Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (2022)

Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (1)

Hypercalcemia in cats is a medical condition that occurs when the calcium levels in a cat’s blood are elevated beyond what is considered normal. Elevated blood calcium can occur as a primary problem such as in hyperparathyroidism, or it can occur secondary to another medical problem.

If your cat has been diagnosed with hypercalcemia, this article provides you with working knowledge you need to know about this mineral imbalance in cats.

Quick Overview: Hypercalcemia In Cats

Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (2)Other Names: Excess Calcium in the Blood in Cats

Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (3)Common Symptoms: Weakness, collapse, tremors or twitching, increased thirst and urination, poor appetite, constipation, vomiting, pale gums, urinary bladder stones.

Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (4)Diagnosis: Bloodwork, urinalysis, x-rays, abdominal ultrasound

Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (5)Diagnosed in Cats: Sometimes

Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (6)Requires Ongoing Medication: Yes

(Video) Feline Hypercalcemia | Zoetis

Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (7)Vaccine Available: No

Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (8)Treatment Options: Treatment depends on the underlying cause and severity. Severe hypercalcemia typically requires hospitalized care. More mild cases may be addressed with medical management.

Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (9)Home Remedies: No

What Are The Signs Of Hypercalcemia In Cats?

Many cats with mild hypercalcemia have no symptoms at all. Signs of hypercalcemia in cats occur when calcium is extremely elevated in the blood, or the calcium concentration in the blood has been elevated over time.

The clinical signs of hypercalcemia in cats are related to the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal system, the kidneys, and the neuromuscular system, and therefore can include:

  • Weakness
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Tremors or twitching
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Hiding more, interacting with the family less
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive drinking and urination due to kidney disease (polydipsia and polyuria)
  • Retinal blindness due to high blood pressure
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Pale gums
  • Enlarged lymph nodes with lymphoma
  • Straining to urinate, increased trips to the litterbox, or bloody urine associated with calcium
  • Urinary bladder stones
  • Collapse or coma in severe cases

If you notice any of the above symptoms in your cat, call your veterinarian immediately, or contact a local emergency veterinary clinic, as severe hypercalcemia in cats is life threatening. If blood phosphorus and calcium levels are chronically elevated over time, it can cause irreversible organ damage.

What Causes Hypercalcemia In Cats?

Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (10)

There are numerous causes of hypercalcemia in cats.

The control of calcium inside the body is complex, and influenced by vitamin D and how the parathyroid hormone interacts with the stomach and intestines, bones, kidneys, and the parathyroid glands themselves.

Hypercalcemia in cats is either a primary problem with the parathyroid gland, a condition seen in Siamese cats, or it is secondary to another medical condition. One of the most common causes of hypercalcemia in cats is kidney disease, otherwise known as chronic renal failure. Other causes of hypercalcemia in cats include:

(Video) Kidney Disease and Cats - Everything you need to know

  • Addison’s disease (hypoadrenocorticism)
  • Destructive bone diseases
  • Hypercalcemia of malignancy (cancer)- most common in cats are lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma, metastatic bone tumor, fibrosarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma
  • Aluminum intoxication
  • Certain fungal skin diseases
  • Rat bait toxicity (ingestion of Vitamin D rodenticide – no longer sold in the United States). If you suspect that your cat has consumed rat bait, call your local veterinarian or emergency veterinarian immediately, or call the Pet Poison Hotline.
  • Primary hyperparathyroidism (seen in siamese cats)
  • Idiopathic hypercalcemia seen in middle aged to older cats, no cause determined
  • Giving cats calcium, vitamin d, or calcitriol supplements
  • Mild elevations in blood calcium may be normal in growing cats

It is also helpful to know that calcium binds to albumin in the blood. If a cat is dehydrated, total calcium can be falsely elevated on blood tests, which is why measuring ionized calcium is required to get an accurate reading.

How Is Hypercalcemia In Cats Diagnosed?

Hypercalcemia in cats is diagnosed by running a sample of your cat’s blood through an analyzer that detects the level of calcium in the blood, or more accurately in the blood serum.

In specific, hypercalcemia in cats is defined as:

  • Total serum calcium > 10.5 mg/dL
  • Serum ionized calcium > 1.4 mmol/L

Blood tests can also detect additional diseases that may be causing hypercalcemia, such as kidney disease, cancer, or hormonal disorders.

Depending on which underlying cause of hypercalcemia is suspected, additional tests will be ordered. These tests may include urinalysis, x-rays, additional blood tests, abdominal ultrasound, and they can usually be done on an outpatient basis.

