The first time my Chi got "sugar shock," I was terrified. Here are signs and symptoms to watch for, as well as a few ways to avoid it.
What Is Hypoglycemia in Chihuahuas?
Chihuahuas, like many small breeds, have trouble regulating their blood sugar. The first time my Chi suffered an episode of low sugar, I really did not know what was wrong. He was seven months old and had a pretty typical day. Then a short time after playing, he started walking like he was drunk. It was as though he had no control over his legs. He threw up foam and then basically fell over. I was beside myself; how did we go from playing one minute to this scene the next?
I have always had at least one dog in my life, but my Chihuahua, Norbit, was my first small breed of dog, and I was not savvy to the hypoglycemia thing. It was on a Sunday, so we wrapped Norbit up in a blanket and went to the emergency vet. They took one look and said my dog had been poisoned. I said that was really impossible, as he literally spent zero time unattended. I knew for certain my dog hadn't chewed on anything but his toys. Then another vet tech on duty said, "He is in sugar shock." She had several rescue Chihuahuas at home herself, and she said low blood sugar wasn't uncommon in small breeds.
She put some Karo syrup on a flat wooden stick and he just stared at it glassy-eyed like he had no idea how to lick. So she put roughly a teaspoon of the syrup in a syringe and—while explaining I should never do this at home as he could choke—he gently pushed the syrup right down this throat. He was seriously right as rain in a very short time. It was extremely frightening, however, and I vowed to do my best to keep my dog from ever experiencing this again by learning why it happened and what I could do to prevent it.
What Symptoms Will My Chihuahua Have?
In the case of my dog, his low blood sugar was caused by a play session that went on a little too long and too hard. Who can say no when a puppy keeps wanting to play? That was my mistake and I definitely learned from it.
I found from talking to my vet that a chihuahua with low blood sugar may:
- Wobble when either standing or sitting.
- If laying down your dog may have trouble lifting his head.
- Your dog may have a blank stare with glassy eyes.
- Often dogs in sugar shock tilt their heads to one side as if their head is very heavy on one side.
- As the low blood sugar progresses, your dog may shake badly, drool, and froth at the mouth.
- Obvious signs of being disoriented.
Home Treatment of Hypoglycemia for Your Chihuahua
These tips for home treatment are only to get your Chihuahua up and about. Always follow up with your veterinarian. It's important to make sure there are no other outstanding medical issues that may have the same symptoms as low blood sugar such as tumors, bacterial infections, pancreatic issues, and other serious medical conditions.
Feed Your Chi Something Sweet
Your goal here is to raise your dog's blood sugar, so something sweet is in order. You can use honey, Karo syrup, or maple syrup. Also, I've used vanilla ice cream. As hypoglycemia can progress quickly and become life-threatening for your pooch, it's important to act fast.
Note: Whatever method you choose to raise your dog's sugar level, don't just put honey in his mouth. He could choke. If he will lick it off your fingers, great. If not, you can rub honey, syrups, or ice cream on your dog's gums. Be careful, disoriented dogs can bite.
If your dog has passed into the severe stage of low blood sugar and is having focal seizures or unconscious, keep rubbing syrup on their gums on the way to the vet; it may be life-saving for your pet. It doesn't take much. On the few occasions my 10-pound chihuahua has gone into sugar shock, it's taken just a couple of teaspoons of honey to bring him around.
Give Them Regular Food as Soon as Possible
After your dog becomes alert, he should eat as soon as possible so his blood sugar can become stable. You can give your dog regular food or treats; whatever you can get him interested in eating is fine.
Note: If your pup seems reluctant to eat, you can add a little honey or ice cream to their bowl to entice them to eat.
Last Word About Low Blood Sugar and Your Chihuahua
You can almost entirely avoid bouts of hypoglycemia by feeding your dog regularly. According to Dr. Greg Martinez DVM, since a lot of commercial dog foods are high in grain products, those foods actually set your dog up for low blood sugar. By switching to a low-glycemic dog food, you can help your Chi maintain a more constant sugar level.
My vet advised me to feed my dog more than twice a day. So I just took his total amount of food and divided it up into smaller servings. If we do happen to have a play session that he over-exerts himself, and he loves to play hard, I make sure he eats a snack afterwards. It's kept the low blood sugar incidents at bay along with more frequent, smaller meals.
