Low Blood Potassium in Dogs

Hypokalemia in Dogs

Hypokalemia refers to lower than normal concentrations of potassium in the blood. A vital element to an important group of blood minerals called electrolytes, potassium functions in both cellular and electricual functions, such as in the conduction of electrical charges in the heart, nerves, and muscles.Therefore, lower levels of potassium in the bloodstream will compromise the normal functioning ability of these tissues.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms relate to the underlying cause of hypokalemia. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle pain
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Generalized muscular weakness
  • Paralysis of muscles involve in respirations, causing difficulty in breathing
  • Increased urination (polyuria)
  • Increased thirst (polydipsia)

Causes

  • Potassium loss through urine
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • After administration of drug meant to increase urine output
  • Patients on dialysis
  • Increased loss through urine after administration of intravenous fluids
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Vomiting
  • After use of certain antibiotics
  • Loss of potassium through feces, such as with diarrhea
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Insufficient potassium intake
  • Prolonged loss of appetite or starvation
  • Diet deficient in potassium
  • Insulin administration
  • Glucose administration
  • Stress induced

Diagnosis

You will need to give a detailed history of your dog’s health, the onset and nature of the symptoms, and possible incidents or conditions that might have led to this condition.

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam to evaluate all body systems. Routine blood tests, including a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis are important for the diagnosis of hypokalemia and its underlying cause. In chronic kidney failure patients, blood tests may reveal normochromic (hemoglobin contents of RBCs are normal), normocytic (overall hemoglobin levels are decreased), and nonregenerative (bone marrow responding inadequately to the increased demand of RBC) anemia.

Higher levels of blood urea nitrogen (waste products [urea] in the blood that are normally excreted in the urine and voided from the body) and creatinine may also be found in patients with hypokalemia due to kidney failure. Urinalysis may reveal inadequate urine concentrating ability in patients with chronic kidney failure. In diabetic patients, the urinalysis may reveal high glucose levels and ketone bodies in urine.

Abdominal X-rays, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT-Scan), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be used to diagnose the underlying cause of hypokalemia.

polyuria

Excessive urination

urea

The product of protein being metabolized; can be found in blood or urine.

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

polydipsia

A medical condition involving excessive thirst

hypokalemia

Lower levels of potassium in the blood than normal

dialysis

A procedure used to get waste out of the blood when the kidneys are unable to function

hemoglobin

The protein that moves oxygen in the blood

anemia

A condition of the blood in which normal red blood cell counts or hemoglobin are lacking.

ketone

The product of metabolism of fat; may also be referred to as bodies of ketone or ketone bodies

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