You’ve no doubt heard the term “hypoglycemia” as it refers to humans, and you probably know that it is related to diabetes and blood sugar. But, what do you know about hypoglycemia as it applies to your Yorkie? Hypoglycemia is a potentially deadly condition that can be prevented. Every Yorkie owner and potential Yorkie owner should educate themselves about the dangers of hypoglycemia in Yorkies.
Like many toy breeds, Yorkies are prone to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the body cannot regulate blood glucose, and the blood sugar concentration in the body is too low. In dogs, a normal blood sugar level is somewhere around 70 – 150 mg/dL, and hypoglycemia is usually considered anything under 50 mg/dL. The actual reference ranges for “normal” blood glucose levels vary.
The main concern with Yorkie puppies is Transient Juvenile Hypoglycemia. Transient juvenile hypoglycemia is due to a lack of adequate nutrition and proper intake of glucose (sugar). In essence, this type of hypoglycemia is a result of fasting (not eating). This type of hypoglycemia generally effects puppies under the age of 4 months.
Transient Juvenile Hypoglycemia in Yorkies is commonly accepted to be caused by fasting. Many laboratory experiments have been conducted, and the generally accepted time-frame for hypoglycemia is about 8 hours of fasting. For smaller puppies, the critical time frame can be less. So, if your Yorkie doesn’t eat for a period of 8 hours and is under the age of 4 months, a hypoglycemic attach is almost a certainty. Make sure that your Yorkie is eating properly!
Fasting in a Yorkie puppy is usually not intentional on the part of the owner or the puppy themselves. There are, however, a number of reasons why a Yorkie puppy may be unable to or refuse to eat. These include:
1. Stress – Being over stressed when going to a new home, a visit to the vet, during a thunderstorm, too much traveling, or just about anything else that can cause your puppy to be stressed can cause your Yorkie puppy to skip a meal or refuse to eat. It is important for you to know your Yorkie so that you can understand what causes stress in your Yorkie because they are all different.
2. Illness – If your Yorkie puppy is sick, this can cause your puppy to refuse to eat. Any type of illness can reduce the appetite. A post operative fever, an adverse reaction to a vaccination, a communicable illness, congenital defect or abnormality, honestly, anything that can make your puppy feel “under the weather” can cause a reduced appetite, so, again, make sure you are paying attention to your Yorkie.
3. Too much activity – If a Yorkie puppy is more interested in playing than in eating, he will play instead of eat. It is important to enforce rest periods with a Yorkie puppy so that he can get adequate rest and nutrition. Every hour or two, take the toys away, turn down the lights in the house, and make sure your Yorkie is getting rest.
4. Prolonged exposure to low temperatures – A small puppy dissipates body heat much faster than an adult Yorkie. In order to compensate for low room temperatures, a puppy’s body must change its normal metabolism, which can lead to hypoglycemia. The normal body temperature of a Yorkie puppy over 4 weeks is the same as an adult, about 100 – 102 degrees Fahrenheit (ranges from about 99.5 – 102.5 can be considered normal, so it’s a good idea to take your Yorkie’s temperature when he is healthy in order to get an idea of where your Yorkie’s typical temperature should fall). To maintain this temperature, your puppy needs to be in an environment where the temperature is somewhere around 72 – 74 degrees.
The symptoms of a hypoglycemic attack are usually very obvious to the owner, and they can come on extremely quickly. Usually, there is a marked reduction in the puppy’s activity initially. Symptoms include: lethargy, pale or grey gums, lack of eye focus, stumbling, refusal to eat or drink, and decreased body temperature. As the condition progresses the symptoms get worse and you could see muscle twitching, convulsions, coma, brain damage, and, if not treated, death.
Everyone knows the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is certainly the case with hypoglycemia. Taking care to prevent a hypoglycemic attack is the first step. This includes: enforced rest periods for your puppy (put away the toys for quiet time), letting your puppy free-feed or feeding 4 – 5 meals a day, feeding a high quality food that is rich in protein (at least 30 percent protein), reducing environmental stressors as much as possible, maintaining an adequate temperature in your puppy’s environment, and treating illnesses promptly. A big part of prevention is paying attention to your puppy, his routine, and personality. If your puppy does show signs of hypoglycemia, prompt treatment is necessary.
The first thing you must do is get the blood sugar levels in the body elevated. The easiest way to do this is by using an over-the-counter supplement like NutriCal, NutriDrops, or NutriStat. It is a good idea for all Yorkie puppy owners to have one of these products on hand. If your puppy is hypoglycemic and you don’t have a supplement handy, just about anything with sugar in it will help raise the sugar level. You can use Karo syrup, maple syrup, table sugar dissolved in water, honey, just about anything can be life saving. Place the NurtiCal (or whatever you are using) on your puppy’s tongue, and rub some on the gums. Also, you must make sure that the puppy is maintaining a proper body temperature. It may be necessary to place the puppy on a blanket on top of a heating pad. Take a rectal temperature if you are unsure. If the temperature is below normal, get our puppy warmed up immediately.
Dehydration and hypoglycemia seem to go hand in hand. Do your best to get fluids in your puppy. If he won’t drink on his own, you can use an eye dropper to get him to drink a little. Sometimes, in severe cases, it is necessary to administer subcutaneous fluids. If this is the case, and you have fluids on hand, you can administer 2 cc’s of warm lactated ringers under the skin. Never put cold fluids in a puppy, as this can compound the problem. Always warm the bag in the microwave first. Test the temperature of the bag by laying it over your arm for a few seconds. If it feels too hot, then it probably is. If it feels “nice” then you most likely have it at a good temperature. The lactated ringers counteract acidosis which can be a concern after dehydration. As far as fluid administration goes, if the fluid is being absorbed by your Yorkie puppy’s body, you can administer more, 2 cc’s at a time as long as it is being absorbed. Once the body starts to retain the fluids (there will be a lump of fluid under the skin) it is pointless to inject more fluids until the previous injection is absorbed.
Usually, a puppy that is hypoglycemic will recover very quickly when treated with sugar. If your puppy does not recover within a few minutes of treatment, get him to the vet immediately. If your puppy does recover quickly, be sure to put a call in to your vet to let him know what happened. It is also a good idea to figure out what was the most likely cause of your puppy’s attack so that you can prevent it from happening again.
Hypoglycemic attacks in Yorkies that persist past the age of four or five months is a cause for further investigation. You could be looking at an issue more than just transient juvenile hypoglycemia. Common causes of hypoglycemia in adult Yorkies are things like Addison’s disease, liver disease, and sepsis.