What is Sodium Deficiency?
Hyponatremia, a sodium deficiency, occurs when the body’s sodium level drops below a normal level, causing an excess of water in the body’s cells. This offset of the sodium to water balance causes the cells to swell, including brain cells. The additional water in these cells causes many of the symptoms associated with this condition. While this condition is fairly common, it can be life-threatening if not treated.Sodium deficiency is when the body is lacking a normal concentration of sodium (around 140 mEq/L). Due to the swelling of brain cells from an excess of water, a sodium deficiency will likely result in neurological symptoms. There are a range of causes of sodium deficiency, spanning from diarrhea to heart failure. If your pet exhibits symptoms of sodium deficiency, you should visit a veterinarian, where urine and blood tests will be done to determine and treat the cause of the condition.
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Symptoms of Sodium Deficiency in Dogs
Because the sodium deficiency leads to an increase of water in brain cells, a majority of the manifestations are neurological in nature, making it hard to narrow down without expertise. There are some noticeable symptoms that indicate a sodium deficiency:
- Lack of energy
- Less alert
- Loss of appetite
- Lowered muscle strength
The types of hyponatremia are differentiated by causes of the water-sodium imbalance. There are three specific types of causes, all leading to a greater water content than sodium content:
- Euvolemic hyponatremia is a condition where the imbalance is caused by an increase in the overall water while the amount of sodium does not increase.
- Hypervolemic hyponatremia is a condition where the imbalance is caused by a greater water increase than sodium increase. What is different about this condition is that both sodium and water increase, water just increases by a greater amount.
- Hypovolemic hyponatremia is a condition where the imbalance is caused by a greater sodium decrease than a water decrease. Much like hypervolemic hyponatremia, both experience a change. The difference is that both decrease, and sodium decreases by a greater value.
Causes of Sodium Deficiency in Dogs
There are a few different causes that initiate either an increase in water retention or decrease in sodium content.
- Significant burns on the body
- An increase of urine output, typically as a side effect of medication
- Heart failure
- Abnormal glucose levels
- Abnormal hormone creation
- Renal failure
- Fluid accumulation in abdomen
Diagnosis of Sodium Deficiency in Dogs
Because there are a number of differing causes of sodium deficiencies, diagnosis will require a complete physical examination, including a blood test and urine analysis. There are certain laboratory tests that can aid in the diagnosis of hyponatremia.
- Metabolic panel: This is a group of blood tests that will provide insight into your pet’s metabolism and overall chemical status.
- Osmolality blood test: Another blood test, this looks at concentrations of all chemical components found in the blood.
- Osmolality urine test: Similarly to the osmolality blood test, this test uses a urine sample to measure the concentration of chemical particles in the urine.
- Sodium urine test: The sodium urine test is helpful in determining sodium deficiency because it measures the amount of sodium in the urine. A concentration less than 140 mEq/L can be indicative of a sodium deficiency.
Once these laboratory tests are completed, the veterinarian will analyze the results and compare the concentrations of water and sodium to determine if hyponatremia is the cause of symptoms. These tests will also allow the veterinarian to rule out other possible conditions, or consider them if something else shows up.
Treatment of Sodium Deficiency in Dogs
The first focus of treatment will to be identify the cause of sodium deficiency and treat that problem first. If treatment of the cause does not bring the sodium and water levels back to equilibrium, the next step is to look at treatment options that increase the amount of sodium present to bring things back into balance.
- Patients with chronic hyponatremia are less likely to exhibit symptoms, probably because the body has had time to adjust to the condition. Treatment of these animals may actually be more dangerous than the condition itself. As a result, these patients are usually treated by restricting water and monitoring of the water to sodium concentration.
- Alternatively, patients that do exhibit symptoms are treated by attempting to stabilize the sodium to water ratio. This can be done through crystalloid solutions, fluids through a vein, and medication.
Ultimately, treatment of sodium deficiency depends significantly on what condition is causing the imbalance.
Recovery of Sodium Deficiency in Dogs
Post-treatment recovery and management depends largely on the underlying cause of the sodium deficiency. In regards to the deficiency itself, it will be necessary to have follow-up visits with your veterinarian in order to monitor the effectiveness of treatments.
