What is Hypokalemic Polymyopathy?
Hypokalemic polymyopathy can be caused by a number of conditions, including an unbalanced diet and chronic kidney disease. If you spot any of the symptoms, you will need to take your cat to a vet immediately to treat the low potassium level.
Hypokalemia is the medical term used to describe low potassium levels in the blood, and polymyopathy refers to any disease that affects multiple muscles at the same time. Together, they form hypokalemic polymyopathy, which is the weakening of muscles caused by low levels of potassium in the blood. You may notice your cat avoiding all forms of movement, or if he does get up to walk, he may be stiff or slow in his movements.
Symptoms of Hypokalemic Polymyopathy in Cats
The most obvious symptom of feline hypokalemic polymyopathy is muscle weakness, which may affect the entire body of your cat, or be limited to certain areas. The weakness may affect your cat at all times, but it is more likely that it will be episodic in nature. Some other observable symptoms include:
- Reluctance to walk
- Stiff, slow walk
- Ventroflexion of the neck
- Slow reflexes
Causes of Hypokalemic Polymyopathy in Cats
Hypokalemic polymyopathy is caused by low potassium levels in the blood. To understand what is causing hypokalemic polymyopathy, you must figure out what is causing the abnormal level of potassium. Some of the most common causes include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Excessive diarrhea or vomiting
- Genetics, although this usually only affects Burmese cats
- Unbalanced diet
- Excessive urination
Diagnosis of Hypokalemic Polymyopathy in Cats
Explain each of the symptoms you have observed to the vet, and try to remember when you first noticed them. You should also provide the vet with information on your cat’s diet and medical history.
The vet will begin by conducting a complete blood count test, blood chemistry profile, and urinalysis, which are basic tests used to look at the cat’s general health. The results of these tests will show your cat is suffering from low levels of potassium, which should be a red flag to the vet that your cat has hypokalemic polymyopathy. But, in order to prepare an appropriate treatment plan, the vet will need to determine what is causing the low levels of potassium.
If you have not witnessed excessive diarrhea, vomiting, or urination, these causes can usually be ruled out right away. The urinalysis will allow the vet to check on your cat’s kidneys so he can figure out if chronic kidney disease is a possibility. If it is, further testing may be needed.
One of the most common causes of hypokalemic polymyopathy is an unbalanced diet. Once the vet has identified low potassium levels, he will probably ask you to go over the cat’s diet in great detail before determining that this is the cause.
Treatment of Hypokalemic Polymyopathy in Cats
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of hypokalemic polymyopathy, but first it will focus on balancing your cat’s potassium levels. In most cases, the cat will be administered IV fluids that will help adjust his potassium level. However, the treatment is not over once your cat leaves the veterinarian’s office. Cats that have been diagnosed with hypokalemic polymyopathy often remain on potassium supplements for the rest of their lives.
If excessive vomiting or diarrhea has caused the issue, your cat will need to stay hooked up to an IV until he has regained his strength and is rehydrated. The vet may also administer anti-diarrheal medication to prevent the issue from continuing.
Chronic kidney disease cannot be reversed, however, it can be treated to make the cat more comfortable and slow down the progression of the symptoms. This is usually done through dietary modification and medications.
Recovery of Hypokalemic Polymyopathy in Cats
If you have been told to administer potassium supplements indefinitely to your cat, you will need to schedule multiple follow-up appointments with the vet. This is done so the vet can test and retest your cat’s potassium levels to determine if he needs to increase or decrease the daily dose. Be sure to follow the vet’s instructions closely and never miss a dose of your cat’s medication. It’s possible if your cat is taken off of the medication, he could experience hypokalemic polymyopathy again.
You should also talk to your vet about any recommended dietary changes you may need to make. Cats with chronic kidney disease are usually fed low protein diets, but you will need to work with your vet to find the ideal amount. Although this will not reverse the damage of the disease, it will help manage the symptoms.
The earlier your cat is treated, the better the outlook, which is why it’s so important to bring your cat into a veterinarian as soon as you spot symptoms.