Like other minerals, potassium is an important nutrient that dogs have to get from their food.
So, in today’s article, we’re looking at a number of ways you can add this mineral to your pooch’s diet, whether it’s possible for a dog to have too much of it, and what hypokalemia is. Read on to find out more!
Why Is Potassium Important for Dogs?
Potassium is an electrolyte, meaning that it can dissolve in water and create ions that assist it in transmitting electricity. All mammals are equipped with a cell membrane pump that involves both sodium and potassium and that basically manages the transmission of nutrients into and out of cells, especially those from the nervous system.
Besides having the role of regulating fluids inside a dog’s body, potassium has a positive influence on their muscles and minimizes contractions. Also, it allows nerve signals to be transmitted from one nucleus or nerve to another, so that’s why dogs that don’t have enough potassium are likely to exhibit nervous symptoms (such as paralysis).
Sources of Potassium for Dogs
Most pet food manufacturers these days add some minerals and vitamins to their recipes, which means that you do not have to give your pooch supplements if your vet doesn’t specifically advise that you do.
If you feed your dog a commercial pet food diet, it’s quite likely that Fido is not potassium deficient.
However, there are several natural sources of potassium out there, and you can safely give them to your dog. This mineral can more often than not be found in fresh fruit and veggies, such as the following:
- Pumpkin (which is also great for your dog’s transit)
- Sweet potatoes
Even though potassium can also be found in oranges, not too many dogs are citrus fruits aficionados. Also, make sure you limit the amount of broccoli you give to your pet (not that they’d be crazy about it) as this food contains oxalates.
Can Dogs Have Too Much Potassium?
Potassium poisoning is not a common health issue that dogs develop. However, it can happen in some cases. For example, if you generally give your dog a mineral supplement and it’s one of those that are particularly tasty, if your dog manages to open the bottle and eat all of the supplements, they’re bound to experience some complications.
Another case where dogs can develop hyperkalemia is when their system doesn’t do a good job of eliminating the mineral. As such, any dog that has a kidney pathology, whether stones or obstruction, is more exposed to this risk.
Dogs that have acidosis, thrombocytosis, or diseases such as leukemia can also develop this issue.
Due to its importance in maintaining a good balance in your dog’s nervous system and cardiovascular system, dogs that have hyperkalemia will show the following symptoms:
- Changes in their heart rhythm
Vets can easily diagnose hyperkalemia using a blood test and also use the information that you provide them with when you get to the animal hospital. Lowering the potassium levels in your dog’s blood can be done by administering IV fluids.
The veterinarian might also give your dog medication for regulating their heart rhythm or whatever other symptoms they might be suffering from.
Low Blood Potassium in Dogs
This is a far more common health problem that dogs can develop, and it can be the result of one or several different factors. Dogs that lose a lot of fluids through diarrhea or vomiting are always at a risk of losing precious electrolytes along with the liquids that they expel from their bodies.
Other causes of hypokalemia are metabolic diseases such as diabetes (and by the way, administering incorrect doses of insulin or glucose can also lead to this), a diet that doesn’t have enough potassium as a nutrient, and complications such as an intestinal obstruction.
Any dog that doesn’t eat the right type of food or enough food can easily develop hypokalemia, but also other mineral and vitamin deficiencies too.
However, the most common cause of hypokalemia is kidney failure.
Diagnosing this health problem is also fairly easy using a blood test, so your vet can quickly tell what’s happening. Some of the symptoms that your pet can show are listed below:
- Muscle weakness and muscle pain
- Loss of muscle mass (in the absence of the right diet)
- Lack of appetite
- Increased thirst and urination
- Muscle paralysis
Potassium can be administered intravenously, and it won’t take long for the results to show up. When given too rapidly, potassium solutions tend to cause changes to the cardiovascular system, causing arrhythmias. This is why most vets put the dog on an IV for at least several hours so as to ensure the right dilution.
Giving Potassium Supplements to Your Dog
You should never give your dog potassium supplements if you are not clearly instructed to do so by your veterinarian. Your vet can also recommend a variety that contains as few additives as possible.
Most kidney health supplements designed for pets will contain potassium and other minerals and vitamins, as well as essential fatty acids and amino acids.