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Barbara J. Andrews, Publisher, SAAB Member


When a mother dog is nursing a large litter, the risk of eclampsia is higher and puppies and dam can be lost without proper safeguards and breeder vigilance.


First time mother or seasoned dam, if she isn’t maintaining calcium balance, she’s at risk for eclampsia (life-threatening drop in blood calcium levels, AKA known as milk fever) which can be deadly to the dam and of huge emotional cost to the breeder.



Eclampsia is more common in large breed dogs but can occur in any size bitch carrying a large litter. In most cases eclampsia occurs after the dog has delivered and puppies are nursing, thus drawing down her calcium levels but it can occur before or during delivery.


If you suspect your mother dog is on the verge of going into eclampsia, prompt administration of calcium in the form of a calcium tablet appropriate to the mother dog’s size MAY prevent it. If you have no quick-dissolving calcium tablets, give her small portions of whole milk (120 mg of calcium) or buttermilk which has 115 mg calcium.


You will have verified your veterinarian is available so be calm and don’t stress her by freaking out! If tremors advance to seizure or convulsions, then GET HER TO YOUR VET (or emergency clinic) as quickly as possible.



Litter size can have an effect on the odds of eclampsia but my Doberman “Helga” delivered 16 puppies and had no eclampsia. The message here is that every night I gave her cottage cheese and buttermilk at bedtime. (OK, and for the first week I slept on the floor next to her…)


We had horses back then and my “large animal” vet’s office was his truck. Cell phones hadn’t even been thought of. His “secretary” was a shoe box full of notes and “Going to the vet” meant jumping your horse into the back of a pickup truck.


He came the next morning and assured me all was well but not to expect to raise 16 puppies. I can see him in my mind’s eye. He said “The strongest will make it and that’s the way it should be.


Of course, he was right and nature sorted it out for my mother dog. She raised 10 puppies.


My horse vet told everybody, including the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. They sent reporters, took pictures and ran the story. Cars lined our road when the Sunday Edition hit the streets! I took deposits…


So, my advice is simple. Turn the radio on to “easy listening” and watch her but DO NOT STRESS her by hovering or acting weird. Watch TV or call a friend. Nowadays there are patented supplements to prevent eclampsia but 60 years ago my mentors, renowned Doberman breeder/judge Wayne Gooch, gave me the best advice. “Watch her but don’t interfere. YOU are stressed. Do not stress her! EST 1998 © Mar 2023



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