Primary hypoparathyroidism in dogs: a retrospective study of 17 cases


The primary author's address for correspondence is now, Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3900 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 USA


Objective  To evaluate the clinico-pathological findings, response to treatment and prevalence of complications in dogs with primary hypoparathyroidism.

Design  Retrospective study of 17 dogs presenting to the University of Melbourne Veterinary Clinical Centre and Murdoch University Veterinary Hospital over a 15 year period (1990 to 2004).

Case records were evaluated for signalment, body weight, diet type, historical and clinical findings, serum total calcium, phosphate, albumin and parathyroid hormone concentrations, urinary fractional excretion ratios of calcium and phosphate, electrocardiogram (ECG) results, treatments administered, outcome and period of follow-up.

Results  The most common breeds identified were St Bernard (three dogs), Chihuahua (two dogs), German Shepherd (two dogs) and Jack Russell Terrier (two dogs). Three dogs were cross bred. Seizures, muscle tremors and fasciculations, stiff gait, tetany, muscle cramping, behavioural change and hyperventilation were the most common clinical signs. Vomiting, inappetence, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, hyperthermia, facial pruritus, ataxia, weakness, cataracts, and circling also occurred with less frequency. The mean duration of observed clinical signs preceding diagnosis was 33 days (median 13 days, range 1 to 173 days). All dogs had marked hypocalcaemia with normal or mildly increased serum albumin concentrations. Mean phosphate concentrations were significantly higher in inappetent dogs (P = 0.049). Mean serum calcium concentrations were significantly lower in dogs with cataracts compared to those without (P = 0.046). There were no other significant relationships between serum calcium or phosphate concentrations and the clinical presentation or outcome. No significant correlations were identified between the presence of a particular clinical sign and the duration of clinical signs. ECGs were obtained in four dogs and all exhibited QT interval prolongation due to a ST-segment prolongation. Sixteen of 17 dogs were treated successfully for hypocalcaemia and discharged from hospital. Acute management included parenteral calcium gluconate (10 dogs) and intravenous anticonvulsants (five dogs). Chronic therapy included oral vitamin D analogues and calcium supplementation. Treatment complications occurred in two dogs and included acute renal failure (one dog) and iatrogenic tissue necrosis following subcutaneous calcium administration (one dog). The mean follow-up period was 14.5 months (median 13 months, range 0 to 39 months). Twelve dogs were alive at the last follow up and two dogs were euthanased for unrelated reasons. The type of vitamin D analogue used was not associated with outcome.

Conclusion  Primary hypoparathyroidism was an uncommon diagnosis in dogs. Saint Bernards, cross bred dogs, German Shepherd dogs and Terrier breeds were most commonly affected. Neurological signs were the most common presenting clinical signs, although alimentary signs may have been more common than previously reported. Dogs with primary hypoparathyroidism appeared to have a good prognosis following initiation of calcium supplementation and vitamin D therapy. Complications of treatment were uncommon and could be minimised with regular monitoring.