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What is Excessive Potassium in the Blood?

Although some potassium is necessary, it is possible for your cat to have too much. This condition is known to veterinarians as hyperkalemia. Several different health problems can cause elevated potassium levels and though treatable, all can cause serious health problems if left unchecked. Your cat may not show any symptoms if his potassium levels are only slightly elevated, but the condition can escalate quickly in the absence of treatment. This makes routine vet visits and blood work extremely important tools for keeping your cat healthy.

Potassium is an essential electrolyte found in the blood of cats as well as humans. In a cat, potassium helps to regulate several body functions, including muscle contractions, nerve impulses and heart function. Without it, the heart, skeleton, blood pressure and muscles are unable to function properly.

Excessive Potassium in the Blood Average Cost

From 416 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Excessive Potassium in the Blood in Cats

If your cat's potassium is only slightly elevated, she may not give you any indication that there is a problem with her health. Unfortunately, symptoms may not appear until your cat is already experiencing distress. When symptoms do appear, they typically include:

  • Involuntary muscle twitches and spasms
  • Extreme lethargy and lack of energy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite

Your cat may also experience cardiac arrhythmias, more commonly referred to as an irregular heartbeat, if her potassium levels are high. Though your vet will surely notice this symptom, you are not likely to. Coughing and fainting spells are possible, however, if the arrhythmia is severe.

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Causes of Excessive Potassium in the Blood in Cats

In cats, the kidneys are responsible for filtering excess potassium from the blood so that it can be excreted through urination. As a result, a high potassium level in cats are almost always caused by problems in the urinary tract. Diabetes, however, can also be to blame. Likely causes of high potassium include:

  • Kidney failure
  • Urinary tract blockage
  • Ruptured bladder (typically associated with traumatic injury)
  • Addison's disease
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Diagnosis of Excessive Potassium in the Blood in Cats

The detection of high potassium levels requires a simple blood test. Your veterinarian will take a blood sample from your cat and send it to a lab to determine exactly how much potassium is present. In cats, a normal potassium level is between 3.4 and 5.6 MEQ/L. Although the exact measurement can vary a bit from one cat to another, levels of 6 to 6.5 MEQ/L or higher typically indicate an excess of calcium in the blood. 

If your cat's potassium levels are high, your veterinarian will want to know why and will begin searching for the underlying cause of the problem. He will likely start by taking note of other numbers on your cat's lab report. Cats with elevated potassium, BUN, and creatinine levels may be experiencing kidney failure.

High levels of potassium may also prompt your vet to perform an ECG (electrocardiogram). This test measures your cat's heart rate and tells your vet if your cat's increased potassium levels have caused an irregular heartbeat. Because potassium levels are often elevated as a result of a blockage in the urinary tract, your vet may also perform an ultrasound to look for blockages.

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Treatment of Excessive Potassium in the Blood in Cats

The treatment plan for high potassium levels depends upon the underlying cause of the problem. Your veterinarian will treat high potassium as a symptom rather than as your cat's main issue and could treat for any of the following:

Kidney failure

Your veterinarian will help you develop a diet for your cat that is low in protein and phosphates. He may also prescribe medication that will bind with the potassium in your cat's body so he can once again excrete it through his urine. Treatment will continue throughout your cat's life to keep him as comfortable and healthy as possible.

Urinary Tract Blockage

If a blockage is present, the vet will remove it using a catheter whenever possible. In cases of severe blockage, surgery may be required to manually remove the block or create a new opening that allows urine to pass.

Ruptured Bladder

Your cat will need surgery to repair her bladder.

Addison's Disease

Because Addison's disease causes a decrease in hormones, treatment requires medication that increases the amount of adrenal hormone in the body. This treatment will need to be maintained throughout the cat's life.

Diabetes

Reducing potassium levels in diabetic patients involves using diet, exercise, and medication to control the cat's blood sugar levels. Like Addison's disease, diabetes requires lifelong monitoring and treatment.

Fluids are often given to hyperkalemic cats regardless of the cause in an attempt to increase their urinary (and therefore, potassium) output.

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Recovery of Excessive Potassium in the Blood in Cats

Cats suffering from a urinary blockage or ruptured bladder should make a full recovery. After surgery, your pet may need less food for a day or two. You'll need to watch the wound for signs of infection as it heals and visit your vet for a post-surgery checkup. Your cat should be back to normal in a week to 10 days, if not sooner.

Diabetes and Addison's disease both require lifelong treatment and management. Medications will keep your cat healthy and happy, but will be required for the rest of the animal's life. With proper treatment, however, your cat can have a long and healthy life with both of these diseases. To manage Addison's disease, your cat will need a daily pill or a monthly shot. The methods used to treat diabetes will vary and may include pills as well as insulin shots. Regular blood monitoring will also be necessary as directed by your vet.

Kidney failure, unfortunately, can not be cured. It can, however, be managed so your cat can maintain an excellent quality of life. When treatment begins, your vet may recommend doing a blood test once a month to monitor potassium levels while adjusting medication dosages. When your cat's potassium level has returned to normal and stayed there for a month or two, testing frequency can be reduced.

