Milk fever in dogs is a disease that can be easily prevented and treated but is often missed by veterinarians. This causes the death of many dogs every year and can cause substantial financial losses to the owners. If you want to know more about milk fever in dogs and the ways to avoid it, continue reading.
Being pregnant is an exciting time in human life. Caring for your puppy after birth can be stressful. You need to be able to assist your puppy after she is born. Milk fever is a common condition that can put the lives of mothers who are nursing. How can you avoid milk fever? This life-threatening condition is easily avoided with the right information.
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What is milk fever in dogs?
Milk fever also called lactational hypocalcemia or eclampsia can occur after the mother gives birth to a puppy. The mother’s milk contains calcium, which is transferred from her milk to her babies during lactation.
This is usually not a problem as the mother has calcium stored in her bones and from her diet. Milk fever is a condition where large amounts of calcium are absorbed from the mother’s body into her milk. This can lead to a dangerous drop in blood calcium.
Milk fever usually occurs in the first two to four weeks of lactation. It can also be observed at whelping, in some cases, during pregnancy and up to six to eighteen weeks after the birth.
Milk fever in dogs, also known as canine eclampsia or lactational hypocalcemia, is a condition that can develop after whelping (giving birth) to the nursing mother. It occurs when blood calcium is low after giving birth.
Milk fever can be caused by calcium loss, but it can also be caused by other factors such as:
- Not eating a balanced diet, especially one that is low in calcium
- Supplementation with excessive calcium before giving birth
- Their milk production can’t keep pace with the demand for calcium when it is high.
- Parathyroid problems can cause hormonal issues, which may lead to a decrease in calcium levels.
- Low levels of albumin can disrupt the transport of calcium.
- Some dogs produce too much milk quickly.
Dogs predisposed to developing milk fever
Small breed dogs with a high number of puppies are often affected by milk fever. English Setters, Chihuahuas, and Miniature Pinschers are all common carriers. This condition can affect any breed of dog, regardless of size.
Some dogs are more susceptible to the condition. Dogs that have had milk fever in the past will be more likely to get it again in any subsequent litters. Milk fever is also a risk for daughters of mothers with the condition.
Signs and symptoms of milk fever in dogs
What are the symptoms and signs of milk fever?
Milk fever can be characterized by a variety of symptoms. Symptoms are often subtle at first, but they quickly progress and become more severe.
The following are the first signs of milk fever:
- Heavy panting
- Stiff movements (also known as tetany).
- Appetite decrease
Normally, both mother and pups look healthy until the mother starts to show signs like rigid limbs and panting. If left untreated, these symptoms can quickly turn deadly.
Your dog’s respiratory system can be irritated by excessive panting. If the condition is not treated promptly, it can cause seizures and fluid accumulation in the brain. Milk fever symptoms in dogs include:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Extremely rapid heart rate
- Fever (Hyperthermia is an increase in body temperature.)
- Heavy panting
- Limb rigidity
- Muscle spasms and twitching
- Increased thirst
- Slowed labor during parturition
- Puerperal Tetany is a form of paralysis that causes the inability to stand or walk.
- Urethrination has increased
Diagnosis for Milk Fever in Dogs
Milk fever can quickly progress and can be fatal within an hour. You should inform your veterinarian about any symptoms that you notice, along with factors like the time the symptoms started, the mother’s diet, and the size of the litter.
Your vet will usually examine your dog and collect a sample of blood. Your vet will test your dog’s blood for calcium, albumin, and parathyroid hormones through serum and blood testing. Low blood calcium can indicate a problem with the body’s calcium levels.
To analyze the function of your dog’s heart, an electrocardiogram can also be done. The results of the testing and response to treatment are enough to confirm a diagnosis of milk fever.
You should immediately seek veterinary attention if you notice any of these symptoms or suspect that your dog is pregnant or nursing milk fever. The chances of recovery are good if you get it treated quickly.
Treatment at home
Experts and we recommend against treating milk fever in dogs at home. You can only take your puppies to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian will run blood tests to confirm your diagnosis and determine blood calcium levels.
Treatment will include
- Under close supervision, calcium will be administered intravenously slowly to reduce the risk of heart rhythm changes.
- Fluids intravenous to treat shock or dehydration
- Seizure control with medication
- Active cooling is especially important if your pet has a high temperature
Treatment of Mother
To replace calcium in the mother’s body, intravenous calcium is gradually given to her over a period of 5 to 30 minutes. With muscle relaxation, improvements can often be seen within 15 minutes. As needed, other drugs, such as anti-seizure medication, may also be administered.
Other conditions such as hyperthermia and low albumin levels can also be treated. The ECG and stethoscope monitor the heart rate during treatment for irregularities.
For long-term maintenance, calcium and vitamin D are added to the diet. This can help prevent a relapse in milk fever. You may need to have your vet check your dog every week to ensure that calcium levels are being monitored. Mothers should be fed balanced, high-energy foods such as wet puppy food.
To allow the body to replenish calcium levels, the puppies should be taken from their mother within the first few days. The mother should be checked for signs of mastitis or swelling of the mammary glands. If the discomfort is severe, a warm compress or small tee shirt can be applied to the abdomen.
Feeding the puppies
Your puppies should stop sucking at their mother for at most 12-24 hours. The vet might recommend that the separation be done for a longer period of time. The puppies should be given a milk substitute if they are less than 4 weeks old.
Although they may be able and willing to nurse for short periods of time, this can still pose a risk to their mother’s health. Puppy food can be encouraged if the puppies are over 4 weeks of age.
Most cases of recovery are within hours after treatment. In fact, most patients will only need 12 hours of hospitalization. For severe cases, extended hospitalization may be necessary to prevent relapse. You will be able to give your dog calcium supplements, and you will have to wean the puppies hand-fed.
Can you prevent milk fever in dogs?
You can prevent your dog from getting milk fever if she is pregnant.
- To provide sufficient calcium, the mother should be fed a high-quality puppy food diet during lactation.
- Provide a healthy, balanced diet for her adult children throughout her pregnancy
- Do not give calcium supplements to your pregnant woman. This will prevent the body from recognizing that the calcium levels in the blood are low, and it can interfere with the body’s ability to release calcium from her bones.
- Helping mother by hand-feeding the puppies during part of the day so that her body can replenish its calcium levels
Talk to your vet if you have concerns about the size of your dog’s litter and whether it could increase her risk of milk fever.