What is Electrolyte Disturbance?
The symptoms of electrolyte disturbances in cats can be scary for cats and their owners. Changes in breathing pace or rhythm, changes in heart rate, muscle weakness and seizures are few severe manifestations of electrolyte disturbance in cats. If you observe the sudden onset of these symptoms in your cat, contact your veterinarian immediately for a chemical panel. Understanding the condition of electrolyte disturbance can help you and your vet make decisions regarding your cat's treatment.
When certain substances are excessive or deficient in your cat's blood, the body may not have what it needs to maintain muscle function, wakefulness or cognition. An electrolyte is a positive or negatively charged mineral dissolved in your cat's blood. Maintaining electrolytes within a defined range is important is important for brain, kidney, muscle and heart function. If electrolyte levels fall above or below the healthy range, your cat may exhibit strange behavior.
Symptoms of Electrolyte Disturbance in Cats
Symptoms of electrolyte disturbance in cats vary depending on which electrolyte is out of balance. Sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium must be kept in balance to promote the optimal function of your cat's digestive, neurological, muscular and cardiac systems. The symptoms your cat exhibits could indicate one or a few of these electrolytes are out of balance. This can manifest a confusing cluster of symptoms, so it is important to visit a qualified professional immediately if your cat exhibits one or more of the following symptoms:
- Increased thirst
- Changes in color or amount of urine
- Muscle weakness or paralysis
- Anxiety, depression or confusion
- Changes in breathing rate
- Changes in heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
Since there are many electrolytes in the bloodstream, there are many types of electrolyte disturbances in cats. Only a veterinarian can draw blood to determine which electrolytes are out of balance in cat and how to treat her.
Causes of Electrolyte Disturbance in Cats
There are several reasons a cat may have an electrolyte disturbance. Some common causes of electrolyte disturbances in pets are:
- Gastrointestinal losses such as vomiting and diarrhea
- Hyperglycemia (i.e., diabetes, high blood sugar)
- Kidney disease
- Thyroid disease or other hormone imbalance
- Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
- Use of certain medications
Diagnosis of Electrolyte Disturbance in Cats
It is unwise to attempt to diagnose or treat your cat's electrolyte disturbance at home, as there are many causes and types of electrolyte imbalances. Further, your cat may have an underlying condition of which an electrolyte disturbance is merely a symptom. In this case, the electrolyte disturbance will not be completely resolved until the underlying condition is treated. At your office visit, you can expect your veterinarian to diagnose a cat's electrolyte disturbance in one of the following ways:
- Physical exam: A veterinarian may begin by examining your pet's heart rate, respiratory rate, skin, hair, eyes and reflexes to rule out other diagnoses or determine the severity of your cat's condition.
- Blood test: A complete blood count may be ordered for your cat to pinpoint which electrolyte is not in balance. A veterinarian may also discover underlying kidney disease or anemia is contributing to the electrolyte imbalance by drawing a sample of blood.
- Urinalysis: A veterinarian may collect a urine sample and analyze its electrolyte composition.
- Medical imaging: Depending on your cat's symptoms and lab results, your veterinarian may choose to perform an ultrasound, radiograph or x-ray to determine whether any underlying conditions are causing an electrolyte disturbance.
Treatment of Electrolyte Disturbance in Cats
Depending on the severity of your cat's electrolyte imbalance, hospitalization may be required. In a hospital environment, resuscitative or IV fluids and electrolyte supplementation can be easily and painlessly administered to your cat. Once your cat is in a stable condition, a maintenance dose may be required to prevent recurrence of the electrolyte disturbance.
Depending on what caused an electrolyte disturbance in your cat, further action may be required to treat any underlying condition your cat may have. For example, if it is discussed your cat has kidney disease, medications or dialysis may be required. If the veterinarian determines your cat has diabetes, treatment may be ordered to lower blood sugars.
Recovery of Electrolyte Disturbance in Cats
If your cat has a simple electrolyte imbalance, one not caused by an underlying health condition, the corrective treatment and education on how to prevent another episode may be all that is required in terms of maintenance. For these cats, recovery tends to be swift and management a matter of observing and encouraging (or discouraging) water intake and urine output. Your cat may seem completely recovered following veterinary treatment, but it is incredibly important that you honor all follow-up examinations and appointments. Your cat's life is too precious not to seek out professional help and advice.
For more complicated cases of electrolyte disturbance, such as those caused by diabetes or kidney disease, recovery and treatment will depend on a host of other factors specific to your cat's condition.
Electrolyte Disturbance Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My 19-yr-old cat had a seizure about 9 months ago. Since then, he's super sensitive to sudden clicking or banging noises--they make him start in a reflexive way. That can include noises as small as certain combinations of consonants if I'm speaking while holding him. Lately it's gotten worse. He has ckd. Any idea why it's getting worse and what I can do to make life less uncomfortable for him?
It sounds like Trez may be suffering from something called feline audiogenic reflex seizure (FARS) which is a relatively newly discovered condition; a study published in 2015 which investigated the hypersensitivity of some cats to sounds like crumpling tin foil, dropping a ceramic bowl, clinking of wine glasses etc… found that 90 out of the 96 geriatric cats (median age 15 years) in the study had myoclonic jerks or seizures without loss of consciousness when exposed to the sounds. Variable treatment protocols were tested and are discussed in the article; the link below leads to an abstract of the study which allows you to open and read the full scientific article which you may discuss with your Veterinarian to determine Trez suitability, given his symptoms along with the treatments suggested. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Add a comment to Trez's experience
Was this experience helpful?