Parathyroid Disorders in Cats
Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism continued...
Kittens are at particular risk because they require large amounts of calcium
for growth and development. When a kitten’s sole source of nourishment is meat,
he’s getting too much phosphorus and not enough calcium. This results in
overactivity of the parathyroid glands.
Symptoms appear after the kitten has been on a high-meat diet for about four
weeks. Affected kittens are reluctant to move, and they develop an
uncoordinated gait and lameness in the back legs. The front legs are often
bowed. Their thin bones are easily fractured. These fractures, often multiple,
tend to heal rapidly and may even go unrecognized. Because the meat diet
supplies adequate calories, kittens often appear well-nourished and have a
healthy coat despite their metabolic bone disease.
Osteoporosis is the adult form of this disease. It occurs in older cats who
receive large quantities of meat at the expense of other nutrients. Other
feeding practices that can lead to osteoporosis include vegetarian diets, dog
food diets, and diets that consist primarily of table scraps and leftovers.
Since adult calcium requirements are lower than those for kittens and adult
cats have more calcium in their bones to draw out, bone demineralization takes
longer (5 to 13 months). The first sign of demineralization is thinning of the
jaw bones with exposure of the roots of the teeth. The loose teeth are then
Treatment: Dietary correction is required. Calcium and vitamin D supplements
should not be given to kittens unless prescribed by a veterinarian for a
specific deficiency. Oversupplementation can be just as dangerous as
Kittens with nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism should be kept quiet
and confined to prevent bone fractures while their diet is adjusted. Bone
deformities tend to be permanent, so early recognition and treatment is