I would like to share a story with you all to begin. About a month ago, a family (that I know personally) bought a maltese/shih tzu cross (aka maltizu) puppy. This family has 3 beautiful children who have suffered a great deal of loss in their lifetime, and this puppy was in hopes of helping them continue to heal and give them something to look forward to daily. You might say it was a puppy with a purpose and it couldn’t have received a better home. A few days later, the owners took the sweet puppy to their veterinarian and she passed away due to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Hearing this story made me realize that not everybody realizes that this is a common problem in these toy breed dogs. Therefore what I want to focus on today is the basics for feeding your small and toy breed dogs and how to recognize the signs of hypoglycemia.
Due to these puppies not being able to quite control their sugar yet, it is important to feed them 3-4 small meals a day. Make sure you are feeding a puppy formulation and one that is specifically formulated for small breed dog is best. It is also important to know the signs of hypoglycemia. Most of the signs are fairly non-specific, but it is usually diagnosed based on breed of dog and seeing signs of lethargy (wanting to lay around a lot), not eating much, collapsing, seizures, etc. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to contact your veterinarian. It is also a good idea to keep light karo syrup around the house (even if you don’t cook with it). Rubbing karo syrup on your pet’s gums will allow the sugar to absorb from the oil into their blood stream and help bring it back up to normal. If this becomes a frequent problem, there may be an underlying cause to the hypoglycemia that needs to be diagnosed. Your veterinarian will be able to discuss these causes with you. Below discusses one of the more common causes we see in these small and toy-breed dogs. This link will take you to an article explaining why hypoglycemia occurs and some of the other causes.
A common cause of hypoglycemia (and a potentially severe one) in these dogs is what is called a liver shunt. While in the uterus, the liver is not needed to function and the blood flow by-passes the liver and continues through the rest of the body. When the puppy is getting near term and the liver is needed the vessel that by-passes the liver closes off and allows blood flow to the liver – in a normal puppy. However, sometimes that vessel doesn’t close all the way and we get what is called a portosystemic shunt. You can read more about that here.
When you visit your veterinarian with a new pet or puppy that you are unfamiliar with, please ask as many questions as you can think to ask. Our job is to inform you and spend time making sure you have all the knowledge available to help your pet live a happy, healthy life. From time-to-time, we do take for granted what we consider to be common knowledge. You can ask during appointments, call during the day, email, facebook, etc. We are constantly striving to educate our clients in the best way possible and love answering your questions.