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Diagnosing Hypoglycemia (Low Glucose) in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Diagnostic Procedures

Hypoglycemia is easy to diagnose from the results of routine blood work, which will identify low levels of glucose in the dog’s bloodstream. The difficult part of the diagnosis is determining why the dog is hypoglycemic. Dogs presenting with generalized signs of unexplained weakness, lethargy and seizures will be given a thorough physical examination. A history of the dog’s condition will be taken from the dog’s owner. Most veterinarians will recommend taking a urine sample for a urinalysis and drawing blood samples for a complete blood count and a serum biochemistry profile. These are fairly standard components of an initial data base when the causes of the dog’s presenting problems are not obvious. A fasting blood glucose/insulin test may also be recommended, as may a liver function test and an ACTH stimulation test, especially if hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease) is suspected. The results of these tests should provide valuable information as to the underlying cause of the dog’s condition. The attending veterinarian also may take radiographs (X-rays) of the dog’s abdomen and chest, to look for evidence of tumors, liver abnormalities and/or portosystemic shunts. Ultrasonography may be used as an aid to taking biopsies or fine needle aspirates of liver or other tissues.

Often, mild cases of hypoglycemia are diagnosed incidentally in dogs with underlying liver or adrenal gland disease.

Special Notes

Prolonged, untreated hypoglycemia can cause blindness ranging from temporary/transient to permanent. This is a result of the death of cells in the occipital part of the cerebral cortex of the brain.

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