructions or medications to treat the underlying conditions depending on what is performed in clinic.

For cases of strict hypoglycemia, special care should be taken in small breed puppies or kittens and highly active dogs to prevent reoccurrence.  For puppies and kittens, frequency of feeding should be increased to several small meals per day instead of one large meal.  For active dogs, it is advised to feed a moderate meal several hours before activity and to keep snacks readily available.  Care should also be taken to monitor dogs closely when there is a requirement for fasting, for example pre-operative periods.

Ultimately, prognosis and the expected time to a full recovery is dependent on the underlying conditions that have contributed to hypoglycemia.

 

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Cost of Hypoglycemia in Dogs

Treatment cost will vary greatly depending on the underlying conditions responsible for the hypoglycemic episode.  For an initial consultation, blood glucose test, and treatment with glucose syrup, the cost will be approximately $80 - $200.  If an intravenous glucose infusion is required this can add an additional $100 - $300.  Treatment cost for underlying causes is based on whether surgical intervention or medical therapy is necessary, and will start from $800.  Ongoing treatment may be necessary and the total treatment cost can be between $1000 - $8000.

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Hypoglycemia Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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Hypoglycemia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Yorkie

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Twelve Years

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Unknown severity

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3 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

Whimpering and shaking

Feb. 21, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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3 Recommendations

You mention your dog is on insulin. Shaking may mean blood levels are too low. A vet visit is best so they can be checked over and the vet may run a blood test to check glucose levels.

Feb. 21, 2021

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Maltipoo

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11 months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Low Energy, Slight Loss Of Appetite, Not Acting Herself

My 12 month old maltipo got spayed 6 days ago and was prescribed oain and antibiotic medication. However, I noticed that after the first 24 hours she’s not eating well and she seems tired/sad all the time. She’s drinking water but doesn’t want her dry dog food so I started feeding her wet food. She eats it ok but not like she used to eat before the surgery. She has always been a happy, hyperactive puppy and swing her like this worries me. What could it be? Her wound is dry and send to be healing fine.

Aug. 18, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. Her energy may still be low due to the surgery that she had performed, but I do think it would be a good idea to give your veterinarian a call and follow up on it. Sometimes antibiotics can cause nausea and loss of appetite, but I do think it would be a good idea to have her seen in the office so your veterinarian can make sure it is nothing more serious. I hope she feels better soon!

Aug. 18, 2020

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Hypoglycemia Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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