Just like people dogs need to have sugar in their blood to supply the body and brain with the fuel it needs to work properly and efficiently. In some breeds, particularly the toy dogs such as Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians and Maltese hypoglycemia can be a problem in adult dogs that simply don't have enough body fat to carry their blood sugar between meals. Most of these small breeds have a significant drop in blood sugar that can trigger hypoglycemia if fasting for more than eight hours.
Another type of hypoglycemia is called juvenile hypoglycemia that occurs when puppies are weaned and switched to regular dog foods. Often these puppies do not eat properly or skip meals, leading to rapid drops in blood sugar resulting in seizures, lethargy and poor growth and development. The smaller breed puppies, especially those that are bred to be teacup or toy are most prone to the problem, but any puppy that is not getting proper nutrition can develop the symptoms.
In active adult hunting dogs there is also a type of hypoglycemia known as "hunting dog hypoglycemia". This tends to affect the very high-strung, very intense hunting dogs. These dogs often become so involved in hunting and excited prior to the hunt that they do not eat and have a highly elevated body metabolic rate during the hunt and simply burn up all their body sugar stores. These dogs are often very lean and tend to be the hound breeds that are not known for high body fat even in typical exercise situations.
Hypoglycemia can also be caused by tumors and overdoses of insulin in diabetic dogs. The only way to test for hypoglycemia is to immediately, upon seeing the symptoms, have the dog's blood tested by your vet. The typical symptoms of hypoglycemia involve seizures, disorientation, wobbly gait, head tilted to the side, shivering, weakness, hunger, restlessness and even a coma and death if severe and not treated.
Most of the treatment for dogs that are known to be hypoglycemic include feeding several high quality meals a day and trying to balance the food. This means feeding up to six small meals a day to help regulate the blood sugar. If the dog starts to show mild signs of hypoglycemia immediately feeding some type of sugar such as table sugar sprinkled on food or mixed in water, Karo or corn syrup drizzled on food, honey, or even pancake syrup (not with artificial sweetener) can be substituted. All hypoglycemic dog owners should carry emergency supplies of sugar with them, especially in liquid and squeeze type bottles for easy administration. If the dog is already in seizures or in a coma rub the syrup on the gums and on the tongue but do not try to force it down the throat as this can lead to choking. Immediately get the dog to an emergency animal clinic and report the signs and timeline to the treating vet.
When walking or exercising always carry high quality snacks and feed the dog often, especially if the dog is working harder than usual. For hunting dogs owners can carry peanut butter and honey sandwiches or high quality, high sugar foods that are an excellent source of carbohydrates, sugar and protein for the dog. Ensure that they eat regularly especially if they are hunting intensely. Call the dog back and feed between hunts.