Asymptomatic Hypoglycemia


Some animals are asymptomatic at very low bg values. This means they do not show any of the usual signs of hypoglycemia even though their bg is very low.  This can make diabetes management more difficult because you are not always aware of when your pet's blood glucose is too low and when less insulin should be given.
  • One Saturday afternoon, our cat Barney was sleeping on a chair.  He looked like he was taking his usual afternoon nap. Like a lot of other owners of diabetic pets, I often made sure I could wake Barney up from a nap - just to be sure he was sleeping, and not in a hypoglycemic crisis. I called his name and he looked at me, so I didn't suspect any problem with his bg being too low. We were doing bg tests that day, and about 15 minutes later his bg was less than 45 mg/dL (that's as low as the meter went). This is not considered a safe bg, and at this low level, I would have expected to see some obvious signs of hypoglycemia. I wanted to keep the bg from going lower, so I immediately made him get up and eat some of his food. He walked to his food bowl without any difficulty or wobbliness. We watched him very closely for the rest of the afternoon, and checked his bg every 30-60 minutes until it had risen to a more normal and safe range.  Had I not been doing the bg tests that day, I would have never suspected that Barney's bg was too low.  -- Donna
  • When Rusty's blood glucose is low, he shows absolutely none of the typical symptoms. He has been as low as 19 before without symptoms!  This is alarming to me because I believe that he could go from "just fine" to "comatose" in a very short period of time (and I hope I never find out!). We typically see a "low" day once every two to three weeks. To manage this situation, I have learned to do my best in predicting where his BGs will go in order to avoid these lows. At shot time, he is approaching his lowest BG (insulin peak), so his BG is tested before injection. Based on his BG I decide how many units to give.  He usually gets the same dose, but if I see his number is a little lower than normal, I decrease his dose and at times have skipped his shot altogether. My vet and I discussed this problem and the vet advised me on the number of units to give for some various BG ranges. Sometimes Rusty will stay on a reduced dose for several days and sometimes it is just one time - it depends on the BG at the next shot time. I suspect he has delayed insulin absorption at times, (which would explain his erratic lows) since all other things such as amount fed, time fed, etc. are constant.  This method of management is unique to Rusty.  Skipping shots or reducing doses seems to be what Rusty needs but can be very dangerous for other pets, especially if they are prone to ketoacidosis or have a history of somogyi. That is why styles of managing diabetes like this should always be discussed with your vet. -- Barb
  • Shortly after Cody was diagnosed with diabetes, I had a "feeling" that he was having low glucoses. This was before I was doing home blood monitoring so I had no concrete proof and there were really no symptoms at all other than my "feeling" that something was wrong. Cody seemed to be sleeping more but he would awake very easily. This was during the time where I was constantly waking him up to make sure he was alive--poor dog was probably also sleep deprived. I called Cody's vet at the university and he said that based on my description, he didn't think Cody was hypoglycemic. Also, Cody had just had a curve done two days ago and his glucose was not too low.  But the vet said that he always paid attention to the owners, because they knew their pet better than he did. Because of my concerns the vet wanted me to bring Cody in for an exam so he could see Cody for himself. When he saw Cody he was "certain" everything was fine because Cody was very active and playing in the waiting room. The vet wanted to draw at least one blood glucose because he felt I knew Cody best, and if I felt there might be a problem with the glucoses then it warranted at least one test to prove that everything was fine. Well the outcome was that he ended up keeping Cody all day because his glucose was very low, and his glucoses didn't rise above 50's until late afternoon! --- Brenda


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Updated October 2000
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