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"Rusty" - Staffy with SIx Healthy Puppies

Photo: Rusty

"Rusty", a 2 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier was brought to my surgery because she seemed breathless and was panting continuously. Given that only the night before she had delivered her first litter of 6 large healthy puppies you might be excused for thinking that she had every reason to be a little exhausted!

Her concerned owners were aware that, so far, she had eaten nothing since the last birth some hours ago. No further straining seemed to indicate that parturition or the birth process had finished. A clinical examination showed that there were indeed no further pups palpable in her abdomen.

She was very heavy with milk and the pups had fed several times. Whilst it would appear that there were no major concerns there was no doubt that she was panting excessively.

Eclampsia is a life threatening condition that results from the development of calcium deficiency around the time of birth. It is most commonly seen in smaller dogs, first time mothers and in dogs with large litters. The early signs can be very variable and include trembling and panting.

The demand for calcium during pregnancy whilst higher than normal is nothing compared to the raised levels which are needed once the mother begins milk production. It is this "sudden" change in calcium requirements which can cause a relative deficiency.

Most of the calcium in the system is diverted into milk production - sometimes leaving the mother without! This metabolic crisis can often then lead to convulsions, respiratory failure and death.

Since "Rusty" clearly fell into this high risk category I advised that "Rusty's" calcium level should be checked with a blood test. Fortunately, in this instance "Rusty's " levels were fine.

Her owners, very sensibly, had NOT supplemented her during pregnancy. This well intentioned but dangerous habit of supplementing the body when calcium demand is not great lulls the patient's metabolism into a "false sense of security" so that when a large and rapid demand occurs at lactation the body is poorly equipped to deal with the change with potentially disastrous results.

However, now that "Rusty" is producing milk in large quantities it is important at this stage to feed a diet which is rich with minerals, vitamins and calories. To accomplish this the best advice is to feed the mother a complete quality puppy food which is extremely energy dense.

The latest news is that mother and puppies are doing fine!

Terry Dunne BVMS, Cert SAO, MRCVS

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