Hypokalemia is a low amount of potassium in the blood.
Potassium is a vital nutrient in every cell that supports nerves, muscles, digestion, and the heart.
The kidneys get potassium through food and excrete it through urine. When the amount of potassium gained and lost is equal, the potassium level is normal.
The most common cause is kidney failure. Other causes include:
- Liver disease
- Cushing's Disease
- Persistent vomiting, diarrhea
Mild hypokalemia may not cause any noticeable signs. However, if severe hypokalemia develops, it can have life-threatening effects.
Signs may include:
- Muscle weakness, especially in the neck
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Increased thirst and urination
- Non-groomed hair
Some tests your veterinarian may perform:
- Blood tests: to check for hypokalemia and any underlying diseases
- Biochemical profile: a blood test to check for kidney failure & diabetes
- Urinalysis: to check for kidney failure
- EKG: to check how the heart was affected
Most veterinarians will recommend the following treatments for cats with hypokalemia:
- Treatment of the underlying cause
- Oral or injected potassium supplements
- Follow up visits to monitor potassium levels
Feed your cat a high-quality diet, and give potassium supplements if recommended by your veterinarian.
Depending on the cause, sometimes potassium supplements are needed for life.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM