How to Help my Dog with Milk Fever aka Eclampsia
Pregnancy is a beautiful time in every female's life. But, nobody can deny the ongoing challenges of the pregnancy. Same as female humans, female animals also face several issues during pregnancy. If you are a pet parent then, you must have an idea that how difficult it is to maintain the pregnancy and post-partum period for a dog.
Animals can't speak to tell their problems, so pet owners need to be vigilant to observe the abnormal signs of pregnancy and post-pregnancy so they can help their four-footed friend. If your four-footed friend shows staggering behavior, frequently forced breathing, or having post-Partum seizures, then be vigilant, it could be milk fever.
Milk fever is one of the most common post-Partum conditions that nursing dogs face. As a dog owner, you must know what is milk fever, How does it develop, what are the side effects? And, what can you do to treat the condition? If you are also a pet owner and want to know everything about milk fever. Then make sure to read the article till the end.
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1. What is Milk Fever?
Milk fever in dogs is also called canine eclampsia. Canine Eclampsia is a postPartum condition. In this condition, the calcium reserves of a dog`s body reduce below a certain level, which causes severe weakness. Although Milk Aclasia can affect dogs of every breed and every size, the condition is more prevalent in the small breeds like; Chihuahuas, English setter, Miniature, and Pinschers. In dogs, this condition is mostly seen after the 4-8 weeks of delivery. But, this condition can also prevail in the last week of pregnancy.
The condition usually develops in lactating females. During lactation, milk carries the calcium from mother to puppies. This process causes calcium deficiency in dogs. Usually, the calcium reserves of the dog`s body are enough to avoid the condition. But, an inappropriate diet, during the period of pregnancy and after whelping, and a large litter of hungry puppies, causes the calcium reserve of the mother's body to deplete, and hence milk fever occurs in dogs.
In milk fever, a large amount of calcium is drained from the dog`s body into puppies through the milk. By the time the calcium reserves of the dog`s body reduce, the dog then begins to draw calcium from her bones. The continuous loss of calcium causes the calcium level of the dog's body to drop below the life-threatening level.
Milk fever is a serious condition. As a pet owner, if you feel like your nursing pet is developing milk fever. Then seek veterinary help as soon as possible to avoid any disaster.
Appropriate calcium is required in the lactating female to perform normal muscular activities. A low level of calcium causes hyperexcitability of muscles. Hyper-excitability is a common sign of milk fever.
2. What Causes Milk Fever in dogs?
To avoid milk fever in your pet it is essential to understand how it develops. Following are the root causes of milk fever:
- During pregnancy, the demand for calcium increases. Calcium is required for the successful development of the fetal bones. Calcium is also required for the successful development of the lactation process. A lot of calcium is required to meet the needs of these systems. The body is not able to generate that high level of calcium. If the mother dog does not get the required level of calcium through the diet, she develops milk fever.
- Parathyroid gland dysfunction can interfere with the disruption of the normal calcium and can cause milk fever.
- Milk production requires a lot of energy, as milk contains a good percentage of calcium, so, during the lactation, the dog's calcium reserves moved to the puppies with the milk. Usually, Mother dogs compensate for the daily loss of calcium by a specialized system. But, if the dog got a large litter, the demand for milk increases. The body`s reserve becomes inadequate, then the body starts consuming the calcium reserves of bones that causes severe muscular weakness, and in the end, it causes milk fever.
3. What are the Signs of Milk Fever?
Every pet owner needs to know, what are the possible signs of milk fever? So, they can observe the possible symptoms of milk fever in their lactating dogs. And can get veterinary help as soon as possible in case of positive signs. The following are some common signs of milk fever.
Initial or chronic signs of milk fever include:
- Loss of appetite
- Involuntary contraction of muscles, also known as tetany
- Short quick breathing pattern
- Limb rigidity
- Whining pacing
- Increased thirst and urination
- Very rarely, milk fever causes aggressive behavior in the dogs
The acute signs of milk fever include:
- Muscle tremors
- Loss of coordination and inability to maintain posture or ataxia
- If the bitch is facing milk fever during the period of pregnancy, then it can also lead to slow labor
4. Can Milk Fever cause Death?
As you can see, the chronic signs of milk fever are not very specific. Usually, people take the chronic signs of milk fever for granted, which cause the main problem.
Soon the chronic signs lead to acute signs. And once the acute signs appear, these signs can cause the death of your nursing dog within 30-60 minutes.
Milk fever causes fatality in the dogs in two ways:
- Heavy panting causes severe alkalosis, severe alkalosis causes mortality in 45% of cases.
- Continuous seizures cause swelling and fluid accumulation in the brain, which causes death.