The largest post-treatment focus will be on monitoring the overall water to sodium balance and ensuring that it is stabilizing with treatment. Instances where there is a quick onset of hyponatremia are significantly more dangerous than if it is a more chronic condition. It’s important, especially in quick onsets where symptoms are more likely to manifest, that monitoring of the sodium and water levels occurs. Being aware of your pet’s behavior and conscious of any of these effects post-treatment could save your pet’s life. It is possible, though, that in treating the underlying causes of the hyponatremia, the balance will be restored, and length monitoring of levels will not be required.
Sodium Deficiency Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I have a black lab/german shepard that my wife and I rescued 9 years ago. We believe he is going to be 10 this year. Over the last couple weeks we noticed him drinking more water than usual and urinating for an extended period of time. Frequency is the same just the amount increased. I became concerned as he is getting older and my wife took him to our regular vet. She did some blood work (CBC and CMP) and it showed his Na was 130 and his Cl was 96, everything else within the normal range. She told my wife everything was fine.
When I came home I saw the lab values and was concerned (ER nurse) because a low sodium in people can cause a ton of serious problems. I called the vet and she basically told me everything was fine and he was probably just a little dehydrated that day, if I wanted I could bring him in for more specific lab work checking his kidneys. I accepted this as this is her field and people and dogs are different. This was 2 days ago. Today my dog is still really thirsty and urinating more than normal.
He has not had any change in diet, he isnt acting any differently as far as energy level, I haven't noticed any muscle weakness or spasms, his appetite is good, his stools are normal, and his mood has also been normal. Am I being a crazy parent?
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My dog (a diabetic min pin) has low sodium levels. Its been months he has numerous urine, blood, ultrasounds, all with no results. My vet one week ago, ordered a very expensive urine test and sent it out of state to test for low sodium levels, etc. Results came back that he has no sodium at all in his urine. He exhibits no symptoms at all. Can you explain this? The vet says in all aspects, he is in good health. Says my dog is "unique".
No sodium present in urine is not entirely unusual, especially in a dog with hyponatremia as sodium is reabsorbed by the kidneys in the loop of henle; sodium plays a big part in the excretion of urine. Normally hyponatremia is caused by inflammation, infection, pancreatitis, cancer etc… If your Veterinarian as otherwise given Baxter a clean bill of health, it is just a case of keeping a close eye on everything and ensuring that no new symptoms appear without adequate investigation. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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How low does Na have to be to cause a grand mal?
Know addisons, lites checked, k 4.6, Na 139, ratio 31.
No other signs, has been stable on florinef. Loss of continence, unable to stand, disorientation, lasted approx 3 minutes. Appeared normal 30 minutes after the event
There is no defined threshold level of sodium which would cause seizures; the lower the levels of sodium in the body (hyponatremia), puts dogs at an higher risk of numerous health problems including seizures and death. Buddy’s sodium level of 139 mEq/L is mildly below physiological reference range (142-152 mEq/L). There are various different causes of seizures in dogs and other causes should also be ruled out. I’ve added a link below which is for an interesting article about the health problems and the incidence of problems in dogs and cats with hyponatremia. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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Was on prednisone for 3 weeks about a month ago for facill issues, vet thought it could be neurological issues as well. He isn't better. Before all this he used to drink excessively.
The symptoms that you describe are very nonspecific and may be shared with hundreds of other conditions. Has your Veterinarian performed blood tests? There is a possibility that an hormonal condition is causing these symptoms like Addison’s Disease. Causes may be due to neurological problems, hormonal conditions, infections, obstructions or a traumatic event. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
My dog tends to drink more than eat, so this concerns me (that she could not be getting enough sodium to offset her water consumption - she doesn't drink excessively, just more than she eats). She's the nervous type and we have her on Prozac (she's a small dog and everything makes her anxious from fireworks to wind up her rear end). The Prozac and sometimes, I think, hairballs (she's a preener) make her throw up - usually just kind of gagging and maybe a little stomach acid, but once or twice more. She also seems to have less energy lately. More so than even when she started the Prozac. She hasn't lost any weight and the doc always says she's fine because of that, but now I'm concerned about the offset water and food consumption. Should I have her tested for sodium levels?
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