3 Dietary Tips to Reduce Your Pregnant Dog’s Postpartum Eclampsia Risk

Postpartum eclampsia is one of the most dangerous conditions which affects dogs who have recently given birth. Caused by low blood calcium (known as hypocalcaemia), eclampsia is most common in toy breed dogs or dogs having their first litter. The condition can be fatal if left untreated, so it's important to take steps to reduce your dog's risk. Here are 3 dietary tips to follow that will help prevent her from getting eclampsia.

Avoid Calcium Supplementation

As eclampsia is caused by low calcium levels, many dog owners believe the best way to prevent it is to feed their dog calcium supplements during pregnancy. Surprisingly, this couldn't be further from the truth. The reason for this lies in a hormone called PTH (parathyroid hormone), which acts to increase or decrease calcium levels in the blood.

The amount of PTH your dog's glands produce is directly related to how much calcium she has in her body at any one time. If she has too much due to calcium supplements, she'll produce less PTH, which means her body won't work hard enough to increase her blood calcium level. This puts your dog at a much greater risk of developing eclampsia after she gives birth.

As a result, unless otherwise directed by your vet, it's best to avoid calcium supplements during pregnancy, along with high calcium foods like cottage cheese. An anti-nutrient known a phytic acid can also interfere with calcium absorption, so you should also try to avoid letting your pregnant dog eat high phytate foods like nuts.

Keep Your Dog Nourished

While calcium isn't a nutrient needed in high amounts during pregnancy, that doesn't mean other nutrients aren't essential. Feeding your dog a healthy diet while she's pregnant is one of the best ways to reduce her risk of postpartum eclampsia.

Generally, a nutritious diet is one which is high-quality and balanced. Look for foods made with highly digestible proteins like chicken, beef and lamb. Kibble made from organ meat, fish, and grain is less easy to digest, making it harder for your dog to absorb the minerals she needs. Most pregnant dogs need a higher levels of protein and calories than non-pregnant dogs, but remember that your dog's specific nutritional requirements will depend on her breed, overall health, and medical history. If in doubt, take your dog to an animal hospital for a dietary consultation with a vet.

Monitor Her After Birth

While eclampsia is often caused by factors relating to the pregnancy period, at-risk dogs can develop the condition within the weeks following birth. As a result, it's important that you monitor your dog while she's nursing to make sure she's healthy.

Ensure that she always has access to food and water and that she eats and drinks regularly. You may need to separate her from the pups temporarily for a few times a day to encourage her to eat; a vet can tell you how long the pups can be away from their mother dependant on their age. 

As eclampsia can be life-threatening, you should also look out for its symptoms to ensure your dog gets treated quickly if she does develop the condition. A dog with eclampsia may fail to nurse her pups, cry or breathe heavily, act disoriented and restless, show signs of muscle stiffness or convulsions, have a high fever, or develop vomiting and diarrhoea. Dogs with these symptoms should be taken to a vet immediately for diagnosis and quick treatment.