Also, if you have a Chihuahua or other small breed, make sure you have honey, Karo syrup, or vanilla ice cream at the ready. My vet also recommended a supplement called Nutri-Cal, which is a high-calorie supplement that provides extra energy. I hope you never have to experience this with your dog, but if you do, now you know how to handle it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2013 JoLynn Potocki
Connie Durbin on October 22, 2019:
I wished i had known this i lost our baby toby two weeks ago, he was 12 weeks old and started this. We tried but he didnt make it, but will have a better idel now, thanks for the information
Angela Dreher on May 08, 2019:
My Chihuahua has low sugar and has seizures....the maple syrup works...but another thing that works is sugar water...Every morning before I go to work I give him a syringe filled with sugar water .I made up some sugar water and put it a water bottle in my fridge...I give it a good shake to mix it and then put it in the syringe..my dog loves it ...It's nice and cold and sweet...haven't had any issues with seizures since and he was having them often before I started this...it works.
Christina on January 08, 2019:
Our applehead "Samba" experienced this not too long ago. I felt so helpless but my brother in law knew what was wrong immediately. Thank you so much for your article and advice. Its already helped us out.
Hinkle norma on January 07, 2019:
This is a great thing to know I wish I could had know how to no m yo baby boy buddie had parvo m ok w I'm ahead if some thing should happen signed Ms Hinkle Reno NV.
Kathy on May 22, 2018:
i wish i had seen this before my baby was 2mos.i had her a week an she past away sunday night from a sugar problem she was fine then just got sick all at once my heart is broken i loves her so much. now i no an its to late for my baby.
Teddy on May 03, 2018:
This article saved my sanity today! It was only a little over an hour ago that I read this and at the time I was worrying over my dog, Sophia, who was heartworm positive when we brought her home from the shelter. We've had her less than 2 months and she's 4 years old but you wouldn't think it if you met her. They'd only done the treatment a few days before we brought her home and she was on strict "bed" rest. We let her play a little but calmed her after a few minutes because we didn't want her to start coughing. So, we've only recently begun to see how playful and energetic she is. Not anxious energy (only thunder and riding in the car frighten her.) She's curious, fun, lighthearted, loving, absolutely adorable and even though out of my family of 4 only my daughter wanted a chihuahua (my husband specifically said "NO CHIHUAHUAS" but that was before he held 9 lbs of shivering love in his arms the 30 minute drive home.) Within 72 hours of bringing her home, we were all hopelessly besotted with her. We had lost my beloved dog, Pippin, in October of last year. I'd had him for almost 13 years and I didn't want another dog. Oh, how wrong I was.
So I was absolutely terrified when she began to act lethargic and glassy-eyed earlier around 3 pm. By 6 pm she was trembling intermittently and moving slowly and uninterested in anything. Our other dog, a spaniel/terrier mix, was the smallest dog I'd ever had by a mile. My family has always had German shepherds, labs, great Danes! So, yeah, huuuuge leap for us. I knew it wasn't heartworms and she wasn't in pain or vomiting or any signs that she was sick. I stumbled upon this article when trying to find what might be wrong. I am so grateful to you! She wasn't so far gone that she couldn't walk, and when I tried to feed her honey, she said, "Ew, what's this stuff." (Her sister was happy to lick it off my fingers and off Sophia's brow where I'd accidentally smeared some.) So, I fed her a can of dog food rather than dry & ten minutes later she was my Sophia again.
So a thousand good wishes for you and many blessings and hugs and thank yous!!
Hi Courtney! on April 29, 2018:
I am not a vet and the best thing I can tell you is if you see your dog is in a seizure stage - get to your vet immediately. I have had more than one person tell me they rubbed their dog's gums with corn syrup or maple syrup when the dog was unable to even lick and in both cases the vet told the owners that action may have saved their dog's life. I would never recommend handling this situation on your own, though. Always involve your vet.
Courtney Landaverde on April 16, 2018:
How long will it take for the seizure last
JoLynn Potocki (author) from Toledo, OH on January 29, 2018:
Lynn, I am just seeing this and I am so sorry you had to go through that scary situation!
Lynn on November 26, 2017:
Thank you so much this is extremely helpful. This is whats happen to our little man and we had no idea. Very thankful for your article:)
cindy gearhart on July 07, 2016:
thanks this was very helpfull.
Kayleigh on September 12, 2014:
Thank you for this. My Chihuahua has had severely low sugar for a few days now and the vet wants to put him to sleep because they can't find the cause. They say it will affect his brain if he keeps having regular bouts of low sugar so I'm looking for ways to keep it up.
It just so happens I have a jar of honey in the cupboard from when my little brother came to stay (I despise honey lol) So I will try that.
He isn't eating at all though so I am having to syringe feed him 5ml of prescription diet every hour and also syringe feed him a glucose solution.
He is still crashing though, did your vet give you any other tips for getting his sugar up? My Mum has gone to buy ice cream so I will try that too. I just really don't want them to put him down, he is only 2 years old :(
Katy on September 04, 2014:
Thank you my maltese Bo is going through this right now and this helped a lot. Saving this article.