Radiographs (x-rays) are useful to look at the size and shape of the kidneys, look for any bladder stones, check for destructive bone tumors, or look for cancer in other parts of the body. An abdominal ultrasound may also be ordered to further image the organs in the abdomen, including adrenal glands, which cannot be seen on an x-ray.

An ultrasound of the parathyroid gland could also be ordered to look for tumors or enlargement of the gland. If cancer is suspected, specific cancer testing will be indicated, including biopsy of any tumors.

In addition to laboratory testing, your vet will rely on physical examination findings and your knowledge about your cat’s health and habits. Make sure to let your vet know if your cat is on any supplements, what food you feed, how long the problem has been going on, and what changes you notice in your cat.

This information is critical to help your vet nail down the cause of hypercalcemia in your cat.

How Is Hypercalcemia In Cats Treated?

Hypercalcemia In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment - All About Cats (11)

(Video) Hypercalcemia - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology

Severe hypercalcemia is considered a medical emergency and demands immediate care.

A severely hypercalcemic cat is considered a medical emergency because of calcium’s impact upon the heart’s ability to contract and pump blood. Left untreated, severe hypercalcemia can be fatal. If your cat is diagnosed with severe hypercalcemia, she or he will likely be admitted to the veterinary hospital for in-patient care.

Treatment of choice for life-threatening hypercalcemia in cats is primarily fluids administered intravenously. Your cat will have a catheter placed into a vein, and then will be hooked up to fluids in the hospital.

The veterinary team will monitor your cat closely, and recheck blood calcium levels over time to ensure that blood calcium levels are coming down. They will also check your cat’s urine output levels to ensure that your cat is making urine normally, since kidney disease is commonly associated with hypercalcemia in cats.

Additional treatments that may be ordered to lower blood calcium include diuretics and steroids, such as prednisone.

Once your cat’s blood calcium levels and associated symptoms have been addressed, your vet will work with you to create a treatment plan to address whatever caused the hypercalcemia, if necessary. If there is a tumor in the parathyroid gland, then surgery is indicated. If hypercalcemia is due to kidney disease, then treatment of kidney disease is warranted, and so on and so forth.

How To Prevent Hypercalcemia In Cats?

There are many things you can do at home to help prevent hypercalcemia in your cat.

One easy thing you can do is ensure your cat gets excellent nutrition only feeding food that has been certified by AAFCO to be complete and balanced, either by formulation or feeding trial.

Second, don’t give any calcium, vitamin D, or calcitriol supplements to your cat unless directed to do so by a veterinarian. Excessive supplementation with these minerals and vitamins can upset your cat’s calcium balance.

Third, take your cat in for yearly veterinary visits and have your cat’s blood checked for high calcium. This is usually part of a larger blood panel that screens for many diseases. Don’t forget – cats age more quickly than humans. If your cat is older or has other heath challenges, get bloodwork run by your local veterinarian every 6 months.

Fourth, be mindful of what houseplants you keep in your home. Some houseplants, including Cestrum diurnum [the day-blooming jessamine], Solanum malacoxylon, and Trisetum flavescens) if chewed on may contain a Vitamin D type substance that can cause hypercalcemia. Keep cats away from these plants.

(Video) CATS | Signs and Symptoms of Hypocalcemia | Nursing Mnemonic

Fifth, if your cat has been treated in the past for hypercalcemia due to any reason, follow all your vet’s instructions closely – she or he will be your best guide to preventing any similar episodes in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes hypercalcemia in cats?

One of the most common causes of hypercalcemia in cats is kidney disease, otherwise known as chronic renal failure. Other causes of hypercalcemia in cats include Addison's disease, cancer, fungal diseases, Vitamin D toxicosis, and primary hyperparathyroidism. Idiopathic hypercalcemia with no known cause is also seen in middle aged to older cats.

Can hypercalcemia in cats be cured?

Hypercalcemia in cats can be be treated, however, without addressing the underlying cause of the elevated calcium levels in the blood, hypercalcemia will likely return.

What happens if hypercalcemia in cats is left untreated?

Hypercalcemia in cats, if left untreated, can be life-threatening. Hypercalcemia in cats can cause mineralization of internal organs, and negatively impacts the heart, the neuromuscular system, and can cause constipation and bladder stones.

(Video) The diagnosis and management of hypercalcaemia (Veterinary CPD)

FAQs

What is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in cats? ›

In cats, lymphoma and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common causes of hypercalcemia. Other tumors causing hypercalcemia in cats include osteosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, bronchogenic carcinoma and multiple myeloma.

