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What is Excess Sodium in the Blood?

Your veterinarian may refer to excess sodium in the blood of cats as hypernatremia. This electrolyte imbalance is commonly the result of excess sodium consumption, dehydration, an underlying acute condition, or chronic disease.

Excess sodium in the blood of cats, or hypernatremia, is an electrolyte imbalance. Since sodium is an electrolyte that plays a role in many body systems, your cat can begin to act strangely when sodium in the blood exceeds normal levels. If you suspect your cat suffers from excess sodium, contact a professional to prevent permanent brain damage, kidney damage or death.

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Symptoms of Excess Sodium in the Blood in Cats

Sodium is an important electrolyte that plays a major role in your cat's fluid balance. Sodium also regulates several organ systems and reactions integral to metabolism and brain function. As a result, excess sodium can manifest as a number of seemingly unrelated symptoms, such as:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Behavior changes
  • Internal bleeding

The symptoms of excess sodium in the blood of cats are common to many disease states. At the same time, depending on the underlying cause, your cat may exhibit a different set of symptoms as a result of this electrolyte imbalance. For this reason, it is extremely important to have a professional (i.e., your cat's veterinarian) perform diagnostic tests to confirm excess sodium in the blood is the true cause of your cat's symptoms.

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Causes of Excess Sodium in the Blood in Cats

Generally speaking, there are two major causes of excess sodium in the blood of cats, excess sodium intake and excess fluid loss. Within those categories, there are several major causes of feline hypernatremia. The most common are: 

  • Salt Poisoning: Salt poisoning is simply the excessive intake of sodium-containing foods or liquids. Usually, salt poisoning is diagnosed in critically ill cats who are receiving concentrated intravenous fluids. This is not a very common cause of hypernatremia in cats, however. Much more common causes of feline hypernatremia are related to the production of excess sodium within your cat's body or the excessive loss of fluid.
  • Dehydration: Simple dehydration is a common cause of excess sodium in the blood of cats. Sometimes cats become dehydrated due to a lack of available water. Other times, a hormonal imbalance prevents cats from feeling thirsty and seeking out water when they are dehydrated.
  • Fluid losses: Cats can lose fluid in a number of ways. Panting, as with fever or overheating, can cause fluid loss through the respiratory tract. Diuretic use, common in cats with diabetes, may lead to fluid losses through the urinary tract. Diabetes insipidus, a hormonal imbalance, can also lead to excessive urinary fluid loss.
  • Acute illness: Acute illness, especially bacterial infection leading to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, can lead to excessive gastrointestinal fluid losses.
  • Chronic disease: Chronic kidney disease and diabetes can both lead to insufficient or excessive urination. This alters the ratio of sodium to fluid in the blood. Chronic kidney disease can also lead to sodium retention by the kidneys, which concentrates sodium in the blood.
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Diagnosis of Excess Sodium in the Blood in Cats

If you have reason to believe your cat is suffering from excessive sodium, it is important to contact a veterinary professional immediately, as this condition can be severe and even fatal. You can expect a veterinarian to test for excess sodium in the blood of cats by drawing blood and performing a hematological assessment. If your cat's sodium level exceeds 160 milligrams per deciliter of blood, your veterinarian will diagnose your cat with hypernatremia.

Since the symptoms of excess sodium in the blood of cats are common, your veterinarian may also choose to perform a differential diagnosis to eliminate other conditions, such as other electrolyte fluctuations or hormone imbalances. 

Depending on what your veterinarian suspects is the cause of excess sodium in the blood of your cat, he or she may perform other tests. Urinalysis or thyroid hormone tests could be ordered to diagnose diabetes, chronic kidney disease or hormone imbalances. By pinpointing the exact cause of your cat's hypernatremia, your veterinarian will be better able to treat and prevent the recurrence of this condition.

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Treatment of Excess Sodium in the Blood in Cats

Most cases of excess sodium in the blood of cats will be treated with intravenous (IV) fluids to replace water or dilute sodium in the blood. This is an incredibly safe, effective and conservative approach to restoring sodium balance. Any further course of treatment selected by your veterinarian will depend on the underlying cause of your cat's excessive sodium levels.

If salt poisoning is suspected to be the cause, it is likely that your veterinarian will administer intravenous fluids to restore sodium-water balance and offer counseling to prevent future episodes of excessive sodium intake. If a gastrointestinal infection leads to vomiting and diarrhea, antibiotics may be administered. Chronic disease, such as diabetes or chronic kidney disease, will require more extensive treatment and long-term management. 

