Eclampsia in Dogs
Eclampsia is an acute, life-threatening disease caused by a decrease in the amount of calcium in the bloodstream. It is seen mostly in small to medium breeds in early lactation, or rarely, in late pregnancy.
Eclampsia occurs due to the loss of the calcium from milk production, poor uptake of calcium by the intestines, or poor nutrition. Symptoms include a change in behavior, restlessness, nervousness, panting, pacing, whining, decrease in maternal instincts, and tetany.
- Difficulty walking and/or drunken gait (ataxia)
- Muscle stiffness or tetany (involuntary contraction of muscles)
- Tremors, twitching, and/or muscle spasms (from mild to severe)
- Restlessness (often displayed by pacing and/or whining)
- Unusual behavior like aggression or withdrawal from family
- Confusion and disorientation
- Sensitivity to sound, light, and touch
- Excessive salivation
Eclampsia may progress within minutes to hours to muscle spasms, inability to stand, fever, increase in heart rate, and seizure-like activity without loss of consciousness. Death may result from respiratory depression or a rapid increase in body temperature resulting in cerebral edema. Diagnosis is made by monitoring symptoms and measuring calcium levels in the blood.
Treatment should be sought immediately. Eclampsia is treated by supplying calcium directly into the vein while monitoring for heart rate or rhythm abnormalities and temperature changes. Oral supplements are started after the initial episode is over and the puppies are supplemented with bottle feeding and started on solid food as soon as possible.