Eclampsia Symptoms in Dogs

Eclampsia is especially common in dogs nursing their first litters.
Eclampsia is especially common in dogs nursing their first litters. (Image: cynoclub/iStock/Getty Images)

If your lactating dog becomes overtly fidgety and nervous, and then begins to move stiffly, eclampsia could be the cause. This blood calcium deficiency can be fatal to dogs, so don't dismiss the symptoms. "Puerperal tetany," "postpartum hypocalcemia" and "milk fever" are other common names for eclampsia, an urgent medical condition

Eclampsia Background

When nursing dogs have inadequate amounts of blood calcium, they have eclampsia, an acute ailment. A lactating mother is particularly prone to blood calcium exhaustion due to her body's milk manufacturing demands; if she has a tough time accommodating her growing calcium requirements, eclampsia becomes a serious risk. Dogs who develop eclampsia frequently have insufficient calcium consumption in their diets. Eclampsia tends to happen when litters are between 1 week and 5 weeks old. This is when mother dogs' milk output is at its highest.

Common Eclampsia Symptoms

Identification of eclampsia symptoms is usually straightforward and simple. The condition's signs often emerge abruptly and worsen rapidly. The symptoms often seem mild in the beginning. They can often even be similar to the symptoms dogs exhibit prior to giving birth.

When a dog has eclampsia, she appears anxious and restless in the beginning. She might begin panting. After a little time passes, she may start walking in a rigid manner. She might shiver as if she's cold. You might notice her teetering and wobbling. She might appear to be in a daze; as if she's having difficulty going in a defined direction. Dogs with eclampsia often lose the ability to walk entirely. When the condition gets to a severe point, dogs often experience speedier respiration rates, fever, coma, paralysis and seizures. Without prompt veterinary care, eclampsia can kill.

Suspect eclampsia if a dog seems to be ignoring her maternal duties and not caring for her young properly. Other key signs are itching of the face, sound sensitivity, light sensitivity, pupil dilation, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle tremors and whining. Dogs with eclampsia are often extremely stressed. Although stress is typical for busy nursing dogs, dogs with eclampsia often show their frustration by losing their appetites.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Swift veterinary treatment of eclampsia is absolutely crucial. Veterinarians generally check for eclampsia by conducting blood tests. If it turns out your pet does have the condition, the veterinarian might promptly give her intravenous calcium injections. If the dog experiences seizures, the vet will likely give anti-seizure medication.

Vets handle this process in a gradual and cautious manner. The point is to bring back prior healthy levels of blood calcium. Dogs who cannot make adequate calcium by themselves must take calcium supplements for a period of time after undergoing treatment. With swift and appropriate treatment, eclampsia recovery is usually rapid and complete.

Susceptible Dogs

Some dogs are particularly vulnerable to eclampsia. Dogs with especially strong maternal skills have higher chances of getting eclampsia. Easily excited small dogs are more vulnerable -- a nursing toy breed, such as a Chihuahua for example, is at greater risk of eclampsia than a larger nursing dog. Miniature pinschers, Pomeranians, shih tzus and Mexican hairless dogs are just a few of the many tiny breeds whose nursing females are at risk of eclampsia.

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