All pet owners need to know the basics of animal care in order to ensure a healthy life for their pets and themselves. One of the common problems owners of toy breed dogs need to know about is hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia is the scientific term that means “low blood sugar“. You are probably aware of this phenomenon in people with diabetes and the condition is quite similar in dogs. Low blood sugar levels can be quite dangerous in dogs because glucose (sugar) is needed by the brain to operate properly. When glucose levels drop too low, serious consequences can follow.
In dogs, hypoglycemia is especially an issue for toy breeds like the Chihuahua. This is because Chihuahuas have been bred to be small, so they have a naturally low body mass. The small body mass means that they cannot store sugar properly, there is simply not enough body fat. So, a responsible dog owner needs to be aware of the serious risk of hypoglycemia in these small breeds.
Beyond the natural tendencies to hypoglycemia, there are several, preventable causes. The modern dog food diet, like much of the modern diet for people, tends to be high in grains. Grains get converted by the body into sugar. So, a diet high in grains means the body is working overtime trying to store sugar. This leads to the body crashing afterward because of the high sugar levels and greater hunger. This creates a vicious cycle where the body is simply unable to regulate a steady level of glucose. The ultimate result of this is obesity.
Malnourishment can also cause hypoglycemia. For a small breed like the Chihuahua, even missing one or two meals can cause low blood sugar levels. Again, this is because they have such a small body mass already. They need a consistent and steady diet to maintain healthy levels of sugar.
Other Causes of Hypoglycemia in Chihuahuas
While young chihuahuas can experience low blood sugar from not eating, there are many causes of low blood sugar in all dogs.
Here is a list of potential causes of hypoglycemia:
- Toxicity – xylitol products are the most commonly implicated toxins that cause low blood sugar. Xylitol can be found in a variety of human products such as gum, toothpaste, and even peanut butter.
- Liver disease – the liver is responsible for mobilizing stored glucose from the body’s natural reserve. This is impaired when the liver is damaged and blood sugar levels can begin to drop.
- Cancer – Insulinoma or cancer of the pancreas can cause too much insulin to be released, leading to low blood sugar. Other cancers like hepatocellular carcinomas and mammary gland adenocarcinoma can also cause dangerously low blood sugar levels
- Severe infections – severe systemic infections can deplete the body’s reserves of blood sugar and cause levels to drop quickly.
- Insulin overdose – diabetic patients can become hypoglycemic quickly if insulin is overdosed or not administered with a proper meal.
- Hormonal disease – diseases of the pituitary or adrenals glands can lead to the body being unable to regulate blood sugar appropriately
To know whether your dog is suffering from low blood sugar, there are a few things you should look out for. If you notice your dog is weak, having trouble walking, or experiencing dizziness, this might be a sign of hypoglycemia. In addition to this, look for signs of unusual drowsiness, unresponsiveness, or tiredness. Chihuahuas are a naturally active breed, so any changes in mood like this should raise some red flags. In serious cases, dogs suffering from low blood sugar might experience convulsions, seizures, comas, or paralysis.
If your dog experiences these serious signs of hypoglycemia, get them to a vet immediately. In less severe cases, begin by giving your dog a small dose of sugar with honey or corn syrup. This can easily be done with an eye-dropper or by rubbing the honey on his or her gums. Slowly give them a bit more and if their condition does not improve within an hour, contact your vet.
Otherwise, the best way to avoid hypoglycemia is preventative care. Dogs should always have access to fresh, clean water. Diets should consist of high-quality nutrients. Small dogs need to eat smaller meals throughout the day-especially puppies. Consult your vet on the exact amounts and times.
With some simple care, low blood sugar can easily be avoided and you and your dog can have a lasting, long relationship!