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Why Eclampsia is Dangerous for Cats and Dogs

A cat nursing her kittens. Eclampsia is a life-threatening condition that affects nursing cats and dogs.

Eclampsia: A Life-Threatening, but Treatable, Condition

Eclampsia, also known as milk fever, hypocalcemia or puerperal tetany, is a life-threatening and dangerous condition that affects cats and dogs. This condition occurs when an animal experiences extreme hypocalcemia, or low calcium levels in the blood.

Eclampsia can occur in any breed or age of pet, though it most commonly affects pregnant animals close to their due date. Often, it is characterized by a sudden onset of seizures, usually within the last week of pregnancy. If left untreated, it can be fatal for both mother and unborn puppies or kittens.

Treatment requires aggressive supplementation with calcium and other minerals, as well as oxygen therapy and close monitoring. If detected early enough, it is possible to treat the condition before any real damage is done.

Eclampsia Symptoms and How it’s Dangerous for Cats and Dogs

In cats and dogs, eclampsia generally occurs due to two primary causes: inadequate dietary intake of calcium or a decrease in the level of active Vitamin D3. Inadequate calcium levels can result from poor nutrition, insufficient supplementation, or malabsorption and digestive issues. Vitamin D3 deficiencies are often caused by certain diseases, such as renal failure or lymphoma.

When nursing animals become deficient in calcium, their bodies pull the mineral from their bones and other tissues to maintain vital functions. Unfortunately, this can lead to impaired organ functioning, seizures, coma and sometimes death if not treated immediately. While eclampsia can occur in any species of animal, cats and dogs are especially susceptible due to their small size and the fact that they produce large amounts of milk.

Common Symptoms of Eclampsia and why it’s so dangerous

The most common symptoms of eclampsia in cats and dogs include:

  • decreased appetite
  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • muscle tremors
  • increased salivation or drooling
  • excessive panting or respiratory difficulty

If left untreated, it can lead to severe neurological disturbances such as coma or death.

In addition to monitoring for signs of eclampsia during pregnancy, owners should also be aware that some medications can also contribute to its risk. Drugs such as phenobarbital, calcium blockers, and certain antibiotics can all increase the risk of eclampsia in pregnant animals.

If you suspect that your pet is at risk for eclampsia or extreme hypocalcemia, take them to your Austin veterinarian immediately. A vet will likely perform a physical exam as well as blood work and X-rays to diagnose the condition. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the vet can create a treatment plan to help manage the symptoms.

In addition to seeking proper veterinary care, pet owners can help reduce the risk of eclampsia and extreme hypocalcemia by providing a balanced diet rich in calcium and other minerals as well as regular exercise. Ensuring that pregnant animals have adequate nutrition may reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy. Additionally, maintaining a regular deworming and flea-control program can help reduce the risk of eclampsia.

Owners should also be aware of the other risks associated with pregnancy in pets, such as toxemia and mastitis. If left untreated, these conditions can also be fatal for both mother and unborn puppies or kittens.

Methods of Treating and Preventing Eclampsia

Treating Eclampsia

Although eclampsia can be a serious health concern for cats and dogs, it is a treatable condition if caught in time.

The best treatment for eclampsia is to quickly restore the blood calcium levels. This can be done with medications, dietary changes, or even intravenous administration of calcium and magnesium. This may involve correcting the underlying cause and administering oral, injectable, or IV calcium supplements or injections, along with rest and a carefully monitored diet.

If necessary, additional medications such as Vitamin D3 may be administered to correct any deficiencies. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required to ensure that electrolyte levels are closely monitored. In some cases, the pet may need additional fluids or other medications to help restore normal levels of calcium and other minerals in the body.

Depending on the severity and type of eclampsia, surgery may also be necessary in some cases to remove the parathyroid gland, which is responsible for producing hormones that regulate calcium levels in the body. This procedure is called a parathyroidectomy and can help prevent future eclampsia episodes.

In addition to medical management, proper diet and exercise are important for helping to prevent eclampsia. Foods should be calcium-rich, such as milk and eggs, and pets should get regular exercise to maintain healthy levels of muscle activity.

In addition to providing appropriate treatment, it’s important for pet owners to recognize the signs and seek prompt veterinary care if symptoms occur. Early intervention is key to minimizing risk and helping pets recover fully. Regular visits to your Austin veterinarian for routine examinations can help detect signs of eclampsia in its earliest stages, when treatment is most effective.

Preventing Eclampsia

With proper care and preventative measures, eclampsia can be avoided in cats and dogs.
One method is to provide nursing pets with a diet that is high in calcium, as well as ensuring they get enough rest and exercise to support their needs. It’s also important to monitor their weight, as this can indicate if they are deficient in certain nutrients or not getting enough food.

Another key factor in preventing eclampsia is to ensure that pets are spayed or neutered. This helps reduce the number of litters produced by one mother, reducing the chances of her developing milk fever due to lack of calcium. Additionally, it is important to practice responsible pet ownership by providing cats and dogs with the necessary veterinary care they need, including regular checkups and vaccinations.

With prompt care, the prognosis for eclampsia is usually good. However, it should be noted that the condition can recur if not managed properly. Regular vet check-ups and continued calcium supplementation are highly recommended after treatment to ensure your pet’s long-term health.

Additional Steps in Fighting Eclampsia

In addition to knowing the signs of eclampsia, pet owners can also take steps to reduce the risk of developing this condition in their animals. For pregnant pets, regular vet checkups are essential in determining any potential issues with calcium levels. Additionally, pets should be given a well-balanced diet with plenty of calcium-rich foods like dairy products and leafy greens. Ensuring that your pet has access to lots of fresh water is also important in helping to prevent this condition.

It’s important for pet owners to be aware of the risks of how eclampsia is so dangerous for cats and dogs and to examine their pet’s diet closely for any deficiencies that may put them at risk. Regular visits to your veterinarian, coupled with a nutritious diet and appropriate supplementation, can help ensure that your pet is healthy for years to come.

Again, eclampsia can be a life threatening issue, if not treated right away. If your cat or dog is experiencing such symptoms, especially after having a litter, please contact us at ATX Animal Clinic. With proper diagnosis, prompt treatment, and close monitoring of electrolyte levels, pets can make a full recovery from this serious condition.