What is Sodium Deficiency?
Sodium deficiency can happen slowly over time or it can have a rapid onset. If sodium levels drop quickly, the brain can go into shock. This can cause many neurological problems and can be fatal if not promptly corrected. If sodium levels drop slowly over time, the body adjusts to protect the brain from the change. This deficiency still needs to be treated, but is not a medical emergency.
Sodium is an essential chemical component in the body. It helps maintain water in and around the body’s cells. It is an electrolyte that is essential for life. Sometimes issues occur with the concentration of sodium in the body. When levels are low, the body may not function properly. This condition is called “hyponatremia”. Often the levels are low not because of their absence in food and drink, but because of an underlying condition in the body that is interfering with the dilution of sodium.
Symptoms of Sodium Deficiency in Cats
Because sodium deficiencies often have to do with a larger issue in the body, other symptoms may be paired with the signs specific to low sodium levels. If symptoms occur suddenly, bring your cat to a veterinarian immediately. Symptoms are as follows:
- Lack of response
- Dyspnea (labored breathing)
- Head tremors
Causes of Sodium Deficiency in Cats
A great number of primary issues and diseases can cause the secondary effect of sodium deficiency. Any condition that dilutes the blood or expels fluids has the potential to decrease sodium levels. Some known causes of sodium deficiency include:
- Congestive heart failure
- Psychogenic polydipsia (a condition in which a cat drinks excessively due to a psychological problem)
- Gastrointestinal fluid loss
- IV fluids administered too quickly
- Kidney failure
- Severe burns
- Excessive vomiting
- Peritonitis (a fatal feline virus)
- Nephrotic syndrome (disease of the kidneys)
Diagnosis of Sodium Deficiency in Cats
Once you have arrived at a veterinary clinic or animal hospital, you will be asked to provide your cat's full medical history. A physical examination will be completed on the cat. The veterinarian will need to know about any symptoms that have had a rapid onset. Blood tests will be needed including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile. Electrolyte levels will be tested.
The vet may choose to screen for potential hormone deficiencies that are causing the lowered sodium levels. These hormone conditions include hypothyroidism and hypoadrenocorticism. An ultrasound, CT Scan or MRI may be needed to check for the presence of meningitis or tumors on the endocrine glands. Urinalysis may show whether kidney issues exist and can monitor levels of sodium spilling into the urine.
Treatment of Sodium Deficiency in Cats
Rapidly lowering levels of sodium need to be treated as an emergency. Hospitalization will be required until the cat returns to stability. If sodium levels have lowered over time, a long-term, at-home treatment will be used instead.
Intravenous Sodium Solution
Sodium solutions can be administered through an IV to replenish sodium levels. This should be done gradually to prevent further shock. It is a minimally invasive treatment and can be easily performed on small kittens.
If the cat is suffering from damaging seizures or tremors, diazepam may be diagnosed to relieve neurological issues.
In cats with slowly dropping sodium levels, a special diet created by a veterinarian can help the body to build sodium levels. A high protein diet can prove effective for this.
If the underlying cause of sodium deficiency is a hormonal issue, oral hormonal supplements may be prescribed to correct the hormone deficiency.
Recovery of Sodium Deficiency in Cats
After being discharged from the hospital, be sure to monitor your cat for any further neurological abnormalities. You veterinarian will schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor sodium levels after treatment has been administered. If other medications were causing the sodium deficiency, these will have to be terminated or lessened in dosage amount.
Treatments with hormone supplements often last for the rest of the cat’s life. Daily administration of these supplements is needed. The cat will need regular veterinary appointments to ensure that the hormones are not causing any adverse side effects. Keep your cat on a high quality diet, and abide by any dietary restrictions put in place by your veterinarian. Many cats no longer experience sodium deficiency when proper diet is integrated.
Sodium Deficiency Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I just received my cats blood work results. He is a bit low in sodium (137). How can I help him reach normal sodium levels? He is also a bit low in MPV (11). I'm trying to understand if they both correlate. I took him to the vet because I found blood in his stool twice. We just moved about a month ago so I thought it was stress at first. He was also tested for Giradia (negative). He is an indoor cat and we adopted him about a year ago.
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I am wondering if my cat (9years) could have a sodium deficiency. All of a sudden, she is constantly licking....anything....her blankets, her fur, my clothes, my arm. She just acts not like she normally did.
She weighs 17 pounds. She has no problems when going to the
Excessive licking of a cat’s surroundings maybe indicative of a nutritional deficiency (pica, usually involves eating too), neurological disorders, stress, a compulsive disorder or boredom. Ensuring that Pretty has a balanced complete diet is also important to make sure that she is getting all the nutrition that she needs. It would be best to have Pretty checked by her Veterinarian to make sure that she isn’t suffering from a serious condition. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
I'm sick of articles that recommend taking your cat to a vet (as if the reader isn't capable of researching the problem and solutions on their own). The entire reason people read articles like this is to begin to take responsibility for their pet's health and take care of it WITHOUT spending an arm and a leg on conventional veterinary advice or treatment which often does more time than good.
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