Although acidosis can be somewhat more common in dogs compared to alkalosis, the second can also affect our canine friends on occasion. It can be caused by multiple factors, from gastrointestinal issues that lead to the loss of enzymes that then create an imbalance in the pH inside the animal’s body, to dehydration or infection, for example.
In today’s article, we’re looking at what metabolic alkalosis is, how it shows up, the type of symptoms it causes, how it’s diagnosed, and more.
What causes metabolic alkalosis in dogs?
Excessive alkali in a dog’s blood can be the result of multiple imbalances or just one, depending on each case in part.
The majority of dogs that end up developing metabolic alkalosis are suffering from a type of gastrointestinal issue that leads to severe vomiting and fluid loss, but there are other causes, such as the following:
- Kidney failure
- Some types of cancer
- Adverse reactions to treatments with corticosteroids
- Cushing’s disease
- Gastrointestinal obstructions or occlusions
What are the signs and symptoms of metabolic alkalosis in dogs?
The clinical signs that can be noticed in a dog that has developed metabolic alkalosis can first and foremost depend on the specific cause and the type of alkalosis that is affecting their body.
There are three types of metabolic alkalosis:
- Respiratory alkalosis
- Metabolic alkalosis stemming from high levels of bicarbonate
- Hypochloremic metabolic alkalosis
The first can be the consequence of hyperventilation. The second is one of the rarest forms documented until now and it usually occurs as an unwanted adverse reaction to a kind of therapy. Finally, the third is by far the most common one that affects pets and is related to the loss of hydrochloric acid (which can be found in the gastrointestinal tract, particularly the stomach) through vomiting, for example.
The symptoms can be quite varied, such as the following:
- Tremors or muscle twitching
Diagnosis of metabolic alkalosis in dogs
The simplest way of diagnosing metabolic alkalosis is by performing a number of blood tests, particularly biochemistry. Of course, a complete blood count can also be helpful, especially in determining whether or not the patient also has an infection or a blood circulation-related health issue.
Metabolic alkalosis can appear in a number of conditions that are not related to hypochloremic conditions, such as the following:
- Severe hypomagnesemia
- Severe hypokalemia
This health condition can also be caused by the administration of diuretics or conditions such as GDV (gastric dilatation-volvulus).
A urinalysis can also be helpful in determining any imbalances in the levels of alkali and acid in the dog’s body.
Can canine metabolic alkalosis be treated?
Because metabolic alkalosis is a symptom of another imbalance or condition, the vet’s efforts need to focus on finding out exactly what the cause is. Naturally, there are some ways of ensuring that the pH level becomes somewhat normal at least for the short term.
One of the primary measures being taken will involve preventing the loss of fluids through vomiting or diarrhea, for example. An IV with a saline solution can often be somewhat curative when you bring your dog to the vet emergency room. The dog will be given potassium intravenously too in case there are any imbalances in this respect, too.
While the dog is being stabilized, the vet will work toward performing an accurate diagnosis. In some cases that are particularly severe, the pet’s kidneys could have sustained some amount of damage, which can lead to organ failure. Unfortunately, the kidneys are extremely sensitive organs, so the dog may have to undergo dialysis for a period of time or even the rest of their life if the damage is very severe.
If your pet is diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, the vet will administer and then prescribe the appropriate medication for this condition.
As for cases where the metabolic alkalosis is iatrogenic, meaning caused by the administration of a treatment, your dog’s medications will need to be changed as soon as possible.
Corticosteroids can be replaced with different anti-inflammatory medications depending on the exact condition that the animal has developed, and even diuretics can be changed so that the new ones get the job done but don’t cause this adverse reaction.
Recovering from canine metabolic alkalosis
It can be quite challenging to assess a prognosis as all dogs are different in terms of their health status, they might have different ages, or the cause of their metabolic alkalosis might be unique, too.
In general, if your dog is a relatively healthy adult (meaning between the ages of 12-18 months and 6-7 years) and they develop alkalosis as a result of a gastrointestinal issue that is treated as soon as possible, their recovery could last for just a week or even less.
Seniors and puppies have a much harder time recovering, though, since their bodies aren’t equipped with the same self-defense mechanisms of healthy adults.
If the dog’s kidneys are damaged, they might have to undergo dialysis procedures on a regular basis or some form of diet and medication management for the long run.
Metabolic Alkalosis, Larry R. Engelking, Textbook of Veterinary Physiological Chemistry (Third Edition), 2015, Chapter 89 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978012391909050089X
Acid-Base Homeostasis, Susan L. Ewart, Cunningham’s Textbook of Veterinary Physiology (Sixth Edition), 2020, Chapter 52 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780323552271000521
Electrolyte and Acid-Base Disorders, Stephen P. DiBartola, Small Animal Clinical Diagnosis by Laboratory Methods (Fifth Edition), 2012, Chapter 6 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9781437706574000065