Eclampsia is an acute, life-threatening disease caused by low calcium
levels (hypocalcemia) in dogs. Most
commonly seen in small to mid-sized bitches a few weeks after whelping, this
condition should be watched for closely.
The lactating animal is especially susceptible to blood
calcium depletion because of lactating. The bodies of some lactating dogs and
cats simply cannot keep up with the increased demands for this mineral that they
receive from their diet. Eclampsia is most commonly encountered 1-3 weeks after giving
birth, but it can occur anytime, even while pregnant. Litters do not
need to be large to cause eclampsia, but usually those bitches
producing a lot of milk are at a greater risk, as are dogs of
smaller breeds. The puppies themselves are not affected as the
mother’s milk appears to be normal during this period.
Nutrition - "Home brewed" diets usually are at fault. The owner
innocently may be adding too much unbalanced meat to the bitch's diet,
thinking the extra protein is beneficial. What's really happening is the
calcium to phosphorus ratio is out of balance because the amount of useful
calcium in the food is actually reduced! The ideal contains a ratio of
calcium to phosphorus of 1.2 to 1. (Many organ meats such as liver have
a ratio of calcium to phosphorus of 1 to 15!! Liver is great
for dogs but if it comprises a large part of the diet, the
calcium/phosphorus ratio of the diet will be improper.)
Excessive Milk Production - When pups require large amounts of milk (10 to 30 days post whelping) the bitch's ability to maintain proper amounts of calcium in her blood stream becomes stressed. Milk production has priority over the blood stream for calcium!
Muscle tremors, restlessness, panting, incoordination, grand mal seizures and fever as high as 105. Initially, the affected animal will be restless and nervous. Within a short time, she will walk with a stiff gait and may even wobble or appear disoriented. Eventually, the animal may be unable to walk and exhibit extreme leg rigidity. Body temperature may increase to over 105ºF and respiration rates will increase. At this point, death can occur if no treatment is given.
If you suspect eclampsia, seek veterinary attention at once and prevent the puppies from nursing for at least 24 hours. Supplement them with a commercial milk replacer. A veterinarian can confirm eclampsia with a blood test to determine blood calcium levels. Eclampsia can be rapidly corrected by your veterinarian through the use of intravenous calcium supplementation. The bitch is monitored carefully for heart rhythm irregularities which can occur. She will be continued on oral calcium supplements as needed. Because the level of calcium in the blood is reduced, replacement of calcium is essential. Without prompt treatment, the condition can be fatal. If she responds well to treatment, her young can gradually be allowed to nurse.
Prevention of eclampsia:
Once a female has had eclampsia (milk fever) during a lactation period, there is an excellent chance that it will repeat with future litters if preventative steps are not taken. Supplementation of dietary calcium does not seem to play a large role in preventing eclampsia. In fact, over-supplementation during pregnancy may actually cause it. All calcium supplements must be in the proper ratio with phosphorus. This ratio should be about 1:1 (i.e., 1 part calcium to 1 part phosphorus). In addition, it has been suggested that dog foods high in soybeans will be high in the plant product phytate. Phytates combine with calcium and can render the calcium unavailable to the bitch’s body, and therefore, make her more susceptible to eclampsia. High quality meat-based quality food but don't over supplement with all sorts of Calcium or unbalanced meat products
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