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 expelled.
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 deficiencies.
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 important.