629 – Neonates Deep Dive: Caring for the Dam and Hypocalcemia

Neonates Deep Dive: Caring for the Dam and Hypocalcemia

Dr. Marty Greer, DVM joins host Laura Reeves for a continuation of their ongoing conversation about neonates. The discussion today includes hypocalcemia and eclampsia, how much calcium to supplement and when.

“For some bitches, you need to continue (calcium supplementation) until the puppies are weaned,” Greer said. “It depends on the size of the bitch and the size of the litter. The smaller the bitch and the bigger the litter, the more you need calcium. It tends to be… in small breed bitches that develop hypocalcemia, eclampsia, that that tends to be an issue.

“We don’t see it in Labs, Goldens, Rottweilers, you know, the big dogs, but in the little dogs, and you know, I mean little dogs usually under 10 or 15 pounds, dachshunds, terriers, some of those small breeds, we can see hypocalcemia. In those cases the bitch will start to run a low grade fever. The first symptoms are going to be that she starts walking kind of goose-stepping like real stiffly, associated with the calcium becoming too low and then her muscles developing this tetany.

“When the puppies are growing at about that two to three week time period, when the puppies are really growing fast, is when the demands of the calcium become the greatest on those small breed bitches and they just don’t have the ability to mobilize enough calcium from their bones, their vitamin D levels are trying, but they just don’t have the ability to mobilize calcium quickly enough.

“And this is why you don’t want to give calcium prior to the time that the bitch goes into labor and has her puppies. If you give it during the entire pregnancy, then you tell her parathyroid gland, “You know what, you can just take a vacation. “You don’t have to worry about this, just hang out.” And then their calcium doesn’t mobilize adequately.

“So you want them on a normal amount of calcium in their regular dog food, and then once they whelp, then that’s when you can start adding the additional calcium in gel form, in tablet form, in powder form to the diet along with the puppy food to make sure she gets adequate amounts of calcium.

“The powder, the gel, those are all going to be fine and safe because the GI tract is going to only absorb and the body’s only going to take in so much. So you’re okay to be pretty aggressive. Now there’s definitely some things that you have to be concerned about if you’re giving (calcium) by injection. But if you’re giving oral in the powder or the tablet form, you know the petcal or the revival or the whatever product you want to use, those are all absolutely fine to give. You have to really screw up to give too much. But it does make a big difference and you basically titrate it until you see the effect that you’re looking for.

Greer touches on a variety of different topics in this wide-ranging conversation, so check out the entire podcast here.