What is Eclampsia ?
Eclampsia in cats is a sudden onset of potentially life-threatening hypocalcemia. Eclampsia is caused by the transfer of circulating calcium in the blood, suddenly transferred into the mother’s milk during lactation. Insufficient nutrition consumed by the female during pregnancy is the standard cause for hypocalcemia, but large litters of kittens can also be linked to the condition. Calcium is not only lost during lactation, but during pregnancy as fetal growth requires a substantial sacrifice of blood calcium from the mother. Eclampsia often occurs approximately four weeks after the queen has delivered, displaying clinical neuromuscular signs associated with depleted blood calcium levels. Eclampsia progresses quickly and must be treated within 12 hours of clinical symptoms, or death is likely. However, eclampsia is a temporary condition for those felines that were diagnosed and sought immediate treatment.
Eclampsia in cats is a life-threatening condition, characterized by dangerously depleted blood calcium levels that lead to hypocalcaemia. Eclampsia, also known as puerperal tetany or milk fever, is a common condition of nursing queens as blood calcium levels are lost during lactation. Feline mothers that are not fed a significant diet to meet the nutritional needs to support offspring, often develop the condition with a month after delivery. Anorexia, restlessness, and aggression are the initial signs of eclampsia, which soon progress to neuromuscular irritability. Eclampsia in cats can quickly lead to death, therefore, this condition of hypocalcemia should be treated as an emergency situation.
Symptoms of Eclampsia in Cats
The initial symptoms of eclampsia in cats are subtle at first, as cat owners may notice slight behavioral changes in the feline. The mother may begin to move stiffly, become restless and pant excessively. As the calcium levels drop further, the affected feline will display clinical symptoms including:
- High fever
- Increased respiratory rate
- Muscle spasms
- Neuromuscular irritability
Causes of Eclampsia in Cats
Eclampsia in cats is a condition of pregnant or nursing felines. The condition is commonly seen approximately four weeks after giving birth, but can occur any time before or after a month’s time. Common causes of eclampsia in felines include:
- Lactation, the production of milk, sourcing the blood calcium to be delivered to the nursing kittens
- Poor nutritional absorption through the digestive system, eliminating the calcium mineral rather than captivating it
- Insufficient diet consumed by the pregnant or lactating queen
- Pregnancy, as a substantial sacrifice of blood calcium is required to support fetal development.
- Large litters of kittens, as the mother must lactate in great volume to support the needs of her offspring.
Diagnosis of Eclampsia in Cats
Eclampsia in cats is an emergency situation that quickly progresses to death, therefore, veterinary professionals are trained to detect the clinical signs. The behavior your cat is displaying will be the initial diagnostic test, known as a physical examination. The feline doctor will want to review your cat’s medical record to reveal any allergies, drug reactions, and past illnesses to have a diagnostic baseline. Expect your veterinarian to ask you several questions about the feline including her symptoms, a time frame of clinical signs, and the date which she gave birth. To obtain a direct diagnosis, a biochemistry profile will likely be requested to reveal hypocalcemia in the cat’s blood.
Treatment of Eclampsia in Cats
Eclampsia in cats must be treated immediately, as the end prognosis for this feline condition becomes greatly negative after 12 hours of clinical signs. The standard treatment for felines with eclampsia is slow administration of calcium gluconate. The supplement is administered intravenously, directly into the blood, which requires careful monitoring to ensure the feline is not given too much calcium at once. If your cat is seizing or has developed muscle spasms, the veterinarian will address the condition with medication until the feline remains stable.
- Immediate intravenous drug therapy infusion with calcium gluconate supplementation
- Administration of vitamin D, as this essential vitamin aids in the body’s absorption of calcium.
- Anti-seizure medication to control tetany and seizures
Once the feline is stable, the doctor may advise a change in the feline’s diet and prescribe calcium supplement tablets to be given at home.
Recovery of Eclampsia in Cats
If your cat has been diagnosed and treated for her eclampsia in a timely manner, a full, rapid recovery is expected. Your veterinarian will likely send oral calcium supplement pills home with you after she is released from the hospital and instruct you on how to safely wean the nursing kittens from the mother. Follow-up appointments are to be expected as the doctor will want to make an evaluation of the feline and her newly added vitamin supplementation.