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Hyperparathyroidism In Cats – Your Ultimate Guide

Hyperparathyroidism is a medical condition that occurs in older cats. This condition causes a significant imbalance in the blood calcium and phosphorous levels in cats. This condition is typical for older cats and it’s difficult to diagnose it without a visit to your veterinarian. Read on and learn what are the early symptoms.

Hyperparathyroidism in cats refers to a condition in which a tumor in a gland called ‘parathyroid’ produces excessive levels of parathyroid hormone, which leads to increased blood calcium levels. Cats that are often infected with this condition are Siamese cats.

What Is Hyperparathyroidism?

Hyperparathyroidism in cats is known as a medical condition in which abnormally high levels of a hormone called parathyroid (also known as PTH or parathormone) circulate the blood as the result of an overactive parathyroid gland.

The parathyroid hormone is responsible for regulating calcium levels and phosphorus levels in the blood, increasing blood calcium levels by simply causing calcium to be reabsorbed from the bone. On the other hand, parathyroid glands are small, hormone-secreting glands that are located near or on the thyroid glands.

The term ‘para’ stands for alongside, while term ‘thyroid’ stands for the actual thyroid gland. Therefore, the thyroid and parathyroid glands are located next to each other, side by side in the neck, next to the windpipe (also known as the trachea).

Furthermore, parathyroid glands are located actually or next to the glands in the neck. There are two types of hyperparathyroidism.

Primary Hyperparathyroidism In Cats

This type of hyperparathyroidism is seen when one or more of the parathyroid glands become cancerous or starts producing excess parathyroid hormone. This causes the calcium levels in the blood to be significantly higher than normal. Primary hyperparathyroidism is generally seen in older animals. Although it’s seen in cars, it’s more common in dogs.

The most common treatment of this type is the removal either of the cancerous gland or the abnormal one. However, the removal of the gland can cause a sudden drop of parathyroid hormone, and there is a parallel drop in the blood calcium level as well. For this reason, your pet must be watched closely after surgery. Also, if the calcium level becomes too low some additional intake of calcium must be included.

Secondary (Nutritional) Hyperparathyroidism In Cats

This type of hyperparathyroidism is more present and it’s usually seen in kittens and puppies than in adult animals. In general, it’s more present in pets that are fed with organ diet or all-meat diet (for example, like liver). This type is also seen with pets that are on a diet with an imbalance of calcium and phosphorous.

It’s known that meat contains an overload of phosphorous and inadequate amounts of calcium. Cats are carnivores, but they don’t eat just meat. They eat bones as well – cats can find in bones the needed calcium that helps them create better calcium and phosphorous balance.

Kittens with this type of hyperparathyroidism won’t move often and may stand splay-legged. In addition, they can easily develop fractures. Fractures are present because of the thinning of the bones. Any change in the density of the bones can lead to abnormal growth, especially in the pelvis and spinal column. This puts stress on the joints and can result in arthritis.

The most common treatment of this type involves putting your feline friend on a well-balanced diet. Also, it’s good to know that skeletal deformities are usually permanent and cannot be corrected. You are welcome to learn more about feline hyperthyroidism in the following video and learn if your feline is safe from this condition.

Causes Of Hyperparathyroidism In Cats

One thing that we know for sure when it comes to hyperparathyroidism in cats is that there is no known genetic cause for primary hyperparathyroidism. But, it’s associated with certain breeds which suggests a possible hereditary basis in some cases.

Also, when it comes to causes in secondary hyperparathyroidism – it can be developed in association with hereditary kidney disease (known as hereditary nephropathy). However, it’s not inherited. It seems that Siamese cats can show some leaning for this disease. In cats, the average age is 13 years, with a range of 8 to 15 years of age.

Primary Hyperparathyroidism

Primary hyperparathyroidism is caused by a benign tumor, one or many of them. They are also known as adenomas and they are located on the parathyroid gland.

The tumor can cause the parathyroid to secrete excess parathyroid hormone, although malignant parathyroid tumors are utterly rare in cats.

Secondary hyperparathyroidism

Secondary hyperparathyroidism causes can include kittens who are fed an all-meat diet, kidney disease, nutritional excess of phosphorous or nutritional deficiency of calcium and vitamin D.

Symptoms Of Hyperparathyroidism In Cats

Parathyroid tumors are small and located deep in the neck. Therefore, there are usually no external signs when it comes to this condition. Most cats do not appear to look ill.

However, there are some symptoms that you can notice as an external eye and contact your veterinarian to if you should be worried about your feline’s health condition. Most common symptoms are:

Also, this condition can be seen via the presence of stones in the urinary tract. Moreover, your veterinarian is the only one that can tell you for sure if your cat suffers from hyperparathyroidism or not. Furthermore, your veterinarian may be able to feel enlarged parathyroid glands in the neck.

