Eclampsia in Dogs
Definition of Eclampsia
Eclampsia, also called postpartum hypocalcemia, or “milk fever,” is a life-threatening condition that occurs in lactating females due to low levels of calcium in their blood. What causes eclampsia isn’t well-understood, but certainly it is associated with the heavy loss of maternal calcium into developing fetal skeletons during pregnancy and into milk during lactation. Eclampsia usually happens within a few weeks of whelping, while the bitch is actively nursing her puppies. Small dogs that give birth to large litters have an increased chance of developing this disorder. Owners should always feed a high-quality, palatable, highly digestible and nutritionally balanced diet; pregnant bitches fed correctly should not need calcium supplementation. The symptoms of eclampsia come on suddenly and progress quickly. The female becomes restless, anxious and disoriented. She may pant, drool, vomit, whine and pace. She will develop muscle spasms, convulsions, respiratory difficulties, heart problems and seizures. She will die without treatment.
The signs of eclampsia are a direct result of low blood calcium concentrations (hypocalcemia). The precise reasons for the hypocalcemia are not well understood, but they are somehow connected with the heavy loss of maternal calcium into the developing fetal skeletons during pregnancy and then into the milk during lactation. Poor nutrition during pregnancy, poor utilization by the bitch of dietary calcium and/or inappropriate calcium or other supplementation, may also contribute. The stresses of
The symptoms of eclampsia come on suddenly and progress quickly in a healthy, lactating bitch with a thriving litter. The symptoms can be subtle at first and resemble those seen before whelping, including:If eclampsia is not treated immediately, it will become life-threatening. Respiration eventually becomes compromised, heart arrhythmias develop and the bitch’s condition deteriorates to seizures, paralysis, coma and death.Eclampsia is diagnosed most frequently in young, small-breed dogs that have given birth to large litters
Any postpartum bitch presenting with tremors, muscle spasms, disorientation, stiffness and lack coordination during a period of heavy lactation should be presumed to be suffering from eclampsia. Eclampsia can be confirmed by measuring the concentration of calcium in the dog’s blood; if she has eclampsia, her circulating calcium levels will be abnormally low. Perhaps the best and most frequently used diagnostic tool is assessing the bitch’s response to intravenous calcium replacement therapy. Most veterinarians will
Eclampsia is an emergency. It can rapidly become life-threatening in postpartum dogs and requires immediate medical attention. While eclampsia is most commonly seen in small-breed bitches within a few weeks of whelping a relatively large litter, it can happen to any size or breed of dog with nursing puppies. The goal of treatment is to return blood calcium levels to normal through intravenous calcium supplementation.Treatment of eclampsia should start immediately based upon clinical signs,