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Eclampsia and Blood Calcium Levels in Dogs

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Eclampsia is a life-threatening disease of nursing bitches caused by poor nutrition, excessive calcium supplementation, and excessive demand for calcium during lactation.
  • Symptoms of eclampsia include fever, dilated pupils, restlessness and nervousness, poor maternal care, panting and/or rapid heavy breathing, disorientation, vomiting and/or diarrhea, clumsiness and/or stiffness, convulsion and/or muscle tremors, constant scratching on the face, and lying down with a rigid paw extended.
  • Oral calcium supplementation increases the risk of eclampsia in the pregnant bitch, while poor nutrition during pregnancy puts the mother at a high risk of developing this disease and leads to birthing or nursing issues.
  • Diagnosis of eclampsia should be done early and accurately through monitoring the dog's behavior, health history, and standard tests such as electrolyte panel, complete blood count, and chemical blood profile.
  • Treatment of eclampsia includes intravenous calcium, stopping the dog from nursing, and regulating calcium supplement intake until the dog is capable of producing the element herself.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Saturday 1 July 2017
Last updated on
Wednesday 24 May 2023
eclampsia in dogs
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Eclampsia, commonly known as ‘milk fever,’ is a dangerous disease that affects nursing dogs. It is caused by a range of factors such as poor nutrition, excessive calcium supplementation, and an increased demand for calcium during lactation. This condition is more likely to occur when the litter is one to four weeks old and nursing heavily.

Dogs with an underactive parathyroid gland are also at risk of developing eclampsia. This gland is responsible for regulating calcium storage in the bones. When a mother dog starts to lactate, the demand for calcium increases, and the parathyroid gland is unable to meet this increased demand, which can lead to eclampsia in nursing bitches.

To sum up, eclampsia is a severe condition that can be life-threatening for nursing dogs. It is caused by various factors, including an increased demand for calcium during lactation, poor nutrition, and excessive calcium supplementation. Dogs with an underactive parathyroid gland are also at risk of developing this condition. Therefore, it is essential to provide adequate nutrition and veterinary care to nursing dogs to prevent this condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Eclampsia

Eclampsia can lead to death. Thus, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of the disorder before it gets worse. Luckily, it is quite easy to recognize the signs on its onset.


Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Fever
  • Dilated pupils
  • Restlessness and nervousness
  • Poor maternal care
  • Panting and/or rapid heavy breathing
  • Disorientation
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Clumsiness and/or stiffness
  • Convulsion and/or muscle tremors
  • Constant scratching on the face
  • Lying down with rigid paw extended

If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, it is important to take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. By recognizing the signs early, you can help prevent serious health complications for your pet.

Causes Of Eclampsia

There is a misconception that pregnant bitches should be given calcium supplements during pregnancy to prevent eclampsia. In fact, oral calcium supplementation increases the risk of eclampsia in the pregnant bitch. Studies show that unnecessary calcium supplementation induces dystocia, eclampsia, soft tissue calcification, and gastric dilation in newborn puppies. This is because excessive calcium intake suppresses parathyroid hormone production, causing downregulation of the calcium regulatory system. So, when your bitch’s calcium demand is highest, typically when her puppies are one to four weeks old, clinical hypocalcemia can occur.

Moreover, poor nutrition during pregnancy puts the mother at high risk of developing eclampsia, and a complete and balanced diet formulated for growth and development should be given, especially during the third trimester. It’s also essential to provide multiple small meals throughout the day to maintain optimum nutrient and calorie intake.

To prevent hypocalcemia during lactation, it is crucial to provide a proper calcium-to-phosphorus ratio diet. Small breeds with large litters and first-time mothers of any breed are at higher risk, so close supervision is necessary to prevent problems.

Overall, it’s important to provide proper nutrition during pregnancy and lactation to prevent eclampsia and other issues. Providing a complete and balanced diet, multiple small meals throughout the day, and close supervision of the mother will help keep her healthy and ensure the health of her puppies

how to prevent eclampsia in dogs
Eclampsia in dogs after whelping can be prevented using an adequate diet (calcium:phosphorus ratio of 1:2) and by avoiding too much supplementation in calcium.

