Symptoms of Hyperparathyroidism in Cats

Hyperparathyroidism is a disease which involves the parathyroid glands, which are located in the neck close to the thyroid glands. Hyperparathyroidism occurs when these glands produce an excess amount of parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid hormone is in charge with keeping the calcium and phosphorus at normal levels in the blood.

Types of Hyperparathyroidism

There are 2 types of hyperparathyroidism:

  • Primary, when the parathyroid glands are affected and produce an abnormal amount to parathyroid hormones; more common in senior cats
  • Secondary, when there is an abnormal balance between calcium and phosphorus in the cat’s body, more common in kittens with a deficient diet

Causes of Hyperparathyroidism

The causes of hyperparathyroidism may include:

  • A tumor affecting the parathyroid gland
  • An injury of the parathyroid gland
  • A diet, rich in meat and proteins (i.e. liver) causing a calcium and phosphorous imbalance
  • A low intake of calcium and an excess of phosphorus in the diet

Symptoms of Hyperparathyroidism

The symptoms of hyperparathyroidism may vary according to the causes of the condition. However, the most common symptoms that an affected cat displays include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Increased thirst
  • More frequent urination
  • Drowsiness
  • Moving problems in cats with secondary hyperparathyroidism, as the excess amount of parathyroid hormones will remove the calcium from the bones to compensate for the lack of calcium in the blood
  • Splay legged position
  • Common fractures, due to low bone density
  • Abnormal growth if the condition occurs in kittens and this may result in additional stress on the joints and premature arthritis

Hyperparathyroidism Detection

There are several tests to detect hyperparathyroidism. First, the vet will perform a blood test which will indicate the levels of phosphorus and calcium. The vet may also perform x-rays and ultrasounds to detect possible tumors or abnormalities with the parathyroid glands. If there is a tumor, a biopsy test will be necessary to detect if the cells are cancerous.

Hyperparathyroidism Treatment

If the hyperparathyroidism is primary, the typical treatment is the removal of the parathyroid gland that is affected by cancer or tumor. After the surgery, the parathyroid hormones will no longer be produced in excess and the calcium levels may drop drastically, so the cat should be monitored and may require intravenous calcium if the calcium levels in the blood become alarming. For cats that suffer from hyperparathyroidism caused by nutrition, a change in diet is necessary. Cats do need meat in their diet, but the meat contains a lot of phosphorous and not enough calcium, so the cat also needs a few calcium rich products such as milk or bones, so that the calcium phosphorus balance is restored. If the cat has growth abnormalities due to hyperparathyroidism, these cannot be treated as they are permanent. If the cat suffers from arthritis, he must get a few pain medication and special massages.