Low Potassium in Elderly Cats

Potassium is one of the macrominerals required by cats. This cationic electrolyte has many functions such as regulating muscle function, sending of electrical signals, regulating pH, fluid balance among many other roles.

Once absorbed, over 90% of this mineral is stored inside cells with some remaining in extracellular fluids and in bones.

K+ or ionized potassium level in cat’s blood is closely controlled with the kidney performing the main excretory role. When healthy, these pets can regulate with normal working renal function (renal sufficiency) can regulate this electrolyte well.

When its level in cats blood goes so high, your feline friend will suffer from hyperkalemia whereas if this level goes so low, feline hypokalemia will ensue. Both of these conditions have some symptoms.

Low potassium in elderly cats
Low potassium in elderly cats

Hypokalemia and elderly or geriatric cats

Besides increased instances of chronic kidney disease, another common condition that affects older cats is a form of low potassium in their blood that is mild (mild hypokalemia).

a). Symptoms

Symptoms commonly noted include “depression and inactivity, poor appetite and haircoat, and the development of mild anemia,” states Brightwood Animal Hospital.

These symptoms have been for a long time assumed to be part of aging in felines. However, with proper supplementation, these symptoms can be reversed, and your feline friend will be healthy again.

b). Causes

The causes are the same as that causes hypokalemia in any cat, which includes things such as low intake, renal and gastrointestinal losses, cellular translocation, hyperaldosteronism, hyperthyroidism and the effect of some medications.

However, as these pets get older, their organs begin to slowly wear out. The kidney is one such organ that wears out first. As the efficiency of the kidney reduces, more toxins begin to accumulate, and elderly cats will drink more water to flush these toxins out.

Excessive water intake results into more urination and loss of not only potassium but also vitamin B complex being water soluble and the process continues worsening each day until these pets end suffering from mild hypokalemia.

The result of K+ loss impacts the kidney negatively and the moment there is a low level of potassium in a feline’s body, kidney function is depressed.

Things will only get worse and an endless loop of depressed kidney function and reduce potassium sets in.

Managing mild hypokalemia in geriatric cats?

Since it is only mild, emergency treatment is not necessary unless you notice severe symptoms. You need to supplement this mineral.

There are many potassium supplements for cats and dogs including potassium gluconate and citrate which come in various forms including tablets, powders or gels.

Also, do not forget to include vitamin B supplements since they are likely to lose this water-soluble vitamin too.

Your vet will help you come up with the right dosage if what the manufacturers recommend doesn’t resolve this problem. However, the potassium level in cat’s blood should be monitored as you feed these pets with supplements to avoid hyperkalemia and prove that they work.

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