Diagnosis of Eclampsia in Dogs

It is crucial for dog owners to monitor the new mother’s behavior in the first few weeks after giving birth. Initially, the signs and symptoms seem subtle without any cause for concern. However, if you notice the mother being restless or moving stiffly, you must contact your veterinarian to rule out any other possible serious problems or to stop the disease from progressing. Signs such as panting and restlessness may eventually progress to spasms throughout the body or convulsion. Some nursing dogs at this stage may get aggressive or disoriented with high fever; some may also neglect their whelps so you would be required to step in to rear the litter of puppies.

Of course, prevention is better than cure. You want to monitor the dog’s health before the onset of the disease. This is why pregnancy supplements together with a healthy diet should be a priority even at the early stages of conception. This also means you have to take note of your dog’s health history leading to the first signs of symptoms if they do develop. You also want to discuss in detail with your veterinarian about the health supplements and the diet you have given your dog before the signs start to occur.

An accurate diagnosis will depend on your account of the dog’s health history. Standard tests including electrolyte panel, complete blood count, and chemical blood profile should be expected as well. The electrolyte panel will verify the total serum calcium in the blood. Concentration of below 7mg/dL confirms a dog’s eclampsia.

Aside from low levels of calcium, most dogs may also suffer from low magnesium and sugar levels in the blood. Your veterinarian may also provide your dog with adequate supplementation to make up for these deficiencies. As much as possible, you want the disease to be evaluated and diagnosed as early as possible. Early detection and diagnosis may spell the difference between life and death for your dog.

Treatment of Dog Eclampsia

Eclampsia is a serious condition that can be life-threatening for dogs, but it can be treated if detected early. If you notice any symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. Treatment may vary depending on the severity of the condition.

If your dog has a high fever, the veterinarian may recommend using a fan and cool water to help lower their body temperature. Intravenous calcium may also be administered to bring their calcium levels back to a safe range. The veterinarian will monitor your dog’s calcium levels to ensure that they remain stable.

In some cases, the puppies may need to be hand-fed while the mother’s calcium levels are stabilized. It is important to work closely with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your pet.

If you choose to allow the puppies to continue nursing, your veterinarian will monitor your dog’s calcium levels closely. Some mothers may be able to produce enough calcium on their own, while others may need to be given supplements for a longer period of time.

Remember, early diagnosis and treatment are key to successfully treating eclampsia in dogs. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian.

Living with Milk Fever

The main point of the treatment is to ensure the dog’s calcium levels remain stable until she is capable of producing the element herself. Until then, she needs to get supplementation, orally or intravenously, to avoid the symptoms and the life-threatening issues from recurring. Do not administer supplements without the direction of your vet.

As the dog owner, you need to make the decision especially if the puppies are still dependent on their mother’s milk. At the same time, you also want to regulate calcium supplement intake because excessive calcium in the body may have an adverse effect on your dog’s health as well.


Take note that calcium supplementation is not advisable for pregnant dogs. Proceed with caution, or always seek advice from the veterinarian before you administer any supplements into your dog’s diet. At the same time, make sure you keep your dog away from high-phytate foods. This includes wheat germ, wheat bran, soybean, barley, and rice. These foods interfere with calcium absorption in the body. Thus, you want to keep your dog away from it as much as you can.

3 comments on “Eclampsia and Blood Calcium Levels in Dogs”

  1. who on earth wrote these conflicting contradictory words…… In the bitch, calcium requirements increase in late
    gestation and during lactation. However, such
    increased requirements do not justify providing
    extra amounts of calcium and vitamin D in the
    diet, as this has been associated in other species
    with a higher risk of developing hypocalcemia and
    eclampsia during early lactation

    1. Massena

      I believe the issue is that low levels of calciums shouldn’t be fixed/treated by the dog breeder himself through giving a lot of calcium supplementation. When doing so, it increases other problems (including ration calcium:phosphorous) and it is something people tend to naturally do. Also, IV calcium is different from dietary calcium obtained from supplements.

  2. JessicaWilson

    Awesome info, thanks!

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