Articles Index/Whelping
Posted 12/18/97



Most of us have at least heard of eclampsia, or "milk fever," a debilitating, sometimes fatal illness that can afflict a bitch anytime from a few days to several weeks after whelping. Eclampsia is caused by a depletion of the nursing dam's calcium supply; but this calcium drain has also been going on throughout pregnancy, while the unborn puppies' teeth and bones were being formed.

Fortunately, the number of bitches that come down with full-blown eclampsia is relatively small (most often dams with large litters); but pre-eclampsia, the phase just before is more common. Its symptoms are:

  1. Unusual nervousness, restlessness, and a wild-eyed expression.
  2. Inability to stay still long enough to nurse the pups.
  3. Constant mouthing or picking up the puppies; moving them around continually; frantic digging in the whelping box.

Pre-eclampsia can usually be remedied quickly by a calcium injection. Sometimes more than one shot is necessary; and it may also be advisable to temporarily remove the pups from their dam and bottle-feed them. But more importantly, pre-eclampsia (and subsequent eclampsia) can be avoided by supplying your bitch with extra calcium for two to three weeks both before and after the whelping.

The good news is that the most easily absorbable form of calcium is contained in the antacid TUMS, which has been around for years. (Remember "TUMS" FOR THE "TUMMY?") Tums still come in tablet form and can be bought over-the-counter at any drugstore. What's more, they are chewable and pleasant-tasting (your bitch will love them.)

One TUMS a day, given during the crucial period before and after whelping, can definitely keep eclampsia away.

Nat LaMar
ANTIC, Christmas 1988

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