Samantha has

Samantha with her owner
and Dr. King
Samantha was brought to our hospital as an emergency on a hot Sunday evening late in August of 1998. Her owners were concerned because she had difficulty breathing and her eyes and ears appeared inflamed. After a short time outdoors she had returned frantically shaking her head and itching her ears.

Dr. King examined Samantha and found she had a fever (temp.104), swollen inflamed ear flaps, raspy breathing, and was very depressed.

Dr. King considered the possible causes for Samantha's illness. Her signs appeared abruptly and could be the result of an allergic reaction to something she had been exposed to outside. Animals, like people, can become highly sensitized to insect bites. It was possible she might have ingested a toxin but her symptoms did not seem to focus on the gastrointestinal tract. Another possibility would be a metabolic disorder with an acute onset of symptoms.

Dr. King obtained blood samples to start a group of tests that would investigate the possibility of metabolic disease. Her blood pressure was taken and was normal. Abdominal radiographs were processed and appeared normal, no radiodense foreign material was evident.

Veterinary Assistant Karen Dettman
monitored Samantha throughout her
first night in the hospital.
Karen's specialty is
meticulous care and lots of TLC.
Samantha was held in intensive care. An intravenous catheter was placed and she was started on fluid therapy. She received intravenous medications to counteract the possible allergic reaction and to help relieve the intense itchiness she exhibited. Her condition stabilized. Her ears appeared less inflamed and her breathing became less labored.

Samantha's blood tests held the answer to her clinical symptoms. As Dr. King reviewed the twenty-five blood chemistries it was clear that Samantha was suffering from hypocalcemia. Her blood calcium level was 5.4 mg/dl and this is far below the normal range for a dog. Dr. King quickly repeated the calcium test to be sure the initial result was accurate. The second test confirmed the first and Samantha was started on calcium replacement therapy.

Hypocalcemia is rare in non-lactating female dogs. When hypocalcemia is diagnosed it is usually seen in female dogs that are nursing puppies. In these cases the depletion of calcium is caused by the loss of calcium into the milk. Many of these nursing mothers present to our hospital
Veterinary Assistants Holly Emerson and Becky Gero
obtain a blood sample to measure
Samantha's calcium level
with dramatic neurological symptoms including weakness and seizures. Samantha was not nursing and the cause of her hypocalcemia was still unknown.

Calcium metabolism relies on several factors, but the primary organ responsible for regulating blood calcium levels is the parathyroid gland. Normally the parathyroid gland secretes parathormone This is a small gland located near the thyroid gland in the neck area. Normally the parathyroid gland secretes parathormone to maintain normal blood calcium values. If the blood calcium level is low the gland should
Both Becky and Samantha
look a little worried, but all's well
and Samantha is feeling fine.
secrete more and more parathormone to stimulate calcium release from bone and to work with vitamin D to increase calcium absorption from the intestinal tract.

Dr. King submitted blood samples for parathormone levels. Samantha's parathormone levels were too low for a patient with hypocalcemia. With this information the most likely cause of her condition is parathyroid gland malfunction. When this occurs, it is usually a life long condition. Fortunately, medical management is possible.

Samantha has been regulated using varying combinations of oral vitamin d and calcium supplementation. She has been doing very well and has been symptom free since August. She comes to the hospital once a month for blood calcium levels. She is a happy dog and she usually comes in smiling and wagging her tail. It's a pleasure to see her healthy again.

Berkshire Veterinary Hospital
730 1/2 Crane Avenue
Pittsfield, MA 01201
(413) 499-2820