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Low Production of Parathyroid Hormone in Dogs

Hypoparathyroidism in Dogs

Hypoparathyroidism in dogs manifests as a deficiency, either absolute or relative, of parathyroid hormone in the bloodstream. This hormone plays a crucial role in regulating calcium and phosphorus levels, primarily by promoting the reabsorption of calcium from the bones, thereby increasing blood calcium levels. Insufficient secretion of parathyroid hormone results in hypocalcemia, characterized by low blood calcium levels.

The parathyroid glands, responsible for hormone secretion, are small glands located on or near the thyroid glands, situated at the front of the neck in alignment with the larynx and trachea.

Certain dog breeds, including toy poodles, miniature schnauzers, German shepherd dogs, Labrador retrievers, and various terrier breeds, display a predisposition to hypoparathyroidism. Diagnosis typically occurs around the age of 4.8 years, with cases ranging from six weeks to 13 years. Additionally, there seems to be a gender discrepancy, with females exhibiting a higher incidence of diagnosis.

Symptoms

Symptoms include seizures, a tense abdomen, wobbly or drunken-like movements (ataxia), a stiff gait, fever, facial rubbing, muscle trembling or twitching, involuntary muscle contractions, growling, panting, cataracts, weakness, increased urination and thirst, vomiting, and lack of appetite.

Causes

Causes of hypoparathyroidism typically stem from unknown origins or result from immune-mediated inflammation affecting the parathyroid gland.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of hypoparathyroidism in your dog involves a thorough physical examination by your veterinarian, considering the background history of symptoms provided by you. Standard tests, including a complete blood profile, chemical blood profile, complete blood count, urinalysis, and electrolyte panel, will be conducted. While these tests typically yield normal results in hypoparathyroidism cases, they are essential for ruling out other underlying disorders.

Given the various potential causes for the described symptoms, your veterinarian will likely employ a differential diagnosis approach. This method involves careful analysis of outward symptoms, progressively eliminating common causes until the correct disorder is identified and treated accordingly. Key issues associated with hypoparathyroidism that must be differentiated from other conditions include seizures, weakness, muscle trembling, and twitching.

Various causes needing exclusion encompass heart-related diseases, metabolic disorders like hypoglycemia or hepatoencephalopathy, and neurological conditions such as inflammatory diseases, tumors, or epilepsy. Examination of the cervical region may reveal absent or atrophied parathyroid glands.

Treatment

Treatment for hypoparathyroidism may require initial hospitalization to manage low blood calcium levels until clinical signs are controlled. Further treatment depends on the diagnosis of any underlying conditions.

Emergency care is typically reserved for specific cases, such as primary hypoparathyroidism or hypoparathyroidism resulting from procedures aimed at correcting excessive thyroid hormone or parathyroid hormone levels. These procedures may inadvertently lower parathyroid hormone levels too much.

If your dog is diagnosed with hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels), long-term treatment will be necessary. Your veterinarian will prescribe ongoing vitamin D supplementation, with the dosage tailored to your dog’s requirements. Calcium supplements may also be administered orally, as directed by your veterinarian in terms of type and dosage.

Living and Management

Long-term management is necessary to address both low and excessive levels of calcium in the blood. Initially, your veterinarian will schedule frequent appointments to monitor your dog’s progress and adjust care as necessary. Once serum calcium levels stabilize and return to normal, your veterinarian will conduct monthly assessments for six months, followed by evaluations every two to four months thereafter.

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