Can hypercalcemia in cats be cured? ›

Prognosis. Idiopathic hypercalcemia is a treatable disease although patients require lifelong therapy and monitoring. Cats with idiopathic hypercalcemia that are diagnosed before evidence of organ damage occur generally enjoy a normal quality of life and survival.

What is the treatment for hypercalcemia in cats? ›

Bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates are now considered to the first line treatment of idiopathic hypercalcaemia in cats. These drugs decrease osteoclastic bone resorption. They are generally considered safer than glucocorticoids, due to less common side effects.

How can I lower my cat's calcium naturally? ›

Owners can add in a little cooked chicken (about 10% of the diet) to further reduce the calcium level and a teaspoon or two of psyllium fiber (e.g., unflavored Metamucil) to gain any of the benefits that fiber might bring to the table, so to speak.

What triggers hypercalcemia? ›

Hypercalcemia is usually a result of overactive parathyroid glands. These four tiny glands are situated in the neck, near the thyroid gland. Other causes of hypercalcemia include cancer, certain other medical disorders, some medications, and taking too much of calcium and vitamin D supplements.

What food causes hypercalcemia? ›

Greatly limit or stop your intake of milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, pudding, and ice cream. Read food labels. Don't buy dairy products with added calcium.

How long does it take to correct hypercalcemia? ›

They require 2 to 4 days to achieve therapeutic blood levels and their effects usually last several weeks, although this can vary by patient and by the specific bisphosphonate used.

What foods reduce calcium levels? ›

Some food and drink can deplete calcium if you have too much of them, such as spinach, tomatoes, rhubarb, wholemeal bread, alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks.

Can hypercalcemia correct itself? ›

Know that hypercalcemia is treatable and that symptoms usually go away once your calcium levels are back to normal. If you have cancer that can cause hypercalcemia, your provider will likely want to regularly monitor your blood calcium levels.

What is the first line treatment for hypercalcemia? ›

Intravenous bisphosphonates are the treatment of first choice for the initial management of hypercalcaemia, followed by continued oral, or repeated intravenous bisphosphonates to prevent relapse.

What is the emergency treatment for hypercalcemia? ›

Hypercalcemic crisis is a life-threatening emergency. Aggressive intravenous rehydration is the mainstay of management in severe hypercalcemia, and antiresorptive agents, such as calcitonin and bisphosphonates, frequently can alleviate the clinical manifestations of hypercalcemic disorders.

What level of hypercalcemia is fatal? ›

Severe hypercalcemia, defined variously in the literature as plasma calcium >3.5 mmol/L (14 mg/dL) or >4.0 mmol/L (16 mg/dL), is rare, but widely considered a potentially fatal condition that requires emergency treatment.

Does apple cider vinegar lower calcium? ›

Excessive consumption of apple cider vinegar can affect the absorption of calcium in the body, it further reduces the bone mineral density. This may make the bones weak and brittle. Thus make sure you don't consume excessive apple cider vinegar.

How do you get rid of crystals in cats naturally? ›

The take home for those of you with cats and dogs that are urine crystal formers is to increase the amount of water in the diet. That can be achieved easily by adding water to their dry and wet foods.

How common is hypercalcemia in cats? ›

It is relatively rare in dogs and cats. Persistent hypercalcemia is characteristic. Solitary adenoma of the external or internal parathyroid gland is the most common cause of primary hyperparathyroidism, whereas parathyroid carcinoma has been infrequently reported.

What are the symptoms of hypercalcaemia? ›

Symptoms of hypercalcaemia
  • being sick (vomiting)
  • drowsiness.
  • dehydration.
  • confusion.
  • muscle spasms.
  • bone pain or tenderness.
  • joint pain.
  • irregular heartbeat.

Is hypercalcemia life threatening? ›

Objective: Severe hypercalcemia is often considered an emergency because of a potential risk of cardiac arrest or coma.

What vitamin can cause hypercalcemia? ›

Overexposure to vitamin D produces symptomatic hypercalcemia, with possible weakness, fatigue, depression, confusion, stupor or coma, polyuria, nephrolithiasis, renal failure, ectopic calcification, conjunctivitis, fever, chills, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

What 3 foods are high in calcium? ›

Foods With Calcium
  • Dairy products. Products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich in calcium and also tend to be the best absorbed sources of it. ...
  • Soybeans. Dry-roasted soybeans are a good source of calcium. ...
  • Dark Green, Leafy Vegetables. ...
  • Calcium-Fortified Foods. ...
  • Canned Salmon. ...
  • Figs. ...
  • Flour Tortillas. ...
  • Canned Baked Beans.
22 Oct 2020

What cancers are associated with hypercalcemia? ›

The most common cancers associated with hypercalcemia in the United States are breast, renal, lung, and squamous cell cancers and multiple myeloma [2]. Malignancy is usually evident clinically by the time it causes hypercalcemia, and patients with hypercalcemia of malignancy often have a poor prognosis.

