What is Known About Calcinosis Cutis?

Posted on May 15th, 2015

Wikipedia defines calcinosis cutis as a type of calcinosis wherein the calcium deposits form in the skin.

VCA Animal Hospitals has found in animals that these calcium deposits are in the dermis or subcutaneous layers of the skin, and are usually of minimum significance in the young animals but may indicate a serious underlying disease in in some older animals.

They go on to say the cause of calcinosis cutis is unknown, but there often is a genetic component that is present that is often unidentified.

The most probable immediate cause of calcinosis cutis can be due to an increase in the pancreatic blood enzyme lipase, which leads to the degeneration of the subcutaneous adipose tissue known as fat.

When this occurs, it is followed by the calcification of the degenerated tissue.

Many researchers believe that calcinosis cutis develops due to a number of different factors like:
  • Trauma
  • Inflammation including from insect sensitivities and vaccine reactions
  • Infection
  • Tumors
  • Diseases of the connective tissue
  • Renal disease
  • Diseases of the parathyroid glands
  • Increased levels of calcium
  • Increased levels of phosphorus
The Centre for Veterinary Education believes that calcinosis cutis can be categorized into two different forms.

1) Calcinosis Circumscripta is thought to be caused by the following:

  • Idiopathic (unknown origin)
  • Tissue damage
  • Metabolic disease - elevated blood calcium and blood phosphorus
  • Iatrogenic - infusion of parenteral calcium
  • Other drugs that are used to stop inflammation

2) Calcinosis Cutis is thought to be caused by the following:

  • Disseminated calcium deposits
  • Metabolic disease
  • Trauma
  • Metastatic disease, involving tumors

The Centre for Veterinary Education also lists other common causes for calcium deposits:

  • Chronic renal disease
  • Fungal infections
    - Blastomyces spp.
    - Paecilomyces variotii
  • Leptospirosis
  • Cushing’s syndrome - Hyperadrenalcorticism
  • Subcutaneous injection of calcium gluconate for treatment of hyperparathyroidism
  • Vitamin D toxicity

Finally, Veterinary Animal Hospitals states that some animals have a genetic predisposition for developing calcinosis cutis. However calcinosis cutis can develop in similar genetic imbalances in some animals, and not in others.

The majority of the animals that develop calcinosis cutis have an underlying disease.

It is generally believed by most medical researchers that those that are treating a patient for calcinosis cutis, should consider the following:

  1. If the calcification of the skin is localized and not causing the patient any discomfort, watch the lesion carefully and the body of the patient may resorb the calcium deposit over time.
  2. A skin scraping and culture sensitivity for bacteria and fungi should always be done at the site of the calcium deposit.
  3. If the calcification in the skin is widespread, definitely consider looking for those many underlying causes that have already been listed.
  4. If there seems to be no underlying conditions that has been identified that is causing the calcinosis cutis, a daily, topical application of Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) applied to the affected area will help the patient’s body remove the calcium deposits.
    Note: This has been one of the more successful treatments for calcinosis cutis.
  5. If the calcium deposits are causing inflammation, a glucocorticoid supplement may be used. However, if the underlying condition of the patient with calcinosis cutis is caused by a glucocorticoid imbalance, the treatment will require the use of a glucocorticoid.
    If this is the case, DMSO will help remove the calcification while the patient is still receiving the glucocorticoid.
  6. If the calcinosis cutis is localized and is causing the patient discomfort and all other forms of treatment are unsuccessful, surgical excision may be the final answer.

Hopefully you can now understand how calcinosis cutis can occur as an end effect, due to many different medical causes.

Careful evaluation of all diseases that might be effecting the patient and causing calcinosis cutis is imperative.


Dr. AL Plechner