Toy-breed dogs are not only at risk for hypoglycemia, they can die from the low blood sugar disorder if they do not receive prompt treatment.
When a dog’s blood sugar, or glucose, level drops, it can affect neurological function. Disorientation, tremors and coma may occur. Normally, hormones stimulate the breakdown of stored glycogen to supply the brain and other tissues with fuel. In toy breeds, this process may not happen fast enough, and hypoglycemia results.
Hypoglycemia is basically a term that describes a condition in a dog where the concentration of glucose (sugar) suddenly drops. Glucose is used as a primary source of energy in all dogs. Small breed dogs, especially puppies, are extremely prone to this condition. The younger and smaller the puppy, the more chances they have of becoming hypoglycemic.
The danger of hypoglycemia is why we have the policy, "Two pounds or twelve weeks - which ever comes first." We don't release our puppies under two pounds unless they are at least twelve weeks and eating well. However, if the puppy is two pounds or more before that twelve week marker (and eating kibble well), then they can go to their new forever home sooner.
Small breed puppies have less muscle mass than their large breed relatives. (Small breeds would include most dogs under twenty pounds - toy dogs under ten.) With the low amount of muscle mass that these breeds have, retaining proper glucose levels is tougher. This is why smaller dogs are more susceptible to hypoglycemia.
NOTE: if you have a very small adult toy breed 3-5lbs, make sure they are first on the schedule early in the morning for any type of surgery to avoid a situation of extreme hypoglycemia shock that could put the dog at high risk for coma and seizures that could be avoidable and extremely dangerous. This is usually caused by the toy dog not allowed to have food for to long of a period of time.
Juvenile hypoglycemia occurs in puppies less than 3 months of age. Because puppies have not fully developed the ability to regulate blood glucose concentration and have a high requirement for glucose, they are vulnerable. Stress, cold, malnutrition and intestinal parasites also may trigger juvenile hypoglycemia in young toy-breed puppies.
Signs of hypoglycemia are loss of appetite, extreme lethargy, lack of coordination, trembling, muscle twitching, weakness, seizures, and discoloration of skin and gums. A healthy dog should have warm and pink gums. If your dog’s gums are cold and white, they are most likely in a hypoglycemic state. Most dogs will not eat or drink when they are in low sugar shock.
Early stages may include disorientation or lack of muscle coordination (similar to a slightly intoxicated person). For example, a puppy that might have known how to go up a step suddenly cannot remember how or seems too uncoordinated to manage. Sleeping a lot is normal in any puppy, but if your puppy seems to be sleeping more than normal, wake them up. A normal puppy will be ready to play. If your puppy returned to sleep or acts “funny”, give them glucose immediately!
Simple cases of hypoglycemia can occur when a dog is overly active with too much time between meals or fasts before vigourous exercise. If you plan to take your puppy out to play, give a small amount of glucose, or if he has had lots of romping and play time, a small dollop of Nutri-Cal on your finger for him/her to lick off, won’t hurt and may keep him from having low glucose episodes.
Puppies and adult dogs that appear to be in a stupor or coma during a hypoglycemic attack should immediately be given sugar water or an oral concentrated solution of glucose, such as corn syrup (Karo Syrup) or Nutri-Cal. Feed them a couple finger full doses of glucose - slowly get a quarter size dollop in them. Simply place a dab of Nutri-Cal on your finger tip, and scrape the syrup on the back of the top row of teeth. I would repeat this a couple times. Keep them warm! This will help to avoid shock.
Some dogs may recover within 10 -20 minutes, while others may take hours. If you do not see any improvement in their condition within the first 30 minutes, immediately take your dog to the animal hospital.
Owners of toy breeds should have a glucose source readily available. In an emergency situation, The sugar is absorbed directly through the tissue into the bloodstream and could prevent the loss of a beloved pet.
As a Breeder I proactively look for signs of hypoglycemia in all of my puppies/dogs always.
Signs of Hypoglycemia
Loss of appetite
Lack of coordination
Stupor or coma