Primary Hyperparathyroidism Symptoms in Cats

Feline primary hyperparathyroidism occurs when your cat's parathyroid glands secrete too much parathyroid hormone (PTH). This hormone plays an important role in regulating levels of phosphorus, calcium and vitamin D in the blood. Imbalances in blood levels of these nutrients can cause dangerous health effects. Read on to learn more about this disease and its symptoms.

Causes of Hyperparathyroidism in Cats

The parathyroid glands are located next to the thyroid glands in your cat's throat. They're responsible for regulating blood levels of parathyroid hormone, or PTH, which help to keep levels of calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus stable in your cat's blood. Hyperparathyroidism occurs when your cat's parathyroid glands produce too much hormone. This can be the result of benign or cancerous tumors in the glands, as well as injury to the parathyroid glands.

Primary hyperparathryoidism occurs when there is a problem with the parathyroid glands themselves.

Secondary hyperparathryoidism, another type of the disease, occurs due to an inadequate diet.

Symptoms of Primary Hyperparathyroidism in Cats

Cats with hyperparathyroidism may experience lack of appetite and vomiting. They may appear lethargic or depressed. They'll experience excessive thirst and urination. The symptoms of this disorder usually come on slowly and get more severe as the disease affects major body systems.

Hyperparathyroidism can affect the functioning of all of your cat's body systems, especially major organs like the heart, kidneys and liver.

Diagnosing and Treating Hyperparathyroidism in Cats

Your vet will need a complete medical history and a thorough physical exam in order to diagnose hyperparathyroidism in cats. He'll test for elevated levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. He may also perform a urinalysis. Your vet may need an ultrasound or X-ray to determine the extent of the damage to your cat's parathyroid glands.

If your vet suspects cancer in the parathyroid glands, he may want to take a tissue sample for biopsy. He may perform a unilateral thyroidectomy to remove tissue from one of the parathyroid glands.

Your cat may need surgery to help treat his hyperparathyroidism. Your vet will most likely want to remove the injured or damaged glands and may need to remove excess tissue to completely excise any tumors in your cat's glands. If your cat's blood levels of calcium and other minerals are exceptionally high, your vat may need to remain hospitalized and receive IV fluid therapy and medications until these dangerously high mineral levels are brought back down. 

Following surgery, your cat will have problems maintaining adequate blood levels of phosphorus, calcium and vitamin D. He may need a nutritional supplement to help keep adequate levels of these minerals in his blood.

Hyperparathyroidism is rare, but surgery and nutritional supplements are a highly successful means of treatment. You and your vet will need to carefully monitor your cat's calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D levels once he has had his surgery. Watch out for the signs of low blood calcium, including:

  • leg cramps
  • stiff gait
  • nervousness
  • panting
  • twitching muscles
  • seizures