Treatment and Prognosis for Hypoglycemia in Dogs
The main goals of treating hypoglycemia are to identify and eliminate the underlying cause of the dog’s low blood sugar. If the dog is having seizures at home, the veterinarian may recommend that the owner rub Karo syrup, corn syrup, sugar, fruit juices or honey on its gums, followed by a small meal once the dog is stable and no longer seizing. Dogs with observable signs of hypoglycemia usually will be treated in the veterinary clinic on an inpatient basis, at least initially. If the dog can eat, it will be fed frequent small meals in an attempt to raise its blood sugar levels directly. If the animal cannot eat on its own, the veterinarian probably will administer intravenous fluids, with the addition of up to 50% dextrose as a sugar component, in small amounts slowly over time. Surgery may be necessary if a pancreatic beta cell tumor (insulinoma) or a portosystemic shunt is identified. Many dogs with hypoglycemia caused by overuse of glucose, such as hunting dogs, toy breeds and newborn puppies, may be able to recover simply by increasing the frequency of their meals and enriching the nutritional composition of their diets with added fat, protein and complex carbohydrates. Simple sugars should be avoided as part of the diet in most cases.
When dogs are hypoglycemic due to an underlying disorder, such as liver disease or low levels of adrenal gland hormones, that disorder must be treated directly in order to resolve the low blood sugar levels. If the underlying disorder cannot be corrected or cured, the dog may need to be on long-term therapy designed to keep its blood glucose levels elevated, probably for life. This often is the case when dogs have pancreatic or liver cancer. Anticonvulsant drugs, such as diazepam, can be prescribed to help control seizure activity. Steroid medications may also be recommended. Of course, the treating veterinarian is in the best position to assess the dog and recommend the best treatment protocol.
The prognosis for hypoglycemic dogs is highly variable. It depends upon the underlying cause of the condition and whether it can be corrected or cured. If a pancreatic insulinoma is responsible for the low levels of blood sugar, the prognosis usually is poor. If the dog has suffered irreversible brain damage from prolonged hypoglycemia, the prognosis also is guarded to poor. However, if hypoglycemia is caused by overuse of glucose, such as in hunting dogs or lactating bitches, the prognosis is quite good with proper dietary modification.