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What is Calcinosis Circumscripta?

There are three different classifications of calcinosis circumscripta: dystrophic, idiopathic and metastatic. The exact cause of calcinosis circumscripta is unknown but researchers suggest that there could be numerous associated disorders that cause the calcium deposits to develop. Generally, large breed dogs are most commonly affected including Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherd Dogs.

Calcinosis circumscripta in dogs is when calcium deposits in the skin, usually at bony prominences or in the mouth or footpads. These calcium deposits have a cystic structure and are usually calcium carbonate or calcium phosphate. These tumor-like nodules are generally round and are not painful to touch; they can cause joint pain or progressive lameness. When your veterinarian cuts open one of these nodules a chalky substance will drain out. Calcinosis circumscripta is also known as tumoral calcinosis, calcium gout or apocrine cystic calcinosis.

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Symptoms of Calcinosis Circumscripta in Dogs

Calcinosis circumscripta can be easy to identify when the nodules in the skin are large enough to be felt. In many cases, you may not notice that your dog is suffering from calcinosis circumscripta. It will largely depend on the location of the nodules and if those nodules are affecting your dog’s mobility or ability to eat. 

The nodules are usually found in the elbows, along the spine, in the mouth or in the foot pads. There may be a chalky or thick white discharge coming from the nodules. Other symptoms of calcinosis circumscripta include:

  • Swelling around the nodules
  • Weight loss
  • Unwilling to eat
  • Hair loss
  • Swelling of the abdomen 
  • Progressive lameness
  • Acne or blackheads

Causes of Calcinosis Circumscripta in Dogs

The exact cause of calcinosis circumscripta is unknown. Researchers have found that many times genetics play a role in the development of the condition. There are no genetic tests available, though, to determine if your dog is at-risk of developing calcinosis circumscripta. 

Some research has suggested that an increase in blood enzyme lipase can cause the condition. An increase in blood enzyme lipase can lead to the degeneration of the fat tissue and then there is calcification of the degenerated fat tissue.

Diagnosis of Calcinosis Circumscripta in Dogs

When you arrive at your veterinarian’s office for your appointment, have your dog’s medical history including past operations, illnesses and any current medications that they may be on. Your veterinarian will need your dog’s medical history so they can rule out certain conditions. A physical examination will be done, including complete blood count, biochemistry panel and urinalysis. While your veterinarian is examining your dog, they will pay close attention to any nodules or tumor-like areas. 

Generally, your veterinarian will be able to properly diagnose calcinosis circumscripta by simply examining the nodules that have presented. Your veterinarian may opt to open one of the nodules and take a sample of the fluid inside. A chalky substance inside the nodule will signify that there is an excess of calcium built up and creating the nodules. Once your veterinarian has diagnosed calcinosis circumscripta they will discuss treatment options with you.

Treatment of Calcinosis Circumscripta in Dogs

The most common treatment for calcinosis circumscripta is surgical removal. Your dog will be placed under general anesthesia and the nodule will be cut away. The incision will then be stitched and your dog will be monitored while the anesthetic wears off. Post-surgical care will be discussed with your veterinarian. 

In some cases where the nodules are small, they may be resorbed without needing surgical intervention. There have been instances where large nodules have spontaneously pushed though the skin, but the area will have a discharge that can cause the area to not heal properly and infection to ensue.

If the nodule is located in the elbow or along the spine, you may notice your dog is in pain when trying to move. Your veterinarian will most likely prescribe pain medication to alleviate the pain that they are feeling from the nodules. Nodules that are located in the mouth can cause your dog to refuse to eat. A prescription diet may be required while your dog is being treated for calcinosis circumscripta in the mouth. 

Antibiotics will most likely be prescribed to prevent any infection from occurring. If there already is an infection, antibiotics are the standard course of treatment.

Recovery of Calcinosis Circumscripta in Dogs

Post-surgical care will be required when your dog has the nodules surgically removed. You will need to prevent your dog from scratching, rubbing, biting or licking the surgical site. The site will also need to be kept clean and dry. Watch for any increased swelling of the surgical site and follow all post-operative care instructions carefully. Give medication as prescribed and speak with your veterinarian if you are concerned about any side effects. 

Some nodules may be small enough that they do not require surgery and only need to be monitored. Over time the nodules will resorb into the body.