Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar is a common problem in small breed puppies. Puppies in general do not have the energy stores yet developed that adults have, allowing them to maintain an adequate blood glucose (BG) in times of fast. Small breed puppies are at an even greater disadvantage because they have a relatively higher metabolic rate and energy requirement per unit body mass than larger breed puppies. This means whatever stores they do have are utilized very quickly whenever the pup stops eating for whatever reason. Small breed puppies may also be more likely to suffer from hypothermia (decreased body temperature) for a similar reason, a prime reason for decreased food intake, decreased gastro-intestinal utilization of food and hypoglycemia.
Clinical signs of hypoglycemia include weakness, lethargy, furthur decreasd food intake, altered mentation, twitching, tremoring, seizures and coma. If left untreated, hypoglycemia will be fatal. If an owner suspects hypoglycemia, they can help to increase blood sugar by rubbing a small amount of Karo syrup on the pup’s gums. Care must be taken not to administer too much or to get it in the back of the throat, causing aspiration or obstruction of the air way. The pup must then be immediately taken to a veterinarian.
Primary care at the veterinarian’s includes initial IV dextrose bolusing, warming to a normal body temperatue, IV fluids with a constant rate infusion of dextrose and other supportive treatments. If caught relatively early, the prognosis for a hypoglycemic pup is very good. If presented after seizuring for a prolonged period or comatose, the prognosis worsenes. A hypoglycemic puppy is always an emergency situation. The key is prevention by ensuring that the puppy is consuming frequent meals and staying warm.