Canine Eclampsia

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Canine eclampsia


Hypocalcemia (Milk Fever, Eclampsia, puerpural tetany)
is a
startling and dangerous condition brought on by extremely
low levels of calcium in the blood stre
am. The
presence of a vet is very urgent if you want to save the
animal’s life.

The exact cause is unknown, but the condition is
related to an imbalance between calcium uptake from the
digestive tract and calcium outflow in milk, urine, and
feces. It is most often seen in bitches with small litter
and excessive milk production. The bodies of some lactating
dogs and cats simply cannot keep up with the increased
demands for calcium. Highest
incidence is with the first litter.
Animals with
milk fever lack the ability to quickly move calcium into
their milk without depleting their own blood levels of this
mineral. Possibly
eclampsia is worsened by use of calcium supplements during


Signs of hypocalcemia include neuromuscular excitability
and grand mal convulsions. It causes seizures, staggering,
convulsions, muscle tremors, restlessness, high body
temperature and excessive panting; it can be fatal if not
treated promptly with injections of calcium. Your
veterinarian will also prescribe oral supplementation with
calcium and will recommend an appropriate diet of high
quality adult dog food to prevent recurrence. The puppies
should not be allowed to nurse the mother for 24 hours
after emergency care; they should be hand fed a puppy or
kitten milk replacement forumula until they can resume

Eventually, the dog may be unable to walk and her legs may
become stiff or rigid. The dog may have a fever, with body
temperature even over 105º F. The respiration rate (number
of breaths per minute) will increase. At this point, death
can occur if no treatment is given.


Dogs with eclampsia usually require immediate emergency
care. Treatment usually includes:

• Intravenous calcium (calcium gluconate) given very slowly

• An intravenous or oral dextrose solution to increase
blood sugar

• Anti-seizure drugs (e.g. Valium®) if seizures are
unresponsive to calcium and dextrose

• Cooling of patients with severely elevated body

• Removal and hand raising of all puppies

• Oral calcium supplementation when the patient is stable

• Oral vitamin D supplementation to increase the absorption
of calcium in the intestines


The best way to prevent eclampsia is to avoid calcium
supplementation during pregnancy and to feed the pregnant
bitch a well-balanced, good quality food. Supplementation
of the bitch with calcium may be helpful once the puppies
are delivered and are beginning to nurse. Supplemental
feeding of the puppies may also be beneficial, especially
for large litters.

Once a dog has had milk fever, there is an excellent chance
that she will also have it with future litters if
preventive steps are not taken. Be sure to work closely
with your veterinarian if your dog has had eclampsia in the
past and is pregnant again.

In conclusion, it is of great importance for owners of
pregnant or nursing dogs to be able to recognize the signs
of eclampsia. If you feel your female dog is showing these
signs, remove the pups to prevent further nursing and seek
veterinary assistance at once.