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What is Eclampsia?

Eclampsia (also referred to as milk fever and hypocalcemia) refers to a drop in calcium levels of the blood in nursing mother dogs. This is caused when the parathyroid gland (the gland responsible for controlling calcium levels) is not active enough. It most commonly occurs one to five weeks after giving birth, which is a peak in the lactation cycle. In some cases, eclampsia can occur during birth, giving way to possible complications. Eclampsia is such a problem in nursing mothers because the body is unable to keep up with the calcium being taken from the mother’s body to provide for the young. This condition is more commonly seen when there is a large litter. It is also more likely in small breeds, specifically affecting English setters, Italian Spinone, Chihuahuas, Miniature Pinschers, Shih-Tzus, miniature poodles, and Mexican hairless dogs, though the can condition can develop for any dog.

Eclampsia is a condition in nursing mothers where calcium levels in the bloodstream drop. While eclampsia is most common after giving birth, it can also occur before birth and while giving birth. Eclampsia is caused when there is more calcium being taken through the lactation process than the mother has in her body and is receiving through her diet. This is typically caused by poor diet and large litters. Some signs include tremors, weakness, hyperthermia, and others, up to and including death. Eclampsia is treated by IV administration of calcium; signs may require separate treatment as well.

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Eclampsia Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $350 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,500

Symptoms of Eclampsia in Dogs

Eclampsia is an emergency condition and animals that exhibit signs should be relieved from nursing, and the veterinarian contacted immediately. Signs vary depending on the severity of the condition.

  • Tremors
  • Weakness
  • Puerperal Tetany – a form of paralysis associated with eclampsia in which the dog has stiff limbs and struggles to stand or walk
  • Panting
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Changes in the way they move
  • Changes in behavior
  • Salivation
  • Sensitivity
  • Confusion
  • Hyperthermia – increased body temperature
  • Seizures, which can lead to cerebral edema (swelling of the brain caused by excess fluid)
  • Tachycardia – an abnormally rapid heart rate
  • Polyuria – excessive urination
  • Polydipsia – excessive thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Coma
  • Death
Types

While eclampsia normally occurs after the dog has given birth, it is possible for the condition to develop at different stages in the pregnancy:

  • Prepartum

    - Symptoms of eclampsia may begin to appear before birthing occurs. Mild eclampsia may reduce the effectiveness of myometrial contractions, which in turn induces uterine contractions.

  • Parturition

    - It is possible for signs of eclampsia to appear during the actual birthing process. If the eclampsia is mild in severity, it may slow the labor’s progression without exhibiting any other signs.

  • Postpartum

    - Postpartum eclampsia is most common in the first five weeks after birth, when lactation is at its peak. This is because the mother’s body is unable to keep up with the calcium it is providing to the offspring.

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Causes of Eclampsia in Dogs

Eclampsia is most common in smaller breeds of dogs and instances where there is a large litter, or the puppies are larger. Eclampsia is ultimately caused by the mother giving out more calcium through the lactation cycle than she has in her body. Possible reasons to this calcium deficit include:

  • Loss of calcium from the mother’s body into the milk used to nurse the young
  • Insufficient calcium quantities in the diet
  • Greater demands for lactation caused by larger puppies or a large litter, especially if the mother is smaller in size
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Diagnosis of Eclampsia in Dogs

Any historical data that you can provide your veterinarian leading up to the onset of the signs can aid in diagnosis. In addition to listening to the insight you have to offer, your veterinarian will likely look at the following to come to a conclusion:

  • Physical exam
  • Serum chemistry profile
  • Test of pretreatment total serum calcium concentration, which is verified by a blood test. If your dog has a concentration less than 7 mg/dL, an eclampsia diagnosis can be confirmed.
  • Electrocardiogram

Your veterinarian will also want to rule out other conditions that could cause signs similar to eclampsia. These include:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), conditions caused by poisons/toxins, and neurological disorders that may cause seizures
  • Metritis (inflamed uterine wall) and mastitis (inflamed mammary gland), which may cause irritability and increased body temperature
  • Hypoparathyroidism (deficit of parathyroid hormone in the blood), in instances where there are small amounts of serum PTH
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Treatment of Eclampsia in Dogs

  • IV calcium treatment will begin immediately (this must be done slowly to avoid toxicity). After 15 to 20 minutes, rapid improvement in symptoms typically occurs, as well as almost immediate relaxation of the muscles.
  • Monitoring of heart rate during calcium administration by means of auscultation (listening with a stethoscope) or electrocardiogram so that any bradycardia (slow heart activity) or arrhythmias (irregular heart beat) are caught.
  • Anti-seizure drugs, in some dogs
  • Treatment for cerebral edema increased body temperature, and low blood sugar will be completed if these symptoms are present. In cases where cerebral edema occurs, it is possible that the dog will be unresponsive after treatment for eclampsia has concluded.
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Recovery of Eclampsia in Dogs

Post-treatment recovery and management is dependent on the severity of the condition and other signs present. The affected mother should not nurse her puppies for 12 to 24 hours after treatment. During this time, the offspring should be provided a milk substitute or other appropriate nutritional replacements. If the offspring are old enough to be weaned, they should be.

If the mother returns to nursing and muscle spasms or other signs return, the litter should no longer nurse from the mother. If they are under four weeks, they will need to be provided milk supplements or other appropriate nutritional replacements. If the litter is over four weeks, they may be able to be weaned from the mother. The dog will be provided oral calcium supplements for the remainder of the lactation cycle. Other therapies for improvement and maintenance include oral vitamin D and calcium supplementation, which will take 1-4 days to show any change. Postpartum eclampsia is likely to recur with future pregnancies though the following preventative steps can be taken: nutritionally balanced and appropriate diet through pregnancy and lactation, feeding and watering as often as desired during lactation, supplementing lactation with milk replacer early on and solid food after 3 to 4 weeks.

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Eclampsia Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $350 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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Eclampsia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Chihuahua

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking Stiffness

My dog had pups for first time she has had a seizure and trying to now please help me my daughter died last Friday nite I'm broke loosening all I got and izabella is all I have now please please call me now help me someone please

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, I cannot help her over an email, and she should see a veterinarian right away. She may be having a problem with her Calcium levels, or there may be something else causing this to happen. Having her seen by a veterinarian may not be as expensive as you think, and starting with an examination will give you an idea as to what might be going on. I hope that she is okay.

Sept. 30, 2020

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Pomchi

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting Two Days After Birth.Poor Appetite

What can I do at home?

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I do not think that there is anything that you can do at home, as I'm not sure why your dog is vomiting and not eating. There could be a number of reasons, including parasites, low blood sugar, low calcium, intestinal infection, for a retained puppy or placenta. It would be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her and see what might be going on. I hope that she is okay.

Oct. 3, 2020

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Eclampsia Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $350 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,500

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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