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Hyperparathyroidism: How this Tumor Increased One Dachshund's Thirst

Posted January 07, 2015 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (

AJ Debiasse, a veterinary technician in Stroudsburg, PA, contributed to this article.

Senior male dachshund

Sprout, a 14-year-old male Dachshund was constantly drinking and urinating. His guardians thought that he just needed to go out more because he was getting older, but despite the increase in potty breaks, Sprout was still having accidents in the house. It was time for a visit to his veterinarian.

A full physical exam was performed. Nothing abnormal was found. No masses or enlarged lymph nodes were palpated and all of his vital signs were normal. The veterinarian recommended blood work to evaluate Sprout’s body functions.

What did blood work reveal?
The only abnormality was an elevated calcium level (hypercalcemia). Since hypercalcemia can be a sign of multiple conditions, radiographs and an ultrasound were performed. The radiographs were unremarkable, but the ultrasound showed a small mass on the right parathyroid gland.

The parathyroid is a gland located next to the thyroid. In fact, there are 2 thyroid glands and 4 parathyroid glands (2 on each side). The parathyroid glands are mainly responsible for regulating calcium levels in the blood. When one gland it hyperactive, it produces too much parathyroid hormone, which increases the calcium levels. This condition is called “hyper-para-thyroidism.” In addition, when one gland is hyperactive, the 3 other glands become lazy and don’t produce much parathyroid hormone.

What causes hyperparathyroidism?
The cause is not known. It can happen in any dog breed, usually between 5 and 15 years of age. One canine breed is particularly susceptible: the Keeshond—in which the disease is partially genetic.

What are the symptoms of hyperparathyroidism?
The symptoms vary and include increased drinking and urination as in our friend Sprout. Other signs include:

  • A decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • A decreased activity level
  • Weakness

Because of the increased calcium level, kidney or bladder stones made of calcium can occur. It is therefore critical to look for the presence of stones with X-rays or ultrasound.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Treating hyperparathyroidism
Ultrasound has made a huge difference in the way we approach these tumors. At one time, we had to look around, poke around and mess around. Now, through a completely non-invasive test, we know exactly where the mass is, and which side it’s on. This means less trauma for the patient, and a much quicker surgery, which translates into a shorter anesthesia.

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at