Does stress cause high calcium levels? ›

When stress becomes chronic, our diets cannot replace the calcium depletion fast enough so our bones are constantly being leached of calcium, leading to potentially more porous bones, brittle bones and osteoporosis.

What causes calcium build up in cats? ›

The primary cause for the formation of stones is high levels of calcium in the urine. Some risk factors can include excessive dietary protein or vitamin D, a vitamin B6 deficiency, the use of calcium supplements or steroids, and a diet comprised exclusively of dry food.

How common is hypercalcemia in cats? ›

It is relatively rare in dogs and cats. Persistent hypercalcemia is characteristic. Solitary adenoma of the external or internal parathyroid gland is the most common cause of primary hyperparathyroidism, whereas parathyroid carcinoma has been infrequently reported.

What causes calcium crystals in cats? ›

Cats are more likely to develop oxalate stones when their urine contains high levels of calcium and oxalate. In some cases, this is also associated with high blood calcium levels. Additionally, a low urine pH (acidic urine) promotes the formation of oxalate stones.

What is the most critical complication associated with hypercalcemia? ›

Complications of long-term hypercalcemia are rare since calcium levels are checked in routine blood panels and healthcare providers usually catch hypercalcemia early, but complications can include: Calcium deposits in your kidney (nephrocalcinosis) that cause poor kidney function. Kidney failure. Kidney stones.

What does hypercalcemia mean in cats? ›

Hypercalcemia in Cats

Hypercalcemia is characterized by an abnormally high amount of calcium in the blood. A cat is considered hypercalcemic when its total serum calcium level is greater than 10.5 mg/dL.

Can cat hypocalcemia be cured? ›

Generally, hypocalcemia is corrected through calcium supplementation therapy under close monitoring, so as to prevent side-effects related to calcium overload.

What makes calcium deposits go away? ›

In many cases, your body will reabsorb the calcium without any treatment. But the calcium deposits may return. Your doctor will first want you to ease your pain and inflammation with rest and an anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen or naproxen. If that doesn't work, you may need a cortisone injection.

Can hypercalcemia go away by itself? ›

People with mild hypercalcemia may not require treatment, and calcium levels may return to normal over time. The doctor will monitor these levels and the health of the kidneys. If calcium levels continue to rise or do not improve on their own, doctors may recommend further testing.

How long does it take for hypercalcemia to resolve? ›

They require 2 to 4 days to achieve therapeutic blood levels and their effects usually last several weeks, although this can vary by patient and by the specific bisphosphonate used.

What level of hypercalcemia is fatal? ›

Severe hypercalcemia, defined variously in the literature as plasma calcium >3.5 mmol/L (14 mg/dL) or >4.0 mmol/L (16 mg/dL), is rare, but widely considered a potentially fatal condition that requires emergency treatment.

What ingredient in cat food causes crystals in urine? ›

#2: Reevaluate Your Cat's Diet

Urinary diets have restricted amounts of minerals, such as magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium, which can contribute to urinary crystal and stone formation. They are also formulated to make your cat's urine slightly acidic, which discourages crystal formation.

What causes Struvites in cats? ›

What causes struvite bladder stones? In some cats, struvite bladder stones form as a result of a urinary tract infection. Certain species of urinary bacteria produce a chemical called urease, which leads to changes in urine acidity. Urease-producing bacteria can contribute to the formation of struvite stones.

How long does it take for cat crystals to go away? ›

On the average, it takes about 6 weeks for a stone to dissolve. If the stone does not seem to be dissolving after a reasonable time, the stone may require surgical removal.

What is the first line treatment for hypercalcemia? ›

Intravenous bisphosphonates are the treatment of first choice for the initial management of hypercalcaemia, followed by continued oral, or repeated intravenous bisphosphonates to prevent relapse.

When is hypercalcemia an emergency? ›

Severe hypercalcemia (Ca>4 mmol/l or 16 mg/dl) is often considered an emergency because of a potential risk of cardiac arrest or coma 15.

How long can you survive with hypercalcemia? ›

Eighty percent of patients will die within a year, and there is a median survival of 3 to 4 months. The main pathogenesis of hypercalcemia in malignancy is increased osteoclastic bone resorption, which can occur with or without bone metastases.

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