Now the question arises, how can one prevent the condition of milk fever in their nursing dog? Following are some tips to help you.
5. How to Prevent Milk Fever in dogs?
Milk fever is a common condition faced by Mother Dogs. So, it is important to take preventive measures to avoid the prevalence of this condition. If milk fever occurred in the first pregnancy, It might go along with the ongoing pregnancies too. There are the following preventive measures you can take to save your nursing dog from milk fever.
- It is important to take care of the dog's diet during the pregnancy to avoid prepartum milk fever. Provide a nutritious and balanced diet to your pet. You can use high-quality puppy food in this regard.
- People think that giving heavy calcium supplements during early pregnancy might save their dog from milk fever. But it's a wrong practice. If calcium supplements are given during the early pregnancy, they switch off certain glands that mobilize the calcium from bones, and these glands never switch on, even when required. So, avoid using heavy calcium supplements during the pregnancy without the recommendation of a Vet.
- If your dog has a large litter then, you can use the milk replacer to feed them. It will save your dog from postpartum milk fever. Do not forget to take the advice of a veterinarian before using any milk replacer. You can learn more about which milk you can feed to the puppies here.
- Take good care of your dog's diet after whelping, feed her with good quality food and provide her with adequate water. It will help mother dogs in milk production and will reduce the chances of milk fever.
Prevention of milk fever is not difficult at all. But, if unfortunately, your dog develops milk fever then it is important to treat the condition as soon as possible to avoid mortality. Following are some ways that will help you to treat the milk fever of your nursing dog.
6. How to Treat Milk Fever in dog?
If you observe any chronic or acute signs of milk fever in the nursing and pregnant mother, take the mother to the vet as soon as possible. Do not start self-medication as it does more harm than good, and as we explained milk fever is a sensitive condition, it can cause death instantly after the acute signs.
- The Vet will conduct the blood test for the confirmatory diagnosis. In case of the positive test reports, separate the litter from the dog instantly.
- The best treatment of milk fever includes the regulation of the body's normal calcium level. Vets usually suggest Intravenous infusion of calcium (calcium gluconate). This procedure is monitored very keenly as any negligence can disturb the heart rhythm and can cause death. If carried out properly, this procedure causes improvement in the dog's condition immediately.
- If the mother dog is facing severe seizures, then anti-seizure medication is given that helps right away to control seizures.
- Sometimes the mother dog develops a high fever. In this case, antipyretics are given.
In mild cases, recovery occurs within a few hours. But in severe cases, the recovery might take a long time. Vets usually advise maintaining supportive therapy even after the recovery to avoid relapse. Following are some tips for supportive therapy.
Q1. Is milk fever in dogs deadly?
In acute conditions, milk fever causes seizures, involuntary termers, and even coma. If acute signs are not treated properly, they cause death within 30-60 minutes.
Q2. Is it possible to treat milk fever with antibiotics?
Antibiotics are not used and also not recommended, to treat milk fever. Commonly calcium gluconate is prescribed to treat milk fever.
Q3. Does milk fever in dogs cause hair loss?
Hair loss is not included in the primary signs of milk fever, and also hair loss is not commonly seen in dogs suffering from milk fever. If not treated properly, milk fever causes hair loss due to ongoing weakness and heavy painting.
Q4. What is the effect of milk fever in newborn puppies?
The milk fever of the dog affects puppies greatly. Incase of prepartum milk fever, the embryo could be affected, the developing puppies may have weak bones. And after birth, puppies are not fed with the colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk of a dog after whelping, and it is a nutritious food. It helps puppies to develop the immunity that helps to fight many diseases.
Incase of post-partum milk fever, puppies are usually kept away from the mother dog. And they are not fed with the mother's milk after birth. Milk replacer is usually used in this regard.
Q5. How much Vitamin D and calcium are required to treat milk fever in dogs?
Vets mostly see the blood calcium profile and then recommend the treatment. For an average weight bitch (5kg to 10kg) 5-10ml of 10% calcium is a recommended dose. The dose is given slowly through the IV route. Vitamin D is also recommended to use in Milk fever because it allows better absorption of calcium. Vets also advise using the supplements calcium and Vitamin D after the treatment as a supportive therapy. It helps to avoid relapse.
Q6. How can you prevent milk fever?
Milk fever is easy to prevent. Provide the mother dog with a balanced diet, rich in calcium and vitamin D during the pregnancy. Do not use calcium supplements during the pregnancy without the permission of a Vet. After whelping, the calcium needs of the mother increase 2-3 times, because of lactation. So, make sure to provide enough calcium through diet during the lactation to avoid milk fever.