Eclampsia is a metabolic disorder of pregnant female dogs that is caused by a calcium deficiency.
Symptoms of eclampsia can occur shortly before, during or after birth. The most common time for symptoms to arise is within the first few days of lactation. Small breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers or Poodles are particularly often affected by this disease. When suffering from eclampsia, dogs are noticeably restless and irritated. Light muscle trembles and contractions are also often present. Severe forms can cause seizures, collapses, and to cause animals to enter into comatose states. The disease is considered life threatening, and if untreated it may cause heart failure and lead to death by exhaustion.
During pregnancy the amount of calcium required for your dog increases. Calcium is needed for the development of the skeletal structure of the puppies, and later for muscle stimulation during birth, and for the production of milk. A calcium shortage will develop if your dog’s diet during pregnancy doesn’t contain enough calcium. Around the time of birth another spike in calcium usage occurs, which is mainly caused by the beginning of milk production. If the calcium level of the blood drops below a critical value, the animal starts to show the aforementioned symptoms. The heart is especially at risk since it needs large amounts of calcium for the stimulation and the regulation of the animal’s heartbeat. A very difficult birth or an elevated stress level during pregnancy are the main risk factors for eclampsia.
An examination of your dog’s medical history is generally sufficient in order to diagnose eclampsia. An in depth examination can answer the question if other diseases are causing the symptoms. Affected female dogs have to be treated immediately with a calcium solution. After treatment, cramps, seizures and other deficiencies mostly subside immediately.
Eclampsia can be prevented by providing female dogs with an appropriate diet during pregnancy. High-quality ready-made animal food that is made for pregnant female dogs generally provide for the increased calcium need. Smaller and stress prone breeds should be observed especially closely. Your veterinarian can assist you in preparing an appropriate diet for your dog.