What is eclampsia?
Eclampsia (hypocalcemia or puerperal tetany) is an emergency medical condition associated with a life-threatening drop in blood calcium levels that occurs in nursing mothers. Eclampsia occurs most commonly when the puppies are one to five weeks of age and the mother is producing the most milk. Eclampsia is not due to an overall lack of calcium; it merely indicates that the nursing female cannot mobilize sufficient supplies of stored calcium quickly enough to meet her metabolic needs. Females that are particularly good mothers, especially attentive to their puppies, seem to be more likely to develop eclampsia.
Signs of eclampsia include tremors, weakness and a form of paralysis called puerperal tetany characterized by stiff limbs and an inability to stand or walk. Eclampsia is considered an immediate emergency and medical attention should be sought.
I understand that eclampsia is a very serious condition. How can I tell if it is starting?
Eclampsia is a true medical emergency and you must contact us immediately if you think the mother is in trouble. The signs are initially subtle. The female may be restless or panting a lot, and you may notice that she is moving stiffly. This soon progresses to muscle spasms affecting the whole body, which can quickly progress to convulsing. Other affected nursing dogs may become disoriented, aggressive, have a high fever, and become restless and pace excessively.
Eclampsia is considered an immediate emergency and medical attention should be sought.
If you suspect eclampsia is developing, prevent the pups from suckling and contact your veterinarian immediately. Clinical signs of eclampsia become evident in dogs when their total calcium levels drop below 8.0 mg/dL (0.45 mmol/L).
How is eclampsia treated?
Treatment involves immediate intravenous injections of calcium and other drugs. Intravenous calcium must be administered very carefully and slowly. Some dogs will require anti-seizure drugs to control seizures and tetany. Oral calcium supplements and weaning the puppies as quickly as possible are typically required for follow-up care. If diagnosed and treated promptly, recovery from eclampsia is usually rapid and complete.
How can I prevent eclampsia?
Calcium supplementation or feeding cottage cheese in pregnant and nursing dogs is not generally recommended. Excessive calcium intake during pregnancy or nursing can suppress parathyroid hormone production and actually increase the risk of developing low blood calcium levels or eclampsia.
Supplementing with calcium during pregnancy or nursing is not generally recommended
All pregnant dogs should be fed a high-quality diet formulated for pregnant and nursing mothers that is rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Supplementing the diet with omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil is recommended but will not help reduce the risk of eclampsia.
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