Hypocalcemia is a medical condition that involves extremely low amounts of calcium within the blood. This ailment can appear in any canine but is especially prevalent in female dogs who are either currently pregnant or lactating. Hypocalcemia also frequently affects smaller dogs. Other common names for the disorder are "milk fever" and "eclampsia."
Insufficient Blood Calcium
Calcium is essential for many bodily processes in canines, including eyesight, the development of teeth and bones and the clotting of blood, among a variety of other things. Because so many crucial processes rely on calcium, not having enough of it is hazardous to dogs.
Mother Dogs and Hypocalcemia
Carrying and birthing a litter of puppies places a lot of pressure on mother dogs' bodies. Not only do dams provide calcium for their puppies during pregnancy, they do so as they nurse them, via their milk. Some situations can cause the mothers to lose excessive amounts of calcium -- think nursing an unusually big litter of hungry and growing puppies. If a mother dog loses too much calcium due to pregnancy, lactation or a combination of both, then she has hypocalcemia. This often is conjunction with minimal levels of calcium taken from food, too. Although hypocalcemia mostly shows up post-parturition, it also sometimes shows up prior to it. It sometimes seems to appear out of nowhere, with the mother dog acting in optimal condition -- and a bunch of flourishing youngsters.
Symptoms of Hypocalcemia
Whatever the actual cause of hypocalcemia in a dog, it often causes noticeable effects. Some common symptoms of the ailment are muscle spasms, feebleness, antsy behavior, excessive panting, fever, salivation, lack of control over mobility, tremors, appetite loss, fast heartbeat, throwing up, rigidness, confusion, inordinate whimpering and constant circling around. If you spot even one of these symptoms in your pooch, regardless of whether she just had puppies or not, seek urgent veterinary care for her immediately. Remember, all dogs are susceptible to hypocalcemia, not just expectant or new mothers.
If your female dog experienced hypocalcemia during or after one pregnancy, then there's a strong chance that she might develop it again with following ones. When hypocalcemia appears again, it has a tendency to show up at a much earlier point in gestation than during the first instance. If you are concerned about this with your female dog, remember that spaying her not only prevents pregnancy, it also prevents calcium loss from pregnancy and nursing.
By Naomi Millburn
Cornell University Animal Health Diagnostic Center: Hypocalcemia
Mar Vista Animal Medical Center: Hypocalcemia
The Merck Veterinary Manual: Hypocalcemia in Dogs and Cats
The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health; Scott Line and Cynthia M. Kahn
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.