Your dog's four tiny parathyroid glands are just one-quarter inch long, but they pack a powerful punch. Parathyroidectomy, or removal of the glands, usually occurs primarily when a malignancy develops. While such cancers are rare in canines, another condition that can result in parathyroidectomy -- hyperparathyroidism -- is more common with benign growths. Keeshonds appear genetically predisposed to developing parathyroid tumors. You can't feel these tumors, but affected dogs exhibit symptoms indicating parathyroid issues.
Your dog's two thyroid glands each have two parathyroid glands, one on the outside and one inside the thyroid gland. These glands regulate his blood calcium levels. If his calcium levels fall, the parathyroid glands produce a hormone, usually referred to as PTH for "parathyroid hormone." If a tumor develops on the gland, it might produce too much PTH, resulting in high blood calcium levels affecting the dog's kidneys, central nervous system and his heart. Fortunately, the tumors are usually benign, so dogs receiving a parathyroidectomy usually have a good prognosis.
Initial signs of hyperparathyroidism include excessive drinking and urinating. Dogs with hyperparathyroidism might develop bladder or kidney stones, formed because of excess calcium in their systems. Because high calcium levels affect so many bodily functions, dogs might also experience vomiting, constipation and appetite loss. Dogs become weak as too much calcium erodes their muscle function. Without treatment, kidneys and other organs receive permanent damage, shortening the animal's life span.
A veterinary surgeon performs the parathyroidectomy by making an incision in the dog's neck, behind his throat. She'll inspect all of the dog's parathyroid glands, removing any tumors found. Such tumors are generally considerably larger than the parathyroid gland. In many cases, the parathyroid glands do not require removal. True parathyroidectomy, in which the glands are removed, is relatively rare, according to the Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncology website.
After the surgery, your vet carefully monitors your dog's blood calcium levels. If his levels are low, she might recommend supplementing him with vitamin D temporarily, until his remaining parathyroid glands regain full function. This might take two to three weeks, during which time your dog is also recuperating from surgery. Usually, dogs recover completely after parathyroidectomy, with no additional treatment necessary other than annual monitoring of their blood calcium levels by your vet.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.