Low Potassium (Hypokalemia) in Cats

Low potassium levels or hypokalemia is a condition that may be present in felines. The normal levels of potassium in cats are between 3.5 and 5.1 mEq/l. If the levels are lower, the cat suffers from low potassium levels. Potassium also known as kalium is a substance that is essential for the cat's muscles and the normal function of the internal organs as well as the gastrointestinal tract.

Causes of Hypokalemia

Cats may lose potassium through urine, but the potassium levels are kept at a normal level if the cat is healthy. Common causes of hypokalemia include:

  • Kidney dysfunction or kidney failure
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism (high levels of thyroid hormone)
  • Hyperadrenocorticism (hyperactivity of the adrenal gland)
  • Chronic vomiting and diarrhea

The condition may also be genetic.

Symptoms of Hypokalemia

The symptoms of low potassium in the cat will vary depending on how severe the hypokalemia is. If the hypokalemia is mild, the cat may not present any symptoms.

If the potassium levels are very low, the cat will present a few symptoms such as:

  • General state of weakness, the muscles will be weak and the cat may not perform normal movements (may not be able to lift his head and will walk in an unusual manner)
  • Chronic constipation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • More frequent urination and increased thirst
  • Weight loss

Diagnosing Hypokalemia

The potassium levels may be measured by performing a few blood tests and a urinalysis. If the hypokalemia is severe, the vet will also perform an electrocardiogram (EKG) to see if the heart has been affected.

The blood tests may show anemia and the urine will be also diluted.

Hypokalemia Treatment

The treatment of hypokalemia will consist of potassium supplements; these may be administered intravenously, if the condition is severe.

The intravenous potassium should be administered in diluted amounts, so that it can be absorbed by the body. If the potassium is not diluted, it may cause heart problems and may also be fatal.

The cat can receive potassium supplements such as Tumil K or Potassium gluconate. The dosage should be established by the vet. The cat should respond to the treatment and show signs of improvement in 2 to 5 days of treatment.

Typically, the potassium treatment will be administered for life. A discontinuation of potassium supplements may result in complications and heart disease.

The cat should be monitored and periodical tests should be performed to determine if the treatment is working and to make possible modifications to the dosage.

Don't administer potassium to your pet without having a proper diagnosis.

If the cat is affected by an underlying condition, this must be managed as well.

Preventing Low Potassium Levels

Hypokalemia may not always be prevented, but you should make sure your cat gets quality food, so that he has all the potassium he needs.

Your vet may recommend potassium supplements.