What is Excess Acidity in the Blood?
Imbalance in the acid-base level in the blood can result from many different conditions. The normal blood PH for dogs and other small animals is just above 7. As PH levels drop, the blood becomes more acidic and a condition known as metabolic acidosis occurs. A prolonged of state of acidosis can have a very negative effect on the body. It leads to arrhythmia, reduced heart function, depression and mineral loss in the bones. This condition rarely occurs on its own. It is a secondary factor to a number of diseases and conditions including malnutrition, shock, diabetes, kidney failure and some types of poison. Immediate treatment can sometimes be necessary to bring the blood levels back within a normal range. A long-term treatment plan will need to focus on resolving the underlying condition.
Excessive acidity in the blood dogs leads to a PH level that is lower than normal on a blood test. Veterinarians define this as metabolic acidosis. It usually occurs as the result of another underlying condition. This condition will need to be treated in order to rectify the imbalance.
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Symptoms of Excess Acidity in the Blood in Dogs
Since acidosis occurs with many different illnesses, individual symptoms can be quite varied. Mild acidosis may be asymptomatic, while very severe conditions can have life threatening results. These are some of the symptoms you might notice in your dog:
- Sustained diarrhea
- Hyperpnoea – deep breathing to maintain oxygen levels
- Heart arrhythmia
Metabolic acidosis can be high anion gap or normal anion gap based on the specific chemistry of the blood. Respiratory acidosis is another type of acidic condition that is the result of carbon dioxide accumulation in the blood rather than enzyme imbalance.
High Anion Gap Acidosis – more common among dogs
- Ketoacidosis – a condition in which the body metabolizes glucose into acid, it occurs with unregulated diabetes as well as fasting and malnutrition
- Lactic acidosis – an accumulation of lactic acid in the blood which results from excessive anaerobic metabolism, it can occur in during a state of shock as well as after very prolonged exercise
- Renal Tubular acidosis or toxin accumulation – accumulations of various elements normally excreted by the kidneys, in can occur through acute kidney failure as well as from toxin ingestion
Normal Anion Gap Acidosis
- Hyperchloremic acidosis – results through loss of a base element, bicarbonate (HCO3-), usually as a result of kidney malfunction or excessive diarrhea
Respiratory acidosis – occurs from lung failure rather than dysfunctional metabolism, the lungs are unable to adequately oxygenate the blood and carbon dioxide levels rise
Causes of Excess Acidity in the Blood in Dogs
There are three basic conditions which lead to metabolic acidosis in dogs:
- Production of acidic compounds at a higher level than normal
- Failure to adequately excrete acidic compounds
- A drop in the normal level of alkali or base compounds
A number of illnesses can create one or more of these conditions:
- Unregulated diabetes
- Kidney failure
- Excessive diarrhea
- Poisoning (from alcohols, ethylene glycol, or ibuprofen)
- Starvation or prolonged fasting
- Urine blockage
- Intestinal blockage
- Continuous seizures
- Excessive exercise
- Too rapid administration of salts through an IV
- Heart failure
- Respiratory failure
Diagnosis of Excess Acidity in the Blood in Dogs
Metabolic acidosis can usually be diagnosed with a blood test. The veterinarian will likely run specific tests to determine the exact nature of the problem, including an anion gap test and a blood gas test as well as complete evaluation of blood chemistry. Once the type and degree of the acidosis are determined, further tests may be run to analyze the condition which is causing the acidosis. High and normal anion gap acidosis can indicate different conditions, so these complex chemical calculations will be important for the veterinarian to determine the cause.
The veterinarian will want to know your dog’s medical history as well as any drugs he is taking and any known medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney problems. Specific information on your dog’s symptoms will also be helpful.
Treatment of Excess Acidity in the Blood in Dogs
Treatment of metabolic acidosis will focus on the cause. Prolonged diarrhea can sometimes create a mild imbalance which can be rectified by treating the diarrhea. Starving or malnutrition can usually be reversed with a diet change.
Underlying conditions will sometimes require continuous medication. Diabetes leading to ketoacidosis will need to be better regulated. Renal failure and some types of poisoning often require dialysis. Respiratory dysfunction may require continued administration of oxygen.
If shock from an injury is causing acidosis, the veterinarian will endeavor to treat the injury and reduce the shock symptoms. The acidosis will usually resolve itself once the life threatening condition causing shock has passed.
Occasionally medication to rectify the acidic imbalance may be required. This would include administering a drug similar to the base bicarbonate (HCO3-). This type of treatment is generally discouraged since it can overcompensate and create the reverse condition of excessive alkali. It depends on the cause and nature of the acidosis however, so this will need to be evaluated by your veterinarian.
Recovery of Excess Acidity in the Blood in Dogs
Your dog’s recovery will be dependent on the condition which caused the excess acidity. Many problems such as diabetes, kidney failure, or reduced lung function will require long term management. This could include medication, dialysis appointments, or oxygen treatment. Other conditions are temporary and easily treated. It’s very possible that your dog will make a full recovery, especially if the condition is mild, but it will depend on the specific diagnosis of the veterinarian.