Eclampsia in Dogs

Eclampsia is a potentially life-threatening disease that occurs in breeding and nursing dogs. Over the years, it has also been coined with the term “milk fever,” mainly because the symptoms of eclampsia are related to lactation issues in breeding females. Because the side effects of eclampsia in dogs can be serious, it is important for dog owners to understand what eclampsia is and how to detect it.

Overview of Eclampsia in Dogs

Eclampsia in dogs, also known as hypocalcemia, is a condition in which there is an insufficient amount of calcium being carried through the blood. This can occur as the result of the female dog being pregnant, wherein the puppies in utero claim too much of the total supply of calcium and leave the mother insufficiently compensated, or as the result of feeding, wherein the puppies absorb calcium from the mother’s milk and the female dog’s body cannot replace the calcium quickly enough. In either of these cases, the female dog develops low blood calcium, and an array of serious medical symptoms then develop.

Eclampsia Causes and Predispositions

Sometimes eclampsia in dogs can develop due to poor nutritional habits during pregnancy. Because the female dog’s body is supplying nutrition and sustenance for her puppies, a well-balanced, nutritional diet is essential to producing a healthy litter and limiting the complications of pregnancy in the female dog.

Eclampsia in dogs appears to be more common with the first litter, wherein sometimes the female’s body does not balance the body’s systems as well initially. Sometimes thyroid hormone deficiencies can also cause a lack of calcium during canine pregnancy. When the thyroid hormone is underactive, it can cause a delay in the amount calcium released from the bones into the bloodstream, which causes eclampsia to develop.

Veterinary research also indicates that there may be a genetic component for eclampsia in dogs. While females carrying larger litter sizes remain the most commonly affected by eclampsia, smaller dog breeds such as the Dachshund, Miniature Poodle and Chihuahua appear to have higher rates of occurrence than other dog breeds, which suggests that they may carry a genetic predisposition to the condition.

Eclampsia Signs and Symptoms

When eclampsia in dogs is suspected, it is crucial that medical attention be sought immediately. This medical condition is not likely to affect the condition of the pups, but it can be disastrous for the female dog, so dog owners must be aware of how to identify the symptoms of eclampsia. Signs and symptoms generally include:

  • Tonic-clonic seizures (convulsive contractions which limit movement)
  • Elevated temperature
  • Rapid breathing or panting
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Stiffening of the muscles and joints

When the symptoms of eclampsia in dogs become severe, there is the possibility for coma to develop, so dog owners should always take heed of these symptoms at first notice.

Methods of Treatment

Saving the female dog’s life from eclampsia will depend on immediate medical intervention. In general, the female dog will be put on intravenous calcium to help raise the blood calcium levels. In the meantime, all puppies must be immediately taken off of mother’s breastmilk and started on a hand-feeding regimen. Even after the female dog is stable, this will be the protocol for ensuring that the eclampsia does not recur.