Hypoglycemia is easily treatable in the early stages but can be fatal if allowed to progress. As a Yorkie owner, it is important to know what hypoglycemia is, to be able to recognize the symptoms and to know how to treat it if it does happen.
What is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia occurs when the blood sugar level drops extremely low usually due to lack of food or from using up all stored energy without it being replenished. Smaller-sized puppies like Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Maltese, and Shih Tzus are prone to this because they have such tiny bodies and can only store a little bit of food/energy at a time.
It is important to understand that just because a puppy has an episode of hypoglycemia, does not mean the puppy is truly hypoglycemic. True hypoglycemia is a chronic condition caused by the overproduction of insulin by the pancreas and that is not what I’m talking about here.
Hypoglycemic incidents in Yorkie puppies are almost always caused by stress of some kind. Some common causes are weaning, teething, vaccinations, a change in environment, over-handling, cold temperatures, intestinal parasites, infections, etc. Some Yorkie puppies play too hard and stress their system and others simply forget to eat.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypoglycemia
Drowsiness or Collapse – If your Yorkie stumbles around as if it’s drunk, the problem may be drowsiness from hypoglycemia.
Shivering – When a small dog’s blood sugar wavers, its body has trouble maintaining a constant temperature. A hypoglycemic Yorkie may shiver, which can be a warning sign that something is wrong. Provide protein-rich food and make sure the dog has a warm bed to snuggle after eating. It may take a little while for the nutrients to hit its bloodstream, but the dog should stop shivering within 30 minutes or so.
Listlessness or Depression – A Yorkie that isn’t interested in its favorite toys, isn’t eating, stares off into space, avoids eye contact, or generally seems “down in the dumps” may be suffering from hypoglycemia. Bring food to the dog and offer small bites until it has the energy to feed itself. Usually, after a few bites, the dog will perk up and finish the meal.
Muscle Weakness – A Yorkie with weak muscles will sit or lay down more often and will not jump around or climb stairs. For Yorkie owners who are used to seeing their little dogs fly around the house, muscle weakness can be perceived as a personality change. If you suspect that your Yorkie is suffering from weak muscles, offer food more often and speak with your veterinarian.
Seizures or Tremors – With careful monitoring of a Yorkie’s blood sugar, seizures and tremors are unlikely. However, tremors or even full-blown seizures can happen if other symptoms are overlooked. If this happens, get your dog to a veterinarian immediately.
It is always easier to prevent hypoglycemia than to treat it. You can reduce the risk of having an incident by:
1. Make sure your Yorkie is eating – just having food available is not enough!
2. Feed 1 – 3 pea-size drops of Nutri-Cal (a high-calorie palatable dietary supplement) when your Yorkie is handled a lot, has experienced “stress”, or is showing any of the symptoms I described above. Nutri-Cal can also be given if your puppy isn’t eating well to stimulate their appetite BUT it should NOT be fed on an ongoing basis as a part of their regular diet (see below).
3. Give your puppy a smaller, structured play area or one room. Do not allow him/her to run freely in the house or yard. Too much physical activity can cause your puppy to tire which could cause his or her blood sugar levels to drop. Your puppy may also find him/her self too far away from the food dish and not have the energy to get to it.
4. Allow only fifteen minutes of strenuous play at a time, followed by food and rest. Do not allow the Yorkie puppy to get overtired. Supervise children closely to make sure the puppy is not playing too hard and is getting the rest he/she needs.
5. Keep the puppy warm. Place your puppy’s playpen away from drafts and air conditioning vents.
6. Be sure to keep Nutri-Cal with you in the car or your purse if you take your puppy out of the house (even if it’s just a trip to the vet).
How to treat it
If hypoglycemia is caught in the early stages, rub Nutri-Cal on the puppy’s gums, under the tongue, and on the roof of the mouth. Use a heating pad to slowly warm the puppy to proper body temperature. When the puppy starts to respond feed canned food and then watch your puppy closely to be sure that the incident is truly over. Be sure to eliminate the stress that caused the episode so it doesn‘t happen again.
GIVING NUTRI-CAL OR OTHER SUGAR SOURCE IS NOT ENOUGH TO RESOLVE A HYPOGLYCEMIC INCIDENT. THE PUPPY MUST BE FED PROTEIN (CANNED PUPPY FOOD or human BABY FOOD) TOO.
If hypoglycemia is not caught until it is in the more advanced stages (the puppy is limp, unresponsive, having seizures), rub Karo Syrup or REGULAR pancake syrup (NOT light/local or diet) in the pup’s mouth as instructed above and slowly warm the puppy to normal body temperature. Call your veterinarian immediately and inform them that you have a hypoglycemic Yorkshire Terrier puppy and/or take your puppy to the nearest Animal Hospital. Be sure to tell your vet what you have given your puppy so they can correctly interpret the results of the glucose test they will give your puppy.
How to use Nutri-Cal correctly
I see a lot of misinformation about how and when to use Nutri-Cal floating around on the internet so I want to be sure to correct it …
Many people (including some breeders) will tell you that you should give your puppy Nutrical as part of their regular diet. THIS IS WRONG AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS!!! Giving a puppy Nutri-Cal is just like giving human children candy – it causes their blood sugar to spike and then because what goes up must come down, it crashes. So what you’ve done to try to prevent a hypoglycemic incident can in reality, cause one.
No puppy should leave the breeder’s home if it needs supplemental sugar on a regular basis. If a puppy needs this either something is wrong or the pup is simply not ready to go to its new home.
The only sure way to prevent hypoglycemia is to make sure your puppy is eating. Period.
Hypoglycemia Can Be Caused by Xylitol
Puppies and dogs can develop severe hypoglycemia after consuming sugar-free foods sweetened with Xylitol. In humans, Xylitol has little to no effect on glucose levels, but in dogs, Xylitol is a strong promoter of insulin release and can cause severe hypoglycemia with collapse and seizures. With the increased use of Xylitol in food (including some brands of peanut butter), Xylitol toxicosis in dogs is becoming more common.
I am not a veterinarian. This website and blog are for informational purposes only and do not constitute veterinary advice. The information is presented to educate you and help you work optimally with your veterinarian. All information should be reviewed with a qualified professional.