Disorders of Calcium Metabolism in Dogs

Calcium is an essential component of the skeleton, and it has important functions in muscle contraction, blood clotting, enzyme activity, the nervous system, and hormone release, among others. Many different metabolic disorders affect calcium metabolism and can lead to abnormally high or low levels of calcium in the blond.

In dogs, the most common disorder of calcium metabolism is puerperal hypocalcemia. Other names for this condition include postpartum hypocalcemia, periparturient hypocalcemia, puerperal tetany, and eclampsia. This life-threatening condition is usually seen 2 to 3 weeks after whelping, when the mammary glands are producing the greatest amount of milk. Small-breed dogs with large litters are affected most often, although puerperal hypocalcemia can occur in any breed of dog, with any litter size, and at any time during lactation. Hypocalcemia most likely results from loss of calcium into the milk and too little calcium in the diet.

Panting and restlessness are early clinical signs. Tremors, twitching, muscle spasms, stiffness, and incoordination may also occur. The dog may become disoriented, hypersensitive, and aggressive, and whine, drool, and pace. Severe tremors, repeated and prolonged contraction of muscles, rapid heartbeat, fever, seizures, and coma may develop. Usually, the dog has been otherwise healthy, and the newborns have been thriving. Although hypo-calcemia usually occurs after giving birth, clinical signs can appear before or during the act of giving birth. Hypocalcemia can contribute to ineffective contractions and a slow labor without causing other clinical signs.

A tentative diagnosis is based on the history, physical examination, clinical signs, and response to treatment. In order to determine the level of calcium, appropriate tests should be performed to confirm the diagnosis. In dogs with hypocalcaemia it is necessary to have immediate veterinary treatment, so blood test will be the the fastest. But very important is prophylaxes. Thats’s why it’s a good idea to investigate in the dog calcium level before or during pregnancy. The best way to do this is elemental hair analysis. Hair – unlike blood or urine – collects information about the changes taking place in the mineral economy of the whole organism, thus giving a more real and accurate picture of nutritional excesses, deficiencies and toxic loads than the body fluids. Blood test dosn’t show the state of mineral balance in such a precise way, because its composition is regulated at the cost of other tissues and organs (such as the hair) by “displacing” or collecting missing nutrients from them. This is why elemental hair analysis accurately reflects the actual state of nutrition in the animal’s body.

Veterinary treatment of hypocalcemia – calcium solutions given intravenously usually result in rapid improvement within 15 minutes. Puppies should not be allowed to nurse for 12 to 24 hours. During this period, they should be fed a milk substitute or other appropriate diet. If mature enough, they should be weaned. After the acute crisis, calcium supplements are given for the rest of the lactation. Vitamin D supplements also may be used to increase calcium absorption from the intestines. Blood calcium levels are usually monitored weekly.

Puerperal hypocalcemia is likely to recur with future pregnancies. Preventive measures in dogs include feeding a high-quality, nutritionally balanced, and appropriate diet during pregnancy and lactation, providing food and water ad lib during lactation, and feeding puppies with supplemental milk replacer early in lactation and with solid food after 3 to 4 weeks of age. (You can also do an EHAA test – before, during pregnancy and lactation).

Oral calcium supplements should not be given during pregnancy because they may actually cause rather than prevent hypocalcemia after the dog gives birth.

By George M. Barrington, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University ; Ivan W. Caple, BVSc, PhD, MACVSc, MRCVS, Dean, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, Veterinary Clinical Centre, University of Melbourne ; David L. Evans, BVSc, PhD, Associate Professor, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney ; Jean A. Hall, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University ; Katharine F. Lunn, BVMS, MS, PhD, MRCVS, DACVIM, Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University ; Donald C. Sawyer, DVM, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University ; Sharon J. Spier, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Professor, Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California

Merck Manual – Veterinary Manual; http://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/metabolic-disorders-of-dogs/disorders-of-calcium-metabolism-in-dogs (08.11.2017)

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