Health & Wellness
Hypoglycemia in cats and what it means for blood sugar levels
Lower energy levels may be a sign your cat has hypoglycemia
If you suspect your cat is less active than usual, it may be time to ask your vet about a condition called hypoglycemia. Not to be confused with hyperglycemia, or increased blood sugar levels, hypoglycemia occurs when a cat has low blood sugar — and it’s often caused by a more serious underlying reason.
What causes hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia occurs when a cat’s blood sugar drops below 70, either because of decreased sugar production, increased utilization of sugars or increased loss of sugars. This is common in many animals and has a variety of different causes.
Dr. Kelly Diehl, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM (SAIM), a former vet and the senior scientific programs and communications adviser at Morris Animal Foundation, says that the most common causes of low blood sugar in cats include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Severe infections that enter the bloodstream (sepsis)
- Liver disease
- Insulin overdose
Neonatal or juvenile kittens are also more susceptible to low blood sugar due to poor appetite, inability to eat and/or lack of food, which is one of the reasons why it’s so important to take your new kitten to the vet to ensure they’re getting the proper nutrients.
Signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia in cats
Cats with hypoglycemia often appear extremely sleepy and disoriented. These signs may be even more obvious after exercise or play time.
“The signs of low blood sugar can include weakness, staggering and if the blood sugar is really low, seizures and death,” Dr. Diehl says, so consult your vet right away if you’re concerned about your cat’s change in behavior.
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How to check a cat's blood sugar
Your veterinarian can perform a quick blood test to determine your cat’s blood sugar level (the same way that they can for diabetic pets). The cat’s age, breed and sex will also be taken into consideration in determining whether or not they have hypoglycemia.
How to treat cats with hypoglycemia
Treatment for a cat with hypoglycemia will vary depending on the underlying causes. Often, treating the cause of hypoglycemia will normalize the blood sugar — but some pets will need to be hospitalized for intravenous therapy (IV) fluids that contain an extra sugar boost.
If you have a cat prone to hypoglycemic episodes, be sure to ask your vet for advice on regular at-home care.
“In the short term, you can orally administer a small amount of honey or Karo syrup to the gums with your vet’s permission,” Dr. Diehl says. “But it’s very important to seek veterinary care immediately, even if these steps are taken at home, and the cat or kitten seems to improve to address any underlying problems.”
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