Primary hypoparathyroidism is a rare but well documented disorder in horses. Affected horses have clinical signs consistent with hypocalcemia (ataxia, seizures, hyperexcitability, synchronous diaphragmatic flutter, tachycardia, tachypnea, muscle fasciculation, and ileus). As in other species, the diagnosis is based on the finding of low serum concentrations of calcium and PTH with high levels of phosphorus. As described above, treatment with intravenous and subsequently oral calcium combined with large doses of vitamin D should result in the remission of clinical signs associated with hypoparathyroidism.
Sepsis is one of the most common causes of hypocalcemia in horses admitted to veterinary hospitals. Total and ionized hypocalcemia are common in horses with severe GI disease and sepsis. Hypocalcemia with inappropriately low serum PTH concentrations also has been reported in foals. The underlying cause of hypocalcemia in foals remains to be determined. However, it is possible that these foals have some form of hypoparathyroidism associated with sepsis.
Last full review/revision July 2011 by Mark E. Peterson, DVM, DACVIM