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HYPOGLYCEMIA

by Lee Weston, submitted by Christine Heartz

Hypoglycemia is the medical term used to describe abnormally low levels of blood glucose.  Blood glucose, which is another term for blood sugar, is regulated by insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by cells that are called "beta cells", that is part of the endocrine pancreas.  Dogs that go into hypoglycemia suffer from weakness, they can collapse, and/or go into seizures.

Some toy breeds suffer from hypoglycemia as a metabolic disorder. Sometimes in hunting dogs hypoglycemia occurs at the beginning of the hunting season and is usually the result of poor conditioning and can also be related to poor nutrition.

It is imperative that owners of breeds of dog that are susceptible to attacks be aware of some of the clinical signs of the onset of an attack of hypoglycemia. These signs can include the dog becoming noticeably confused, disoriented, becomes drowsy at unusual times, shivers, and/or staggers about.  In an advanced stage the dog collapses and goes into an unconscious state.  The entire sequence of clinical signs is not always seen, so close observation of your pet and knowing when your dog is going into a distressed state can mean the difference between life and death of your dog.  Immediate treatment by a veterinarian is imperative, as recurrence of, or prolonged attacks, can cause permanent damage to the brain.

Sometimes a dog will outgrow this condition since it affects puppies 5 to 16 weeks of age most commonly.  However, if the dog is high strung, or has a lot of nervous energy, the dog will need to be watched carefully, and kept in a calm state.  Some instances that precipates an attack might be: the puppy being placed in a new home, or while being shipped.  It may occur if a puppy misses a meal, becomes chilled, or becomes exhausted from too much play.

What can you do for your dog if you notice the early signs of hypoglycemia?  The best product to keep on hand is Nutrical, available from your veterinarian. In an emergency, sugar water, corn syrup, or even honey will work. A few licks may be all you need if the dog is still conscious. You should call your veterinarian as soon as possible.  If your dog becomes unconscious, have someone call your vet, and get the dog to the vet immediately.  Place the dog on a rigid surface for transport, and have a rider check to make sure the dog has not inhaled its own secretions, or has strangled on its tongue.

If you are fortunate enough to have a veterinarian diagnose your dog with hypoglycemia before any serious attacks occur, have the veterinarian go over symptoms, first aid for your dog, and any other emergency procedures that you may need to know.

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