Calcium plays a vital role in dogs that have just delivered a litter of healthy puppies. In some cases, when the litter is large, or if the new mom belongs to a toy breed, calcium may become scarce, causing a serious condition called eclampsia, also known as Canine Hypocalcemia or Milk fever.
Symptoms of Canine Hypocalcemia
A dog affected by Eclampsia usually had the litter 2-4 weeks ago. However, sometimes the symptoms of hypocalcemia -low calcium in the blood- can take place even after 6 weeks. A dog affected by eclampsia will exhibit some warning symptoms to which an owner must pay immediate attention. Often eclampsia may be confused with a case of seizures. Below are warning symptoms suggesting eclampsia:
- Pain during walking
- Refusal to nurse
- Rapid breathing
- Pale mucous membranes
- Tightening of facial muscles
- High temperature
- Low blood sugar
- Muscle twitches
- Eye twitching
Treatment of Canine Hypocalcemia
Eclampsia is an emergency. Have your dog seen at once. Upon taking a blood sample, a diagnosis of low calcium in the blood can be made. Intravenous calcium will be given slowly under the form of calcium gluconate to avoid heart arrythmias. Dextrose to raise glucose levels can be given orally or by Intravenous injection. Anti- seizure medications are given to stop the muscle spasms. Because intense seizures can raise a dog’s temperature, the dog’s temperature must be bought down to normal.
Often, the bitch’s symptoms subside shortly after treatment. The puppies may need to be hand raised during treatment. Once stabilized, calcium may be given orally along with vitamin D to ensure proper absorption. Once the mother has recovered and has been put on calcium supplements, the puppies can be returned to the bitch and allowed to nurse normally.
Prevention of Canine Hypocalcemia
As odd as it may seem, calcium over-supplementation during pregnancy may do more harm than good. The reason behind this is how calcium is produced. Calcium is constantly produced by adding and taking away from bones as needed. This production is established by the parathyroid hormone. When calcium is over supplemented, the body will automatically reduce production of parathyroid hormones. Then once, the puppies are delivered, the parathyroid hormone is not prepared to suddenly produce high quantities of calcium which takes some time to take away from the bones. The dog therefore, is left with little calcium which is further depleted by the puppies nursing.
Therefore, it is best to keep a careful eye on the calcium supplementation or simply refrain from supplementing during pregnancy by only providing calcium once the puppies are delivered.
Providing a good high quality meat based food to pregnant bitches is usually the best course of action. Always discuss with a veterinarian about supplementing calcium and learn about what the best options are. After delivering a healthy litter of puppies nothing is more devastating than the mother getting sick. Play it safe by consulting with a veterinarian on how you can prevent eclampsia.