Monday 29 September 2008

Hypoglycaemia in a puppy



Lynda Tallant had to rush her eight week old Chihuahua puppy Angel to the vet, after she was found collapsed on the floor one morning. Lynda likes Chihuahuas. The breed is the smallest of all dog breeds, and it is astonishing that the tiny dogs are the same species as huge animals like St Bernards and Irish Wolfhounds.
Lynda started off with Angel’s mother, a gentle animal called Beautiful Rosie, who is now two years old. Rosie was such a good-natured, adorable creature that she decided to allow Rosie to have a litter of pups. Lynda was very careful to do this in the best possible way. Both Rosie and the father dog were checked out by a vet, fully vaccinated and regularly treated for parasites. Lynda found out about the inherited problems of the Chihuahua breed, and made sure that both parents were free of any of those health issues. She took every step possible to ensure that the pups were healthy individuals that would go on to have good, long term homes.

Rosie’s pregnancy was uncomplicated, and two months ago, three healthy puppies were born. Rosie was a model mother, devoted to the care of the two male and one female pups. As they grew older, the two boys began to outstrip their sister in size and energy levels. Angel, the female, was healthy and active, but her brothers tended to push her out of the way. She needed an extra bit of molly-coddling, but Lynda was very happy to spend time with her. Angel’s small size and quiet nature makes her even more adorable.
Lynda made sure that she did everything possible for her new pups. They were taken up to the vet for full health checks, vaccinations and microchipping. She had them registered with the Irish Kennel Club, and everything was going well for the pups to move on to new homes as healthy young Chihuahuas.
There was only one problem with Angel: she was a fussy eater. By seven weeks of age, the puppies were still suckling their mother occasionally, but this was mostly for social comfort, rather than for any real nutrition. Lynda was feeding them puppy food, three or four times daily, but Angel didn’t have much of an appetite. Her two brothers would dive into the food bowl, hungrily scoffing anything that was put in front of them, while Angel would sit back, waiting for them to finish. Lynda had started to feed her separately, hand feeding her with tasty morsels to encourage her to eat more. She hoped that as Angel grew older, her appetite would improve.
The puppies sleep in a large box between the kitchen and the living room, so when the first person gets up in the mornings, the pups are always there, ready for action. They always greet Lynda enthusiastically, dashing around under her feet as she prepares their food.
Last Saturday morning, when Lynda got up for breakfast at ten, the two male pups were as bouncy as usual, but Angel remained sleeping in a corner. When Lynda looked closely at the puppy, it was obvious that there was something wrong. Angel remained limp when Lynda nudged her, and she was twitching in a strange way. It was as if she was having some type of seizure. Lynda phoned our vet clinic at once, and ten minutes later, she was at our vet clinic with the motionless puppy in her arms.
Emergency treatment was needed to save Angel’s life. After quickly examining her, I took a blood sample, and gave her oxygen while we waited for the result. Two minutes later, the diagnosis was confirmed: Angel was suffering from hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar. This is a common problem in toy breeds of dog when they are young puppies. In most animals, sugar is stored in the liver. This is gradually released during the day, ensuring that the sugar level never dips to dangerous levels between meals. The problem in tiny puppies is that the liver is just too small, and it cannot store enough sugar. If there is a long gap between meals, there is a serious risk of the blood sugar dropping, causing collapse, coma and even death.
Now that the diagnosis had been made, I knew what I had to do to save Angel’s life. I gave her an injection of concentrated glucose, directly into her blood stream. Within just a few minutes she sat up and looked around, and when Lynda collected her an hour later, the puppy was completely back to her normal, lively self.
Lynda has now changed her puppy feeding regime. A highly digestible, high energy puppy food is being given, and the pups are being fed six times daily, including last thing at night, and early every morning. So far, this is working well, and Angel has not suffered from any more episodes. I have heard of cases where puppies need to be fed every two hours, even through the night, to prevent this problem from recurring, but Lynda is hoping to avoid such drastic measures. Most pups grow out of this problem with age, as the liver develops a better capacity for smoothing out the blood sugar level.
Lynda had been planning to find a home for all three pups, but this crisis has been a real bonding experience. Angel is more cherished than ever, and Lynda has decided she’ll be a part of the Tallant family for the rest of her life.
Tips
+ Chihuahuas are the smallest dogs in the world
+ Their tiny size makes them prone to a problem with low blood sugar when they are young
+ To prevent this, owners need to make sure that pups are fed to a strict, frequent schedule

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