If your kitty has hypoglycemia, it means her blood sugar has dropped so low she is having neurological symptoms because her brain isn't getting enough fuel. Hypoglycemia is a symptom, not a disease, and is almost always related to diabetes. But even if your cat isn't diabetic, hypoglycemia in a kitty is always a medical emergency.
Your non-diabetic cat can have an episode of hypoglycemia if she has an insulin spike. The most common cause of natural insulin spikes is excessive vomiting following a meal. Your kitty's pancreas naturally releases insulin at mealtime to break down her food. When the food comes back up, the excess insulin causes a sudden blood glucose drop. In this case, you'll have to find and treat the cause of vomiting after you stabilize her blood sugar levels.
Anorexia doesn't mean your kitty's starving herself to fit into that prom dress. In animals, anorexia refers to any refusal to eat for a prolonged period, regardless of the cause. Parasites, bacterial and viral infections, tumors, organ diseases, pain and stress can all cause anorexia.
Hypoglycemia can result directly from your kitty's anorexia -- her body simply uses up all its fuel -- or it can be the result of anorexia-induced liver damage. Loss of fuel kills off liver cells, which screws up blood insulin levels, resulting in screwed up levels of glucose.
Infections and Tumors
Liver and pancreas diseases are major culprits when it comes to hypoglycemia in non-diabetic cats. Any infection or toxin-related damage to these organs can cause an insulin spike and glucose plummet. If your kitty has been accidentally exposed to any poisons or a medication overdose right before a hypoglycemic episode, suspect liver damage. If she's vomiting bile (yellow or green slime), suspect pancreatitis. Certain types of tumors can also make the pancreas secrete excessive amounts of insulin.
Signs and First Aid
Basically, hypoglycemia starts out looking like a tummy problem as Kitty experiences excessive hunger. Then it looks like any generic illness with symptoms of lethargy and extreme tiredness, but progresses into a neurological problem categorized by dizziness, loss of balance, head shaking, disorientation, vision problems, behavioral changes, convulsions and loss of consciousness. Once symptoms are obvious, hypoglycemia is a medical emergency -- and every cause of hypoglycemia in a non-diabetic cat qualifies as a medical emergency, as well.
First aid for hypoglycemia requires refueling your cat by getting her to eat or administering glucose. If your cat eats and immediately recovers, breathe a sigh of relief and call your vet for the next available appointment. Chances are high, though, that if your cat has hypoglycemic symptoms, she doesn't have enough fuel left to eat and digest food. If she can't or won't eat, administer glucose by rubbing corn syrup, maple syrup or honey onto her gums (cats can't digest regular table sugar) and get her to a veterinarian immediately.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.