Causes of Eclampsia
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 whelping, nursing and raising a litter – especially for a young first-time mother – can reduce her appetite, thereby causing inadequate dietary calcium.
Although not proven to be 100% effective, there are several steps that owners of pregnant dogs can take to reduce the risk of eclampsia. First and foremost is to feed a complete, high-quality, highly digestible and nutritionally balanced diet, both during pregnancy and while the puppies are nursing. The mother should have free access to fresh, clean water and to food while she is lactating. If necessary, the pups can be removed from her for 30 minutes or so several times a day to give her some privacy and encourage her to eat. The owner can also supplement the puppies with a milk replacement formula to reduce the demands on the bitch.
Pregnant bitches on a complete, balanced diet should not need or be given oral calcium supplementation. While it may seem counterintuitive, giving extra calcium during pregnancy has been shown to increase, not decrease, the risk of puerperal hypocalcemia in female dogs.