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Recovery of Excess Sodium in the Blood in Cats

Your veterinarian may counsel you on strategies to prevent this condition from affecting your cat in the future. Future management will depend on the cause of your cat's hypernatremia. If salt poisoning or dehydration are suspected to be the cause, a veterinarian might instruct you to make fresh water available to your cat at all times. Infection prevention, antibiotic treatment and medication management may also be discussed. If your cat's excessive sodium levels are the result of chronic disease, more extensive management specific to that disease state will be required.

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Excess Sodium in the Blood Average Cost

From 418 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$800

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Excess Sodium in the Blood Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Tabby Cat

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Fourteen Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Severe Thirst - Weak Back Legs

Our 14 year old cat has been diagnosed with Hypernatremia. He has always liked to drink from the faucet, but now he wants to almost every 30 minutes or so and even wakes us at night to turn the faucet on for him. He will not drink from a water bowl or fountain. He still has an appetite and eats a good amount. Our main concern is that his back legs are getting weak. I have attached further info that won't fit here as a photo attachment. Thank you!

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I agree that the best treatment for him at this point would be subcutaneous fluids, or IV fluids in hospital if he is not stable. There may be other causes for his hind end weakness, and that would be something that a recheck examination with your veterinarian may help with, as I cannot see or examine him. I hope that the fluids help him overall, and he stays healthy for quite a while longer!

Oct. 5, 2020

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kalypso

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Siamese

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10 Years

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Mild severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Decreased Energy, Decreased Thirst

Hello my cat (10y. siamese) never drinked enough water, so once a day I feed her wet food mixed with water. We visited the vet, which said she looks dehydrated and advised to increase water intake and performed blood and urine tests which he finds ok. However, I see increased sodium and after I asked about it he said it is mild hypernatremia, so it is ok. What do you think? Could it be due to dehydration and insufficient water intake or do you think we should perform further tests and what exactly? Thank you very much in advance. Here are results: Biochemical analysis: Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) 24,09 mg/dl (19-32) Calcium ionized 1,27 mmol/l (1,10-1,30) Calcium total 10,9 mg/dl (9,40-11,60) G-GT 0,0 IU/L (0-9) Creatinine 1,61 mg/dl (0,90-2) SGOT-AST 44 IU/L (44-82) Sodium 181 mmol/l (140-160) Potassium 3,7 mmol/l (3,50-5,50) Urine analysis: Specific Gravity : 1027 pH : 6.0 Protein : No Hemoglobin : +++ Blood analysis: HCT Hematocrit 32,6 % (30-45) RBC Red blood cell count 6,48 x10^6/μL (5-10) HGB Hemoglobin 11,0 g/dL (9-15,10) MCV Mean corpurscular Volume 50 fl (41-58) MCH Mean corpurscular Hemoglobin 17,0 pg (12-20) MCHC Mean corpuscular Hgb concentration 33,8 g/dL (29-37,50) WBC White blood cell count 5,85 x10^3/μL (5,50-19,50) NE Neutrophils count 3,67 x10^3/μL (2,50-12,50) NE Neutrophils 62,8 % (35-78) LY Lymphocytes count 1,28 x10^3/μL (0,40-6,80) LY Lymphocytes 21,9 % (20-55) MO Monocytes count 0,21 x10^3/μL (0,15-1,70) MO Monocytes 3,7 % (1-4) EO Eosinophils count 0,67 x10^3/μL EO Eosinophils 11,5 % (2-12) BA Baseophils count 0,00 x10^3/μL (0-0,10) BA Baseophils 0 % PLT Platelet 376 x10^3/μL (175-600) MPV Mean Platelet Volume 11,9 fl (7,60-10,80) Hormones: Τ4 total 2,19 μg/dl (0,60-5) Free T4 1,26 ng/dl (0,60-2,60) TSH 0,11 ng/ml (0,30-5)

July 30, 2018

kalypso's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

My thoughts on that lab work, without knowing anything more about Kalypso, are that her increased sodium is probably due to mild dehydration, but in the face of mile dehydration, her urine specific gravity and HCT are lower than expected. In a 10 year old cat, I would be concerned about underlying kidney function, and might have an SDMA test performed to assess kidney function.

July 30, 2018

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Excess Sodium in the Blood Average Cost

From 418 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$800

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