Information on cats and dogs with hypoglycemia and those with normal levels of blood glucose.
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What are Glucose Levels?
Your pet’s glucose levels indicate how much glucose or sugar is circulating in your pets system at a given time. These glucose levels fluctuate throughout the day and are strictly controlled by hormones so that they are maintained within a certain range. Catabolic hormones such as glucagon and catecholamines help to increase glucose levels, while the anabolic hormone insulin helps reduce glucose levels.
When these hormone systems are not functioning properly, glucose levels are not adequately regulated and this can be dangerous for your pet. High glucose levels are referred to as hyperglycemia and when this is a chronic problem, it is known as diabetes. Low glucose levels or Hypoglycemia can occur when the pancreas secretes too much insulin, when pets are not eating enough to support their energy requirements or as a result of insulin treatment in diabetic pets.
Hypoglycemia is a common problem with insulin treatment and can occur even when pet owners are being very careful. This happens because insulin production and requirements can fluctuate without warning in diabetic pets and so it is something that needs to be monitored closely.
High glucose levels or hyperglycemia generally results in long term complications such as blindness, neuropathy and kidney disease if left untreated. Hypoglycemia, on the other hand is more immediately life threatening and if levels are too low, every cell in the body becomes starved of life-supplying sugars. Symptoms of low blood sugar may include decreased heartbeat, slow breathing, weakness, disorientation, seizures and loss of consciousness.
Monitoring Glucose Levels
Glucose levels can be accurately monitored either by your pet’s veterinarian, or with the use of home glucometers. Normal blood glucose values for non-diabetic cats and dogs usually range between 80-150 mg/dL as measured on a vet’s glucometer, while home glucometers tend to read somewhat lower.
When glucose levels become too high, the kidneys as well as other organs start to become affected in what is referred to as renal threshold. In cats, renal threshold for glucose is estimated between 240-290 mg/dL, while canine renal threshold for glucose is at approximately 180 mg/dL.
Help for Glucose Levels
There are a number of ways to help restore blood sugar balance and to help guard against some of the consequences of fluctuating glucose levels.
Tips for regulating glucose levels in pets
- Feeding your pet smaller meals more frequently through out the day will help maintain glucose levels at a steady rate and reduce the risk of sudden spikes or drops in glucose levels that are often associated with feeding one meal a day.
- Pets with diabetes or blood sugar problems need to be monitored closely, either with regular trips to the vet or through home blood testing kits.
- Make sure your pet gets regular and consistent exercise. Consistency is the key word here as high activity levels can result in a dip in blood sugar and this will affect the amount of insulin your pet requires.
- If your pet is prone to hypoglycemia it’s always a good idea to keep honey or pet treats nearby. In emergencies, honey can be rubbed into the gums to quickly increase blood sugar, which will give you enough time to rush your pet to the vet.