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Excessive Potassium in the Blood Average Cost

From 416 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$800

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Excessive Potassium in the Blood Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Munchkin

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Three Months

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Unknown severity

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Many

Hi my kitten is not doing well. A few days ago she started throwing up and has diarrhea. I took her to the vets, her potassium levels tested at 7.9 and she was dehydrated. I have her on fluids at the vets right now, we are on day 3 of fluids. We will retest her potassium levels today. We do not know why her levels are high. She is eating wet food when i hand feed it to her, however she will not drink water. I know she wants to, as she will stand at her water dish, but when she goes to take a drink she starts to foam / get frothy at her month and she won't drink. Have you seen this before?

July 22, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I'm sorry that it's happening to your kitten. The most common cause for elevated potassium levels in cats is acute kidney failure, and I would be concerned about her kidneys at this point. I'm sure that your veterinarian has done other testing, and they would be able to give you more information. I hope that she responds to treatment and is okay.

July 22, 2020

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Curly Cutie

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Manx

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10 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Potassium 9.8

My cat was given Onsior tablets after dental surgery on 7/17. She weighed 8lbs11oz. She was given 1 tablet during the procedure. I gave her another the next night about 30 hours later crushed mixed with food. She went into what I now know was kidney failure soon after. I won't list all the details but at that point after she had ingested the 2nd 6mg pill crushed (anyone reading, DO NOT CRUSH!) is there anything that could have been done once she showed a negative reaction (stopped eating) the next day? The animal hospital tried to save her but she was euthanized on 7/24 after everything they could do by the time they got her.

July 26, 2018

Curly Cutie's Owner

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Kidney failure is a known adverse reaction of Onsior (robenacoxib) in cats, treatment is supportive and symptomatic in these cases and I cannot say whether more could have been done or not. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM “The most common adverse events are anorexia, depression, vomiting, elevated BUN, elevated creatinine, and renal insufficiency/failure.” www.onsior.com/dosage-and-administration-cats

July 27, 2018

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MoJo JoJo

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Torti

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8 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Vomiting
Vomiting And Diarrhea

Kitten has white diarrhea and vomiting. Vet says kitten has high potasssium levels. Does that sound right? I think it’s some type of parasite. Her symptoms don’t seem to match those of high potassium. She’s been given IV fluids and seems to be doing better, but not 100%.

June 18, 2018

MoJo JoJo's Owner

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Vomiting and diarrhoea may cause a loss of potassium, but generally high potassium levels cause weakness, depression, lethargy, cardiac arrhythmias among other symptoms. Your Veterinarian may have mentioned there is an excess loss of potassium. However, she may be vomiting and have diarrhoea as well as having elevated potassium on a blood test. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 19, 2018

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Bear

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British Longhair

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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High Potassium
Lily Ingestion

My cat ingested some lily pollen and was taken to the vet as soon as we spotted it (certainly within the first 18 hours as I’ve seen advised). They ran a blood test and his potassium levels were high (around 8 I believe). As he was showing no other symptoms they wanted to run another blood test only a few hours afterwards and his potassium levels have now dropped to around 4.8. I’m just wondering, does the fact that his potassium levels went up in the first place mean that he will 100% have kidney damage/failure, or is it possible for him to survive and lead a full and healthy life still, considering his latest improvements?

May 11, 2018

Bear's Owner

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Potassium levels are not really a reliable parameter of kidney health, generally BUN and creatinine are reliable indicators of kidney health and should be monitored along with other parameters. Lily poisoning will have an effect on the kidneys, how much of an effect depends on how the kidney parameters are. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 12, 2018

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Ralph

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Domestic shorthair

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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Lethargy

My kitty boy is in the hospital with a urinary blockage that was drained yesterday. He's on iv fluids and a catheter. His potassium was 8.8 and today it only came down to 8. The vet is being fairly vague about his prognosis. Are there other interventions that can help?

March 3, 2018

Ralph's Owner

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0 Recommendations

A reduction of 0.8 in potassium (reference: 3.7–6.1mEq/L) is moving in the right direction and it can take time for any treatment to show improvement; any obstruction or blockage should be cleared and the underlying issue should also be addressed. Without knowing more details I cannot give any indication of prognosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 3, 2018

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Belle

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domestic short hair

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11 Months

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Fair severity

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Has Symptoms

None

Twice now my 11 month old kitten/cat has been sent home because she has 'low potassium' levels and...so im told...could die if aneasthatized for a spay op? She has zero symptoms of low potassium in fact she is very lively, eating well and looks fit as a fiddle. Her results of blood tests are all good apart from the potassium result of K 3.1 mmol/L 3.7-5.9 on (whatever that means?)

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Bonnie

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Siamese

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9 Years

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Critical severity

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Blood In Urine

My cat had a urinary tract blockage. UTI was not initially diagnosed therefore antibiotics were not given for 2 days. She had a catheter inserted to remove blood clot. All was good. Catheter was to remain in place with continued sedation for another hour.Then the vet calls and says she has gone into cardiac arrest and cannot be resuscitated. I suspect what really happened was the tech person was negligent in monitoring sedation. So, can a cat have cardiac arrest with high potassium as vet claims

Excessive Potassium in the Blood Average Cost

From 416 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$800

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