Hypoglycemia and Small Breed Puppies

Small-breed puppies can be susceptible to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Learn how to recognize when your puppy’s blood sugar levels are low and how to care for them.

Dec 15, 2023byHolly Ramsey
hypoglycemia and small breed puppies

It is an exciting time to bring home a new puppy and with the “pocket puppy” craze still in full swing, more and more new puppy owners are finding out extra special care needs to be given to small breed puppies, especially toy breeds. Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can be fatal if proper treatment is not given immediately.

What is Hypoglycemia in Dogs?

chihuahua puppy in grass
Image Credit: Goodhousekeeping.com

Hypoglycemia, also referred to as low blood sugar, in dogs refers to the level of glucose circulating in the bloodstream. Glucose is used by a dog’s cells for energy and comes from the food they eat. When the amount of glucose in the dog’s bloodstream drops too low, they will start experiencing symptoms that if not properly diagnosed can cause serious health issues and potentially death.

For the most part, puppies do outgrow hypoglycemia, and by the time they are a year old. Some dogs that remain small, usually under five pounds, may still have bouts of hypoglycemia into adulthood if they do not eat properly. If you notice your dog having issues that may look like seizures, have your veterinarian check them for blood sugar problems or canine epilepsy.

Why Does Hypoglycemia Affect Small Dogs?

pomeranian puppy in grass
Image credit: The Spruce Pets

Hypoglycemia can affect any puppy or dog that does not eat at regular intervals or is provided with a proper diet. But certain small breeds are more susceptible including Japanese Chin, Toy Poodle, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Pomeranian, Chihuahua, and Chinese Crested. Most ethical breeders will ensure new puppy buyers are educated about hypoglycemia and will not send a new puppy home until they are at least 10 weeks old and over two pounds.

Small breed puppies tend to cut their baby teeth late and have trouble chewing hard kibble, a softer food is needed for these puppies. They can also have difficulty maintaining body temperature, causing them to use more energy to stay warm in cooler environments. Both factors can contribute to them having hypoglycemic episodes.

How To Recognize a Hypoglycemic Episode

maltese puppy on rock
Image credit: rover.com

It can be scary to watch your tiny puppy go into a hypoglycemic episode. If you have not seen a puppy have low blood sugar issues before, you may not recognize right away what is happening. It is crucial that you perform emergency measures as soon as possible to bring their blood glucose levels back to normal.

Your puppy will not exhibit every symptom listed, and some of the milder symptoms can be easily missed. Be sure to carefully monitor your puppy’s food intake and exercise levels so they are not expending more energy than they are taking in.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia in dogs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Drooling
  • Shaking
  • Uncoordinated movements/falling when walking
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Unresponsiveness

Emergency Measures to Take

puppy with vet
Image credit: Buffalo Veterinary Group

Diligent breeders will educate their puppy buyers about hypoglycemia, the symptoms, and emergency steps to take if you suspect your puppy has low blood sugar. It is always a good idea to have a first aid kit on hand when you have a dog. If you are planning on bringing home a small-breed puppy, put together an emergency kit in case your new puppy experiences low blood sugar.

Your emergency kit should include:

  • Karo syrup
  • Pureed baby food (preferably chicken noodle dinner)
  • Pedialyte
  • Syringe
  • Blanket or towel
  • List of emergency veterinarians nearby

If you suspect your puppy is suffering from low blood sugar, wrap them in a warm blanket or towel. Put a small amount of Karo syrup on your finger and rub it on their gums. Karo syrup will absorb through the gums and there is no need for your puppy to swallow and possibly choke if they are unresponsive or weak. Closely watch your puppy and if you see them perking up with the Karo syrup, offer them food.

If they do not willingly eat, syringe pureed baby food into their mouth. Be gentle so they do not choke on the food, but make sure you do get some food into their tummy. Offer them unflavored Pedialyte to boost their glucose levels. You can syringe small amounts of Pedialyte into their mouth but do not squirt it down their throat and cause them to choke or aspirate.

Once you have gotten food into your puppy’s tummy and they are beginning to act more normal, call your veterinarian for further instructions. If your puppy is unresponsive and unable to swallow any food or Pedialyte. Contact an emergency veterinarian and take your puppy in immediately for critical care.

How to Help Prevent Hypoglycemia in Dogs

cavalier puppy eating
Image credit: dogslife.com.au

The easiest way to prevent hypoglycemia in your small-breed puppy is to make sure they eat every few hours. Have dry kibble available for them to munch on all day but offer them a teaspoon of canned food, baked chicken, or some other tempting treat four to five times throughout the day.

Some breeders suggest crumbling a few pieces of sugary cereal, such as frosted flakes, over your puppy’s dry kibble to entice them to eat more. You can also put a teaspoon of sugar into your puppy’s water which will help keep their glucose levels normal. The only downfall of using sugary cereals or sugar in the water is that your puppy could experience hair loss. Too much sugar in a puppy’s diet can also lead to more health issues as they age, including diabetes.

Remember, when you are planning to add a small-breed puppy to your family, do your research and make sure the breeder you choose is reputable. Ask the breeder if the puppy you are interested in has had any problems with hypoglycemia.

Do not plan on bringing home a small breed puppy right at 8 weeks old, they need those extra few weeks to fully wean from their mom. Puppies should be eating only solid food when they go to their new homes to help prevent them from having a problem with hypoglycemia.

Holly Ramsey
byHolly Ramsey

Holly is a 2nd generation dog breeder/trainer and has over 25 years of experience with several different breeds. She enjoys working with her Japanese Chin and Rough Collies and helping her mom and daughter with their chosen breeds. Most evenings, Holly is hanging out with her daughter watching movies, crafting, or playing with the fur-kids.