Eclampsia in cats is often known by breeders as milk fever. Anyone with breeding knowledge knows that it is a life-threatening condition. Some queens are simply prone to it and there is nothing an owner can do to to stop it occurring. However it is usually because of a high demand on her milk supply due to a larger litter.
It can happen one to three weeks after giving birth or whilst feeding smaller litters. If a queen is suffering from eclampsia, quick action is needed to save her life (and sometimes the pregnancy itself is at serious risk). It's important if you do have a pregnant or nursing cat you learn about the condition and are able to spot the signs of this illness in due haste.
So what are the symptoms?
The symptoms occurr quickly with little prior warning, it is important to get your cat to the vet even if you suspect eclampsia. The common signs and symptoms include undue restlessness, the queen may refuse to nurse her litter. She may salivate or suffer from muscle tremours. On walking the queen may display a stiff gait or be unsteady on her feet. She may suffer from diarrhea or vomiting.
If the illness is allowed to progress the queen may begin to convulse, her breathing may be laboured.
- Restlessness and unwillingness to nurse kittens
- Unsteady, stiff gait whilst walking
- Muscle tremors
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Fitting and convulsions as the condition progresses
- Increased respiration rate
- Very high temperature
It is important to get a queen suspected as having eclampsia to a vet immediately. Prompt treatment is necessary to save her life.
The vet will administer IV Calcium. This has to be administered slowly over a period of 10 minutes and the queen's heart rate must be monitored throughout. Too much calcium, given too quickly, can cause heart rhythm irregularities.
The vet will decide if it is necessary to continue with oral calcium supplementation following recovery.
Usually, the queen will be allowed to nurse her kittens following recovery but if she has a large litter, it is sensible to only allow her to raise two or three of them and hand rear the rest.
Some queens are simply just 'prone' to eclampsia and little can be done to prevent it happening. Queens that have had eclampsia have an increased chance of it occurring again within the same litter and with subsequent litters.
Some measures to try and reduce the risk of the queen developing eclampsia are:
Feeding a good quality diet.
Supplementation with calcium if she has a large litter might be beneficial but do consult your vet first.
Do not give calcium supplements during pregnancy as this can actually lead to eclampsia occurring.
Consider the use of homeopathy; Calcarea Phosphorica and Magnesium Phosphate are considered by homeopathists to help prevent the condition. (Always consult a homeopathist prior to administration to ensure the correct regime.)
Know and recognise the signs of eclampsia and, if you suspect it, remove the kittens to prevent further nursing and get the queen to a vet asap.
Do remember that in cats the risk of eclampsia is quite small but please be aware of the signs as prompt action will be the deciding factor between life or death of the queen.