Whenever you bring your sick kitty to the veterinarian, one of the basic diagnostic screenings the vet will likely perform is a blood chemistry profile. In addition to evaluating your cat’s kidney and liver functions, this test assesses electrolyte levels. The results will determine her treatment.
Electrolytes are charged mineral ions dissolved from salts; they circulate throughout your cat’s bloodstream and bodily fluids. Electrolytes play a role in maintaining cardiac, neurological, muscular and digestive functions. Sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphate, magnesium and bicarbonate are all electrolytes. Your cat’s kidneys regulate and maintain the ideal balance of these electrolytes with the assistance of various hormone secretions from her pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands. Loss of fluids can disrupt the balance of electrolytes, such as during bouts of vomiting or diarrhea. Increased or decreased levels of certain electrolytes can indicate specific illnesses.
One sign of an electrolyte imbalance is dehydration, which results when your cat loses water and electrolytes faster than she can replenish them. This can occur through vomiting or diarrhea; the result is a depletion of sodium, potassium and chloride. You may notice your veterinarian pinching your cat’s skin. This is a simple test for hydration status. If her skin remains pinched up after he released his grip, the kitty is in some state of dehydration. The vet will recommend hydration. Upon assessing the levels of her blood’s electrolytes, the veterinarian can tailor fluids to correct imbalances. The tests also help determine if any underlying illness is causing her symptoms.
Several medical conditions can wreck havoc on your cat’s electrolyte levels, including chronic renal disease, pancreatitis, Addison’s disease and hyperthyroidism. Inflammatory bowel disease can restrict your cat’s absorption of electrolytes from her food. Excessive urination, as seen in cats with diabetes, results in electrolyte loss. Conversely, a cat who is suffering from urinary obstruction will show an increase in potassium, which can lead to heart failure. In order to keep this balancing act of ideal electrolyte levels from becoming too precarious, seek veterinary attention if your cat has demonstrated any signs of illness.
Take steps to prevent electrolyte imbalance. Feed a quality diet that contains balanced mineral contents. Ensure your vet finds it nutritionally optimal for your kitty’s age and health status. Oxalates in certain plants are toxic to cats; their ingestion can lead to elevated calcium levels, so discourage hazardous nibbling by banishing such plants from your home. Electrolyte imbalances can quickly become emergencies; if your feline friend vomits repeatedly, has diarrhea or starts to exhibit symptoms such as weakness, changes in heart and respiratory rates, anxious behavior or lethargy, don’t delay in visiting your veterinarian.
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images