Potassium is a chemical element, metal, and essential mineral for nearly all life forms. This highly malleable metal is an electrolyte, meaning it is crucial for almost all bodily functions. But what happens when your dog gets too much of it? What about too little? We'll discuss this and more. Let's begin with the functions of potassium for dogs.
Potassium is a primary electrolyte for dogs, which means it has many jobs in the canine body. Potassium and sodium work together to maintain homeostasis in the blood and prevent dehydration. These two elements move water in and out of the cells and regulate the pH of the blood.
Without potassium, your dog wouldn't be able to move since it's necessary for nerve impulses and voluntary and involuntary muscle contraction. This means potassium also helps keep the heart beating in rhythm. Needless to say, potassium is important stuff!
Daily Recommended Intake
The dry matter of dog food for healthy adults should contain 0.6% potassium. Dry matter is what's left over after removing all moisture content from the dog food.
Dogs who live a very active lifestyle may need more potassium to keep up with their bodies' demands. Every dog is different, and their needs depend on several factors like breed, life stage, and size.
Most dog food brands contain potassium iodide in the ingredients list to ensure dogs get the amount The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends. Still, there are numerous potassium-packed foods that you can use to supplement your dog's potassium intake. These include:
Signs of Potassium Deficiency in Dogs
Hypokalemia, or low blood potassium, is a dangerous condition in canines. Symptoms of low potassium in dogs include:
There are a number of reasons dogs may have below-normal blood concentrations of potassium. Kidney problems like chronic kidney disease or being on dialysis can cause the body to excrete more potassium than normal.
Being on fluid pills that cause dogs to urinate more can also be a culprit for hypokalemia. Other drugs that can deplete potassium levels include certain antibiotics, glucose, and insulin. Malabsorption, poor diet, and excessive vomiting and diarrhea can also contribute to low potassium over time.
Vets diagnose low potassium using a series of blood tests. Once a definitive diagnosis is made, they will administer fluids with potassium to increase the blood concentration and prevent dehydration.
Signs of Potassium Overdose in Dogs
Ingesting too much potassium can be a bad thing, too; in fact, it can interfere with normal heart function. Symptoms of a potassium overdose in dogs include:
The first step in treating dogs suffering from high potassium levels is to give intravenous fluids; this will help level out the electrolytes until the vet identifies the root cause. Once they determine the cause, they can plot a course of action. For instance, a hyperkalemic dog in ketoacidosis would need a much different treatment plan than one with kidney stones.
High potassium levels can be misleading, though. Pseudohyperkalemia, or false hyperkalemia, is a condition in which a dog's potassium levels rise briefly before returning to normal. Pseudohyperkalemia is relatively common and requires no treatment as the blood levels return to normal on their own. This condition seems to be most common in Akitas, Shar-Peis, and dogs that have recently had blood work.
Potassium Supplements for Dogs
Potassium supplementation can have many positive effects for dogs that are predisposed to potassium deficiency. Pet parents may notice their dog has more strength and better reflexes. Faster muscle growth can also be a side effect of potassium supplements in dogs. Elderly canines may also benefit from potassium supplementation since the extra potassium can increase bone density and prevent osteoporosis-related breaks.
Healthy dogs eating a nutritionally balanced diet probably won't experience many changes when taking a potassium supplement, as they will excrete what they don't need in their urine.
Before choosing to supplement, talk to your vet about the exact amount of potassium your dog needs. Don't have a primary care veterinarian? Chat with a veterinarian today!