Hypercalcemia (elevated blood calcium levels) occurs in cats as a result of organ disease (ie kidney disease, endocrine disorders), neoplasia, intoxication, infection, or often as an idiopathic condition. Idiopathic hypercalcemia (elevated blood calcium without an identified underlying cause) is commonly seen in middle aged cats. It may present with signs of vomiting, diarrhea, increased drinking and urinating, and bladder stones. Traditional management options include dietary therapy (ie high fibre diets), bisphosphonates, and glucocorticoids. While often successful in decreasing calcium, these treatments can have side effects or contraindications that make treatment difficult or untenable.
Chia seeds are high in fibre and omega 3 fatty acids, phenolic acid derivatives, and flavonoids. There is some evidence to suggest they may act to bind intestinal calcium and decrease resorption of calcium from bone. This paper was designed as a retrospective case series investigating the use of chia seeds to reduce serum calcium levels in three cats with uncontrolled hypercalcemia.
Over a two-year period, three spayed female domestic shorthaired cats were diagnosed with idiopathic hypercalcemia. All cats had elevated total calcium and ionized calcium, normal PTH, calcitriol and calcidiol, low to undetectable PTHrP, and unremarkable thoracic radiographs and abdominal ultrasound. All cats were uncontrolled after 6 weeks of diet change, however had not been trialed on steroids or bisphosphonates.
Owners were directed to soak 2g/cat/day of chia seeds in water to allow mucilage formation, after which this was mixed into the cat’s diet. Supplementation was continued for 4 weeks prior to recheck of ionized calcium. At the 4 week recheck, serum calcium levels had normalized in all three cats, and remained normal 6 weeks after this.
The presence or absence of adverse effects and ease of administration were not described in this study.
There are several limitations to this study. It is a very early descriptive study with a small sample size that is unblinded, uncontrolled, and retrospective. All cats enrolled had vey mildly elevated ionized calcium levels, and all cats were trialled on different diets. None of the diets were among the highest fibre on the market. It is unclear if different food choices would have allowed adequate calcium control without the use of chia seeds. No statistical analysis was performed to determine if the change in calcium was statistically relevant.
Overall, this paper provides some primary data that may be used as the basis for a more definitive study on the effects of chia seeds on dietary calcium. At this point, this study in and of itself does not suffice to demonstrate that chia seeds are superior or equivalent to standard practices in controlling hypercalcemia in cats. (MRK)