Milk Fever In Dogs

Milk fever in dogs is officially called canine eclampsia.

It is not caused from a fever, but rather it is caused by low calcium levels, usually brought on by nursing.

Sometimes it can occur in pregnant dogs during the last couple of weeks in their pregnancy. 

©Photo Courtesy of Helena Lo Bello "Bella"

Smaller breed dogs are at higher risk for developing milk fever, but any dog has the possibility of it happening.

There is some debate as to whether or not having a large litter contributes to this condition. 

It usually occurs 1 to 4 weeks after whelping, and is due to heavy milk production. 

Although there are things you can do to reduce the risk of milk fever, some dogs seem to be prone to it by producing milk too rapidly.

It is a huge mistake to change a pregnant dog’s diet.  It is a false belief that adding meat and calcium to her diet now will be good for her health and upcoming milk supply.

By doing so, you are actually increasing her risk of developing it. 

Feed her as you always have, before you bred her.  It is not until after the pups are born that her diet needs to be changed.

©Photo Courtesy of Rosemary Johnson

After she delivers her puppies, switch her over to a puppy food formula. 

Puppy food has added protein and calcium that is beneficial to nursing dogs.  It also has the correct ratio’s of calcium to phosphorus content that is needed in your Golden Retriever’s nursing diet. 

I also give my nursing dogs a Tums with calcium in it, daily. 

Fortunately, the signs of milk fever are easily recognizable, but they progress with lightening speed, which is what makes it so dangerous.

At first, your dog will seem nervous or restless.  She will have slight tremors, start shaking as if cold, but then progress to wobbling. 

Next comes stiffness, panting, and drooling.  Her legs will get stiff and other body parts, including her mouth, may appear to be paralyzed. 

She may or may not run a fever at first, but that can spike up to dangerously high temps. 

"Kylie" One of our Goldens!

If your Golden Retriever shows any of these signs, do not wait for the symptoms to get worse.  Take her immediately to the vet. 

If she is not given immediate vet care, she will die.

The treatment for milk fever is an I.V. of calcium
supplement, while being carefully watched by your vet.

She may also need to continue calcium supplements after she is allowed to go home.

Puppies will need to be bottle fed. 

Sometimes, dogs may be allowed to gradually start nursing again, along with your continued supplemental bottle feedings, but this decision will be up to your vet, as to whether or not it is safe.

For dogs that have experienced milk fever, their chances of having it again are very high.  Do not consider breeding her again without the guidance and support of your vet.

©Photo Courtesy of Jacob Richardson

I speak of this from experience, as several years ago, this happened to one of my dogs. 

She was not a Golden Retriever though, she was a Chihuahua.

Luckily, the vet saved her, but trust me, this is one of the scariest situations you can ever go through.

Prevention is the best course of action.  Do not change her diet while she is pregnant, and once she delivers her puppies, get her on a quality brand of puppy food.

Return from Milk Fever to Canine Pregnancy Care

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