Multisystem Diseases: eclampsia (puerperal tetany, milk fever)


Eclampsia (puerperal tetany) usually occurs in mother cats within two or three weeks after delivery, although it can occur before delivery. Though the exact mechanism is unknown, it is due to a defect in calcium metabolism that results in an abnormally low blood calcium level when calcium stores cannot be mobilized to keep up with calcium losses in the milk. Although it occurs infrequently in cats, heavily lactating females with large litters seem predisposed to the disease.

The first signs are often restlessness, distressed meowing, and rapid breathing. Spontaneous recovery may result, or the signs may progress to stiffness and muscle spasms, incoordination, inability to stand, convulsions, and fever. Progressive tetany is an emergency that must be treated by a veterinarian. Calcium preparations are given intravenously. Kittens are removed from nursing for at least twelve to twenty-four hours.

Sometimes they may be returned for restricted nursing later, but this must be supplemented by hand-feeding. Kittens old enough to eat solid food are weaned. Calcium-phosphorus-vitamin D supplements are often prescribed for queens who must continue restricted nursing.

Certain females seem predisposed to milk fever, and it may be advisable not to rebreed these females. A ration adequate in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D should be fed throughout pregnancy.

Veterinarians feel that oversupplementation with calcium may help induce milk fever. Therefore, supplementation during pregnancy should be with balanced vitamin-mineral preparations used cautiously. Discuss this problem in detail with your veterinarian if your female will be bred.


Obstruction of the urethra is a common cause of inability to urinate in cats. If the obstruction is not relieved it may cause rupture of the urinary bladder.