Hypokalemia is the lower than normal concentration of potassium in the blood. A major chemical ion responsible for fluid and electrolyte balance, potassium is also essential to a variety of other biological processes, including regulation of the muscles, nerves, and heart. Potassium plays an important role as an electrolyte in the conduction of electrical charges in the heart, nerves, and muscles. Having such a vital role in the normal functioning of the body, low levels of potassium not only compromise the normal functioning ability of these tissues, it can also have devastating, even deadly effects.
Normal potassium levels in dogs are between 3.4 and 5.4 mEq/L. Levels less than 3.4 mEq/L are diagnosed as hypokalemia. Hypokalemia is an effect and indicates that some other underlying condition is present which is causing this condition. The most common cause of hypokalemia is chronic kidney failure.
Symptoms relate to the underlying cause of hypokalemia. Some of the more common ones include:
Lack of appetite
Loss of muscle mass
Generalized muscular weakness
Paralysis of muscles involve in respirations, causing difficulty in breathing
Increased urination (polyuria)
Increased thirst (polydipsia)