Eclampsia in Dogs - Causes and Treatment

By Carla Moreira, Veterinarian. December 23, 2022
Eclampsia in Dogs - Causes and Treatment

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Calcium is essential for the proper functioning of your dog's body. There are a number of metabolic processes in which calcium is involved. For example, in nerve transmission, blood clotting, muscle contraction, and the activation of enzymes, all of which are important for the smooth functioning of the body. After birth, some dogs may experience a severe loss of calcium and other elements through their milk. This condition is called eclampsia and is a real medical emergency. If you suspect that eclampsia is developing, do not nurse the puppies and contact your veterinarian immediately.

The following AnimalWised article will tell you everything you need to know about eclampsia in dogs, its symptoms and treatment.

What is eclampsia in dogs?

Calcium is a very necessary mineral for the proper functioning of the body, as it is involved in important physiological processes. Some of these processes are:

  • Transmission of nerve impulses
  • Blood clotting
  • Neuromuscular excitability
  • Permeability of cell membranes
  • Activation of certain enzyme systems

Five to ten days after a dog gives birth, there may be a severe loss of calcium and other elements through the milk. This condition is called eclampsia, also known as hypocalcemia, milk fever or puerperal tetanus.

Eclampsia is caused by a change in metabolism, whereby the parathyroid gland does not respond sufficiently to maintain stable blood calcium levels. When the calcium level is less than 7 mg/100 ml, symptoms occur.

Changes in the concentration of calcium in the blood can lead to serious health problems for the animal, which require quick treatment to save their live.

You might be interested in this other article, where we talk about hypocalcemia in dogs, another condition in which the blood lacks calcium

Causes of eclampsia in dogs

Small breeds and first-bearing dogs are especially at higher risk of developing eclampsia. The most common breeds to suffer from this condition are:

  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Chihuahua
  • Poodle
  • Shit Tzu

However, it is also possible, although less likely, for eclampsia to develop in large or mixed-breed dogs.

The atrophy of the parathyroid gland is the main cause of eclampsia in dogs. The parathyroid gland is responsible for the production of parathyroid hormone, which stimulates the absorption of calcium in the intestines and bones and reduces the excretion of this mineral by the kidneys, increasing its concentration in the blood.

At the time of birth and lactation, there is a high demand for calcium, and this now atrophied gland is unable to produce the optimal amount of parathyroid hormone to maintain sufficient calcium in the blood.

Eclampsia in Dogs - Causes and Treatment - Causes of eclampsia in dogs

Symptoms of eclampsia in dogs

Eclampsia in dogs may begin with mild signs and develop into tetany within 8 to 12 hours. There are several symptoms of eclampsia in bitches, including:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Increased fluid intake
  • Trembling
  • Lack of motor coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Increased body temperature
  • Involuntary muscle contractions.
  • Tachycardia
  • Vomiting
  • Behavioral changes

You might also be interested in this other article, where we explain why some dogs are aggressive after giving birth.

Can a dog with eclampsia breastfeed?

A dog with eclampsia cannot nurse her puppies for at least 24 hours.

Caregivers must feed the litter with a bottle or tube or with an appropriate milk supplement (homemade or commercial). As soon as this time has passed and oral calcium administration has begun, the pups can be suckled by their mother. Recurrence of eclampsia in dogs during the same lactation is rare, but if it does occur, be sure to wean the puppies.

You may be interested in this other article, where we discuss what the diet of prematurely weaned puppies should be.

What to do if my dog has eclampsia?

Eclampsia or milk fever in bitches is considered a serious situation that, if not treated in time, can lead to the death of the animal. This is due to severe respiratory depression or hyperthermia (increased body temperature) associated with cerebral edema.

Therefore, do not try to treat the dog at home, as this is very dangerous. The puppies must be separated from the mother, who must be quickly brought into the care of a veterinarian so that, depending on the stage of the disease, intravenous therapy with serum, calcium, and other necessary drugs can be initiated.

You may also be interested in this other article, where we explain what your dog should eat after birth.

Treatment of eclampsia in dogs

Treatment of eclampsia depends on the severity of the condition. Intravenous calcium should be given immediately and in the correct dosage. Otherwise, too much calcium can be dangerous.

If the dog with eclampsia has hypoglycemia, a very low blood sugar level, glucose should be given intravenously or orally. In addition, if the symptoms include seizures, the veterinarian may prescribe an anticonvulsant.

It is recommended that puppies not be allowed to nurse from their mother for the first 24 hours to assess the dogs' response during this time. When the puppies are very young, suckling can be alternated with artificial feeding.

However, remember that after the severe phase of the disease, treatment must be continued at home with oral calcium and vitamin D supplements to ensure absorption in the gastrointestinal tract.

You may be interested in this other article, where we talk about the importance of vitamin D in dogs.

Prevention of eclampsia in dogs

All pregnant dogs should be fed a high quality food specifically designed for pregnant and nursing mothers, rich in essential vitamins and minerals.

In general, pregnant and lactating dogs should not be given calcium supplements or dairy products. Excessive calcium intake during pregnancy or lactation may suppress parathyroid hormone production and increase the risk of eclampsia.

You may be interested in this other article, where we discuss what to feed a pregnant dog.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Eclampsia in Dogs - Causes and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

  • Rodrigues, R. Disorders of calcium metabolism: postpartum hypocalcemia and eclampsia . Graduate Program in Veterinary Sciences of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, 2004. Available at
  • Carvalho, IS et al . Puerperal hypocalcemia and heat stroke in a bitch – Case report . Proceedings of the 1st Online International Congress of Small Animal Veterinary Medicine, CONIMVEPA, 2020. Available at /HIPOCALCEMIA_PUERPERAL_E_INTERMA%C3%87%C3%83O_EM_UMA_CADELA__CASO_RELATO.pdf?1586663430.
  • (sn). Eclampsia in bitches: consequence of calcium imbalance in the body! Veterinary Magazine, 2020. Available at
  • Pereira. CO Report of mandatory supervised internship (ESO) carried out at Pet Dream Hospital Veterinário. Federal University of Pernambuco, 2019. Available at

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