Hypocalcemia in a critically ill patient


Address correspondence and reprint requests to:
Dr. Andrea Bohn, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Washington State University, PO Box 646610, Pullman, WA 99164-6610.
E-mail: abohn@vetmed.wsu.edu


Objective: To present a case of clinical hypocalcemia in a critically ill septic dog.

Case summary: A 12-year old, female spayed English sheepdog presented in septic shock 5 days following hemilaminectomy surgery. Streptococcus canis was cultured from the incision site. Seven days after surgery, muscle tremors were noted and a subsequent low serum ionized calcium level was measured and treated. Intensive monitoring, fluid therapy, and antibiotic treatment were continued because of the sepsis and hypocalcemia, but the dog was euthanized 2 weeks after surgery.

New or unique information provided: Low serum ionized calcium levels are a common finding in critically ill human patients, especially in cases of sepsis, pancreatitis, and rhabdomyolysis. In veterinary patients, sepsis or streptococcal infections are not commonly thought of as a contributing factor for hypocalcemia. Potential mechanisms of low serum ionized calcium levels in critically ill patients include intracellular accumulation of calcium ions, altered sensitivity and function of the parathyroid gland, alterations in Vitamin D levels or activity, renal loss of calcium, and severe hypomagnesemia. Pro-inflammatory cytokines and calcitonin have also been proposed to contribute to low ionized calcium in the critically ill. Many veterinarians rely on total calcium levels instead of serum ionized calcium levels to assess critical patients and may be missing the development of hypocalcemia. Serum ionized calcium levels are recommended over total calcium levels to evaluate critically ill veterinary patients.