Diagnosis Of Hyperparathyroidism In Cats

If you want to know for sure if your cat has this condition or not the best and the fastest way would be to make an appointment for a detailed examination of your cat. You should stick to your veterinarian as he or she will be the one to have your cat’s medical history. Also, make sure that you know to tell your veterinarian about all symptoms and at least an approximate date if not the exact one of when the first symptoms occurred. The first is usually for your veterinarian to physically examine the cat.

This examination will include the search for any kind of abnormalities like muscle or gait, any enlargement of the parathyroid gland, and also listening to your cat’s heart rate and breathing.

Lab tests will be included as well, like a biochemical profile, urinalysis and a complete blood count. These labs will show the phosphate and calcium levels in the blood and urine. This way you will know if any kidney disease is present or not. So, elevated levels will confirm the diagnosis of hyperparathyroidism in a cat.

Additional tests can be performed in order to determine if a tumor or a nutritional deficiency is the cause. Therefore, an ultrasound or X-ray can be performed to look at the parathyroid and thyroid glands. Simply said, this test will look for the tumor.

Other blood tests may be performed to see what nutritional deficiencies are present. Exploratory surgery may be necessary to find the tumor and determine the cause of the hyperparathyroidism. If you are wondering why an exploratory surgery may be present it’s due to the fact that parathyroid gland is so small.

Treatment Of Hyperparathyroidism In Cats

Treatment of this condition may vary thanks to its type. Primary hyperparathyroidism usually requires a lot of care and finally a surgery. On the other hand, secondary hyperparathyroidism can be managed on an outpatient basis. The first step can be calcium recommendation in the form of different calcium supplements in order to stabilize the levels of calcium. The most common ways of treatment are:

1. Surgery

As stated above, this move is strictly reserved for primary hyperparathyroidism in cats. It’s usually treated by simply removing the gland that’s causing the elevated hormone secretion. Surgery is one of two options for removal. If your feline needs to go to the surgery fasting is mandatory.

Also, general anesthesia is mandatory and it will be performed before the veterinarian starts the surgery and makes a small incision on the underside of the cat’s neck. By cutting your cat’s neck the gland will be exposed and therefore easily removed.

2. Dietary Changes

Dietary Changes are always present and advice with secondary hyperparathyroidism. Dietary changes should correct nutritional deficiencies that cause excess levels to occur. Most likely, the veterinarian will prescribe a special diet for your feline. In addition, you may expect additional supplements that will help your cat to correct
these deficiencies.

3. Alcohol Or Heat Treatment

One of the ways to remove parathyroid glands with tumors is by using heat treatment or alcohol. These procedures are known for being mild, and non-invasive compared to a classic surgery. Furthermore, alcohol treatment has a 90% success rate. On the other hand, heat treatment has a 50% success rate. A needle will be inserted into the gland by using ultrasound for the precision. In order to destroy the gland, alcohol or heat will be used.

Just like surgery, alcohol treatment requires hospitalization. Also, your cat will be firmly monitored because of the rapid drop in secreted parathyroid hormones. Equally, a calcium supplement may be necessary until the body starts regulating itself properly.

4. Chronic Kidney Disease Treatment

If your cat suffers from hyperparathyroidism due to chronic kidney disease she will need to receive certain treatment, especially for kidney problems. Therefore, this treatment may include strong medication and medication intake on a long run. Also, your cat will probably be placed on a low-phosphorous diet.

Regardless of which method your veterinarian suggests, make sure that you follow them wholly. This is a condition that needs to be managed properly, especially when there are no specific prevention steps that you can take in order to protect your feline. This goes for primary hyperparathyroidism. On the other hand, secondary hyperparathyroidism can be prevented by proper nutrition.

The cat will need to follow up with the veterinarian in order to continue tracking the cat’s calcium and phosphorous levels. Also, if your cat went undergo alcohol or heat treatment will need additional supports in terms of various tests and extra ultrasounds to determine if the gland was successfully removed and destroyed.

Cats with chronic kidney disease will also need to follow up with the veterinarian in order to have their kidney function monitored on a regular basis. With proper treatments, cats with diagnosed hyperparathyroidism have a good prognosis.


Always bear in mind that it takes more time to cure something than to prevent it. Therefore, make sure that you remain regular with your vet’s check-ups and vaccination if you truly want your feline to stay healthy as long as possible.

With this condition, it’s crucial to listen to everything that your vet tells you. Moreover, be ready even for surgery, if necessary. As a responsible cat owner, you should stick to proper recovery management and make sure that follow-up with your vet is done on a regular basis.

Remember that if your cat is diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism, the prognosis is not all bad and with proper recovery you can help your feline feel much better and live much longer.